Earlier this year CyberConnect2 president and CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama told us that the style of play and controls in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle would be similar to a conventional fighting game – at least more so than the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. At the time, I was a little skeptical about All Star Battle being structured like a conventional fighter. So when I went down to a media games preview event to try out a demo build of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle that had 11 playable characters, I chose to leave my trusty arcade fight stick behind… only to be regretting my decision a short 10 minutes into playing the demo build.
The controls on the Dual Shock 3 suffice. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle uses quarter-circle (236 and 214 in numpad notation), semi-circle (63214 or 412336), and dragon-punch motions (623 or 421) for special moves. However, I felt that I could have been that much more precise had I brought a joystick with me. There are no double quarter-circle commands (236236) here, but otherwise, fundamentally All Star Battle plays a lot like Street Fighter IV with an added sidestepping mechanic. Although the battle stages are 3D in nature, most of the fighting action is locked to a 2D plane.
Before delving into the mechanics, I’m going to quickly run through the controls first, in case you’re not familiar with All Star’s Battle control scheme.
The D-pad or analog stick controls movement, which works pretty much like the movement controls in Street Fighter and other similar 2D fighters. Holding back will allow you to block (yes, there are cross-up jump-in attacks in this game), double-tapping forward and holding the direction will make your character sprint forward, while double-tapping backwards will initiate a backdash. In Joseph Joestar’s case, on top of a backdash, he also has a "run away" special command, performed by double-tapping backwards and holding on to that direction.
On a standard Dual Shock 3 controller, the square, triangle, and O face buttons correspond to your three main attack buttons: Weak, Medium, and Heavy. A throw is performed by hitting the triangle and O button (Medium + Heavy) at the same time – or you could just hit the R2 trigger, assuming your controls are on the default setting. X is your sidestep or evasive roll maneuver, and pressing it on its own will let you roll into the background, whereas entering down+X makes your character roll into the foreground.
Sidestepping Vs. Stylish Move
Unlike in the King of Fighter games, when you perform an evasive roll in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, the distance between you and your opponent remains largely the same since you’re rolling into the foreground or background, as opposed to rolling towards your opponent. What this means is that evasive rolls are more useful in close-quarters situation, than in distanced combat. In this sense the evasive rolls here are similar in function to sidestepping in 3D fighters.
Apart from evasive rolls, there’s a different type of sidestep called "Stylish Move," which makes your character striking a signature JoJo pose as he or she skillfully dodges an incoming attack. Although Stylish Move is technically the real sidestep in All Star Battle, as a mechanic it’s more similar to parrying in Street Fighter III or a Just Guard in Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves – you tap the back direction just slightly before your opponent’s attack is about to land. A Stylish Move consumes part of your guard gauge (if you block too much, the gauge will deplete, triggering a guard crush), so you can’t do too many of them in a sequence. In terms of utility, Stylish Move gives you a slightly better opportunity at catching your opponent off guard than an evasive roll.
What I found interesting about Stylish Move is it appears that you can perform one while in block stun – while you’re in the middle of blocking a chain of attacks. I’m not 100% sure if this works while you’re blocking any attack, or if it’s only applicable for certain ones, as I stumbled upon this discovery as I was trying to mash Part III Dio’s 214+Attack command while blocking Jolyne Kujo’s rush punch attack. Somehow, in the middle of blocking the flurry of rush punches, I was able to activate Stylish Move, which naturally gave me a huge opening since Jolyne was still stuck in the rush punch attack animation. Learning where and when you should perform a Stylish Move to create an opening is probably going to be one of the most important aspects of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle.
Stylish Move is not always better than the simple evasive roll, however. For instance, when Dio approaches your character with a teleport attack, it’s a lot easier to dodge the move by performing an evasive roll than to try for a Stylish Move. Especially, since there is the possibility that Dio might appear from behind.
R1: The "Style" Button
The rest of the buttons (R1, L1, L2) serve advanced functions. The single most important button that you need to know about is R1, which is your character’s "style" button. What R1 does changes depending on the type of character you’ve selected.
There are four types of characters in All Star Battle: Ripple users, Stand users, horseback characters, and Mode users. In the demo, I was able to go hands-on with at least one example of each type, except for Mode users.
If you picked a character who fights using the Ripple technique – the heroes from Part 1 and Part 2 – then R1’s main function is to charge up your Heart Heat Gauge (All Star Battle’s equivalent of your super meter).
On top of that, when you perform a special move using the R1 button instead of the Light, Medium, or Heavy commands, you’ll get a Ripple-infused version of the same attack, which consumes a little of your Heart Heat Gauge to perform, but generally has stronger properties over the regular versions of the special move. Essentially it works like an EX attack.
For Ripple users, the R1 button can also be used defensively. Holding the R1 button while blocking will cause your Heart Heat Gauge to drain, but protect you from taking chip damage.
If you picked a character who has a Stand (a stand is like a Persona, but since JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure precedes the Persona franchise, it’s technically more accurate to say a Persona is like a Stand), then R1 will toggle between activating and deactivating your Stand.
Most of the Stand characters have entirely different movesets depending on whether their Stand is activated or not. For instance, in Josuke Higashikata’s case, when his Stand is not activated, 236+Attack performs his rush punch signature attack. If his Stand is out, then 236+Attack is a command grab that ends with a rush punch. On the other hand, Part 3’s Kujo Jotaro has special moves that do not really vary by much regardless if his Stand is out or not. Since a great many JoJo fans are likely to gravitate towards picking Kujo Jotaro, CyberConnect2 probably decided to make him the Stand character of choice for beginners.
Sometimes activating a Stand may also change the properties of your normal or jumping attacks. Giorno Giovanni’s jump Heavy does not have the ability to cross-up on an opponent when his Stand is not activated. When it is, there is an additional hit box added to Giorno’s jump Heavy attack that turns it into a cross-up move if you jump at your opponent from the right distance.
One other thing to note about Stand users is that they can perform something called a Stand Rush. When your character’s Stand is activated, during certain special attacks, you can hit the R1 button to perform a Stand Rush. This makes a flash and gives you control over your character while his or her stand is still in the middle of performing the special attack. Essentially, this is a combo extender. For characters with a Stand, a typical combo will look something like this: Light, Medium, Heavy, Special Move (hit R1 to Stand Rush), dash forward, Light, Medium, Heavy, a sweep attack to end the combo.
After activating a Stand Rush, you will not be able to reactivate your Stand, or perform a special attack. So during the second round of Light, Medium, and Heavy attacks, you won’t be able to cancel any of those moves into a special or a super – but you can end with a sweep (crouching Heavy). Not every special move is compliant with Stand Rush. Command grabs, for instance. Also, when I played with Jolyne Kujo, all of her special moves seemed to be incompatible with Stand Rush – not even her rush punch signature move.
Like Stand users, the R1 button is used to mount or dismount your horse. While on horseback, these characters – namely Johnny Joestar and Gyro Zeppeli from Part 7 – are taller and faster than most other characters, and are invulnerable to regular grapples.
To balance the increase in offense while on horseback, when you’re knocked off your horse, these characters tend to be a lot less mobile – especially in the case of Johnny Joestar, who can’t even jump. While on horseback, or as you are mounting a horse, although you are invulnerable to regular throws, but you can still be hit by a command grab. This was something I learnt the hard way during a real match against a Namco Bandai representative, who, as Dio, just kept hitting me with command grabs as I was trying to get onto the horse.
L1: Great Heart Attack
Each character in All Star Battle possesses two super moves. There is a Heart Heat Attack (HHA), which requires only one stock of Heart Heat Gauge and is super-cancellable from a normal or special move. Great Heart Attack (GHA) requires two stocks, and cannot be super-cancellable.
But the great thing (or horrible thing, depending on your perspective) about the GHA is that you can activate it by simply tapping the L1 button. A one-touch Level 2 super move being complete nonsense, but it’s not like you could spam GHAs anytime you want, since it requires two out of a maximum of three Heart Heat Gauge stocks. Plus, you can still opt for performing a GHA the traditional way: by entering 236+all three attack buttons. An HHA is performed by entering 236+any two of the three main attack buttons. There are no shortcuts for HHA.
This works exactly like an FADC in Street Fighter IV, or a Roman Cancel in the Guilty Gear or BlazBlue games, allowing you to cancel your character’s current animation back into a neutral state, for the purpose of starting another attack to extend your combo. This costs one stock of Heart Heat Gauge.
Apparently, "Puttsun" is an onomatopoeia referring to the sound of a string or chord snapping – an effect that signifies a sudden change in plans. Not all special moves can be Puttsun cancelled, however. For instance, although Will A. Zeppeli possesses a myriad of special attacks, the only one that can be Puttsun cancelled is his Ripple Cutter, a projectile attack.
After performing a Stand Rush, you could activate a Puttsun cancel to go back to a neutral state, but the rules about not being able to activate your Stand again or performing another special move – without dropping the combo – is not possible.
The demo build that I played contained only 11 characters (protagonists of Parts 1 to 6, Johnny Joestar, Dio, Will A. Zeppeli, Jean Pierre Polnareff, and Okuyasu Nijimura), and thus far the impression I got from the game is that it’s quite difficult to anti-air a jumping opponent (making it easy to approach with a jump), but relatively easy to react to and block every single attack that your opponent throws at you. That is, I did not find a lot of 50/50 high/low guessing game mix-ups in the demo that I played. So I’m guessing that depleting your opponent’s guard gauge, or otherwise using Stylish Move or evasive rolls effectively, to create openings for massive combos.
One thing that I forgot to thoroughly check in the demo build was the speed of throws in All Star Battle for the purpose of tick-throwing, and if there were any applicable option-selects for throw escapes. As a lot of All Star Battle’s fundamentals seem to be inspired by Street Fighter IV, there is a good chance that a lot of what works in SF4 – footsies, tick throws, delayed attacks – would work in this game. Set-ups that involve knocking your opponent down and jumping in at the right timing might be key in this game.
The other main method of opening up your opponent might be to make him block a rush punch attack (many Stand users possess this special move), activating a Puttsun cancel, and then jumping in while your opponent is still blocking, to set-up a guessing game between going for a jump-in attack (which requires your opponent to block standing), or an empty jump leading into a low attack (requires crouch block to defend).