Jump Force is out and frankly, this is a game that could end up being divisive. It is taking beloved characters from respected series and portraying them in a whole new way in a major mash-up. While we have seen games like Jump Superstars before, this is a whole new undertaking with a combined story, original characters, and so much silliness. It is over-the-top, for better or worse. That might make some embrace it more and others turn away.
It might be best to go into Jump Force hoping this is a game that is “in” on the joke. The concept is ridiculous, after all. It is an excuse for Shonen Jump characters to all come together for a massive crossover against evil. It is a means to try and also bring everything into the real world to fulfill self-insertion fantasies. It has Umbras Cube electronics going into people like players’ avatars to make them what are basically super agents and infecting famous characters to try and turn them evil. The Navigator robot that collects the cube is a small, floating monkey with a giant J on its chest. It is all very silly, but it also tries to be as serious as possible while embracing that goofiness.
The story’s execution could be considered good and not-as-great. Think of it as being along the lines of Earth Defense Force or some B-movie. Some character performances ham it up and really go overboard, making attacks and actions feel elaborate. This is especially to the advantage of characters from series like Dragon Ball Z and One Piece, where there is a tendency to go big fro those dramatic moments. It also plays up well for the attacks and introductions for characters like Jotaro and Yugi, with both of them having this gravitas around them and their interactions. But then, almost every character has the chance to really make big impressions.
This means that some scenes end up being unintentionally funny, due to the overwhelmingly serious and general ridiculous setup. There are so many situations where the animations and script defy any expectation. Yet, because Jump Force is a game that isn’t taking itself seriously and has this camp factor, it creates a lot of moments where you want to see how it will top itself next. The moment when an avatar meets Light Yagami and Light makes this big to-do in his introduction is so astonishingly blunt and off-putting that there’s this sense of affection for its awkwardness. Watching Kenshiro deliver lines like “And today is the day you die” and “This black aura you see is the power of grief… and my resolve to do battle in the name of love!” entirely devoid of emotion is so baffling, it might make someone want to talk about how the introduction plays out.
Then, there are the character designs. Jump Force goes crazy with its adaptations. In some cases, it might feel like a natural consequence of taking these unrealistic 2D characters and recreating them in 3D. Like you could probably put your entire hand into one of Luffy’s ab muscle grooves. All of the characters look like they are wearing those sorts of fake, uniform plastic teeth with no gaps that small children would wear as a joke. If a character is from Dragon Ball Z, then they have major eyebrow ridge game. Younger Toguro takes it so far, he becomes this aspirational icon. But, and this is important, it doesn’t have to apply to the player character. People can make their avatars as adorable or abominable as they want, and that freedom to lean into the insanity or try to be a bastion of reason is good.
Jump Force is a game that might feel like a runaway car. You know something might not be exactly right. The character animations and proportions may be all wrong. The story is just completely out there. The acting and script are the sort where you might feel like you have to share what you have seen. But, it is the kind of quirky that goes overboard in a way some might appreciate. Others might not. It is definitely a game that does need work and hopefully patches that will work to remedy some of its issues. Until then, it becomes about embracing its off-the-wall nature.
Jump Force is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.