Last year Nintendo and Ganbarion, who made some of the One Piece fighting games, teamed up to make Jump Super Stars. The manga mash up fighter came out for the Nintendo DS and it filled the void of fighting games on the handheld. This was the first time a game brought together so many Shonen Jump properties in one title. Manga fans loved they could set up dream matches between their favorite characters. While the properties were a key selling point, Jump Super Stars was a fairly good fast paced fighting game. This year Nintendo has a sequel, Jump Ultimate Stars out for the Nintendo DS. Each separate Shonen Jump world has fallen apart and is scattered throughout the J-Galaxy. Now it’s up to you to put it back together.
Jump Ultimate Stars begins only with a handful of playable. Luffy and Naruto are in your team as you explore the J-Galaxy. The first few missions are spent learning how to switch characters from you koma deck and how to do special moves like the dream combo. After you get the basics down you can enter a black hole and see the fragmented parts of the Jump Universe. Each manga property is actually in its own world. When you highlight the Dragonball planet you enter the manga and fight Goku, Vegeta and Freeza. Stepping into the Kenshin world and you’re up against Rurouni Kenshin. There are 41 different properties in Jump Ultimate Stars, compared to Jump Super Stars there are 14 additional series. New additions include Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac), Fist of the North Star, Cobra and Kinnikuman (Ultimate Muscle). Other series have been changed like Bleach which has four playable characters opposed to just Ichigo in Jump Super Stars. Naruto has been updated to have post time skip characters and this is the first time a “grown up” Naruto is playable. While there are an abundance of new fighters, Jump Ultimate Stars hasn’t strayed too much from the first game.
Most of the game you’re going to be battling other characters in manga pages. The fighting system in Jump Ultimate Stars is more similar to Smash Brothers than a complex game like Street Fighter III. You have basic punches and kicks mapped to B and Y respectively. X is used for super moves that take up a full bar of energy. Super moves are usually classic attacks. Naruto uses the Rasengan as his super move, Goku fires the Kamehameha and Luffy does a flurry of punches. The super bar also serves another purpose, it can be used to summon support characters. In Jump Ultimate Stars battles take place on the top screen while the bottom screen has your koma deck, a montage of manga panels. You can touch these panels to summon support characters to come in and attack. Ryoma Echizen from Prince of Tennis can jump in to hit tennis balls at your opponents and you can call Light Yagami from Death Note for backup support. Larger koma pieces are battle koma and you can switch between characters by tapping on them. If Kazuki from Buso Renkin is running low on life you can switch to Train from Black Cat and have a whole new life bar. New to Jump Ultimate Stars is a “leader” system where you select which battle character you want to come out first and what you want the shoulder buttons to do. You can assign them to other battle characters so you can quickly switch in and out or map them to support characters for team up attacks. Finally there is the ultimate team up attack the dream combo. To do the dream combo you tap your battle character, then other battle characters in your koma deck and finish tapping your original battle character. The powerful attack does a chain combo with all of your allied manga stars ending with a finishing blow. Besides chipping away at an opponent’s life bar you can punch the paper walls of the manga levels and make a hole to throw your enemies out of the arena. A new skill has been added to minimize ring outs. You can catch the edge of the map and jump back in the ring.
The fighting system is pretty much Jump Ultimate Stars. While in J Galaxy mode there are different goals you have to achieve like scoring a certain number of points or perform a number of ring outs. When you succeed a mission you can unlock different characters and gems used to evolve characters. There are a few “special” missions like in the Dragonball world you have to fight other Dragonball characters to collect the dragonballs. Another special mission has the player protect Rukia. Otherwise most of the battles are variations of point matches, death matches (only one life) and J Simple where who ever collects the most stars from the other fighters wins. Compared to Jump Super Stars other missions where you collect coins, break crates and smash the manga borders there is a lot less variation.
If you want to unlock everything you’re going to have to replay missions over and over to earn gems. Gems can be spent to evolve characters you unlock so you can play with them. Each new character starts out as a one panel helper character. You can spend some gems to make them a support character or even more gems to make them a battle character. Not all characters can become battle characters. Cobra, Gaara and the cast of Slam Dunk are support characters only. If you can make a character a battle character they start out as a four koma block, you can spend additional gems to get a more powerful five koma version and even more to get the ultra powerful six koma block character. Evolved characters have more HP and usually more powerful special attacks. For example Goku’s six koma block character can summon the spirit bomb while the four koma Goku can’t.
The biggest addition in Jump Ultimate Stars is really the online battles. The last game only had local multiplayer where you can play with nearby friends. Jump Ultimate Stars adds in Nintendo WiFi so you can play with people wirelessly. Online battles were the most anticipated part of Jump Ultimate Stars and they are a blast to play. It’s great to try out your customized koma deck against the world, but if you’re not in Japan prepare for lag. Not playable annoying lag, but lag that completely locks up missions. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens way too often. You can remedy the problem by sharing friend codes and playing with people in your region.
If you’re a fan of Shonen Jump, Jump Ultimate Stars is a must buy. Setting up your koma deck and fighting dream matches is a lot of fun. Also the new character evolution system makes Jump Ultimate Stars much more import friendly. Instead of having to read blank manga panels and suffer through randomly matching pictures to blank koma you can look at pictures to evolve characters. Mission objectives might be a problem since those are all in Japanese. Most of the goals are straightforward fights, but some of the bonus objectives like “get three ring outs” or “stay alive for X seconds” might not be clear. As of now Jump Ultimate Stars is like the Marvel versus Capcom fighter on the DS and with so many ways to build your deck you’ll be playing it for months to come.