In other fighting game playtests, I’ve talked about the ways in which modern fighting games (or rereleases) have all sorts of modes to bring you up to speed with how the game is working mechanically. In JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD, there is none of that. No tutorial mode to walk you through how to properly evade or use advancing guards, no “getting to know your stand” feature, and no individual character challenges to teach you combos.
You do get a tutorial in the form of a digital manual of sorts, and the game mercifully provides in-game command lists for every character, but outside of that, the learning experience is all on the player. This port feels like it came right out of the Dreamcast era, with only a few concessions to modernity.
So, what are those concessions? Well, you get an “HD” mode, which is primarily a single sprite filter (which actually looks quite nice in comparison to other, similar filters), the option to turn blood from the US version’s white to the Japanese version’s red, and the requisite online play. That’s about it.
While the port is sparse to say the least, the game itself is a blast. Each character has a “Stand,” (think a ghostly familiar of sorts) which they can activate with a press of the Stand button. While the Stand might make an appearance in a character’s normal or special attacks, a stand changes the way they play completely. Leading man Jotaro Kujo, for instance, has his Light, Medium, and Heavy normals combo into each other more easily when his Stand is active, and he will accompany his Stand as it moves forward with a flurry of punches. When his Stand is not active, he can effectively attack his enemies from both sides by sending his Stand forward with an attack before dodging behind an opponent with L+M+H simultaneously.
On top of the Stand system, JoJo is fast. You’re constantly dodging, dashing, and hopping to put pressure on your opponents. It’s really fun to keep pressure on your opponents and rush them down, at least for me. While my beginner’s ineptitude often got me into trouble, I found that keeping pressure on opponents led to the most exciting fights. When both players are hopping all over the place with their stands charging at each other, JoJo becomes a sight to behold.
Because of the lack of tutorials and the like, I found that the best way to get a hang of a character was a trial by fire. I’d hop into training mode and give a character’s movelist a once-over before going online. Despite my Super Street Fighter IV-born fears of Capcom’s netcode while playing against people from other countries, to a beginner like me, my matches against Japanese players (who seem to make up the majority of the online audience, at the moment) all felt very smooth and responsive. Even considering my generally weak internet, I’ve had absolutely no trouble playing with anyone in Japan or the US.
As this is my first excursion into the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure universe, I found myself intrigued by everything from the character designs (all the manliness of Fist of the North Star combined with the fabulousness of a glam rock concert), the musically-inspired character names, and the absolutely insane story mode. You see, in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, in the place of “arcade mode” in practically every other fighter is “story mode,” which pits you against an assortment of enemies, but gives you little bits of story with some minimally-animated sprites between each battle.
While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, I was impressed by how much Capcom played with the format. While the fights were generally two rounds per opponent, not every fight played out the same. For instance, while I was playing as Jotaro, I had a one-round fight against what appeared to be the grim reaper, and another round that was a mini-game in which I had to destroy or avoid obstacles to run towards a one-hit enemy before time (or my health) ran out. When playing through as the main antagonist, Dio Brando, I had a much shorter story to play through that started from the end of Jotaro’s story and one of the matches I fought switched opponents between rounds.
I can’t honestly say I completely understood the game’s story, but I certainly enjoyed the dramatic weight it gave to French bulldogs fighting alongside a Sean Connery lookalike and the world’s most muscular high-school student against vampires.
While JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD doesn’t really add a whole lot of the modern conveniences and little bonuses I’ve come to expect from a fighting game, I can’t help but love it. It’s absolutely ludicrous, beautiful, and a lot of fun.
Food for Thought:
1. The command list is displayed in a really weird way. For instance, if you have to press forward, heavy attack, medium attack, light attack, forward to do an attack, the command list will look something like this: ->+H+M+L+->. While you get used to this after a second glance, it’s a bit jarring at first, since it can look like you’re supposed to input everything simultaneously.
2. Online replays allow you to display both players’ inputs and hitboxes. While I would have loved an option to turn on hitboxes in training mode, it’s kind of nice to see how exactly your opponent hit you.
3. I love the game’s animation and attention to detail. I’m particularly fond of the way that a cut-in of your opponent’s injured face appears onscreen if you defeat them with a super (and will be cut in half if you finish them with a blade-wielding character’s screen-dividing super).