“Bizarre” is definitely an accurate descriptor of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. Not only does it encapsulate the themes and design of the 2D fighter’s source material, it also sums up the decisions that went into the rerelease of the 1999 Dreamcast title. It’s a mixed bag with an eyebrow-raising price point that’s a bit tough to recommend.
We’ll start with the good: as a 2D fighter, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure stands the test of time. Capcom really knows how to make ‘em, and JBA was released back when they were firing on all cylinders and delivering hit after hit after hit. We’re not familiar with the manga and anime series it’s based on, but the fact that it can remain as captivating as it is without that knowledge should paint a pretty good picture of how solid it is.
Deviating from the three punch and three kick setup that became the de facto standard after Street Fighter cemented itself as the gold standard of fighting games, JBA employs a simpler four-button layout. Basic light, medium and hard attacks are rounded out with the Stand button, a character-specific power that in most cases summons a guardian spirit that fights with you until it takes too much damage or is dismissed. Stands can drastically alter a character’s abilities while they are active (and some super moves can only be performed in Stand mode), adding layers of tasty strategy to each combatant.
There are 22 characters in all, and while there are a handful that are “clones” of other characters on the roster, they’re a colourful and varied bunch that make the lineup feel even larger than it is. Very few play alike due to the wide variety of Stands, such as villain Dio’s time-altering abilities and Mahrahia’s magnetism powers. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that you could also play as a dog named Iggi and a falcon called Pet Shop.
It wouldn’t be a Capcom fighter without crazy super moves, of course, so JBA is par for the course. One of Dio’s super moves has him dropping a steamroller on his opponent, and then beating the everloving daylights out of the steamroller to cause massive damage. There’s really not much more we can elaborate on there. It’s awesome!
Unfortunately, the good things end there. The rest of the package is kind of a mess, beginning with the title. While it says “HD,” it’s a bit of a misnomer because the game is as ugly as the devil’s face. There are two graphics options: the original pixelated look or the “HD” smoothing option, which just smears everything until all the detail is lost. It’s horrendous. No one expects Capcom to re-do all the sprites in every game they rerelease like Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, but when they’re asking $20 for a Dreamcast game that’s over a decade old it has to look like some effort went into sprucing things up.
The lack of effort doesn’t end with the graphics, either; the game modes on offer are the absolute bare minimum. There’s the standard arcade mode, a survival mode and a basic training mode, plus online and offline multiplayer. Serviceable, yes, but it doesn’t feel like enough, especially when placed next to modern fighters being released today. JBA is a pretty technical game and a Trials mode that introduced players to basic combos for each character would have been a fantastic addition.
Online play works well, and we only noticed the slightest bit of lag when playing against opponents who were literally on the opposite side of the world. For the most part online matches were as fluid and fast-paced as local ones, and our resounding defeats were the result of our inadequacies rather than shoddy netcode. Replays of online matches can be saved, uploaded and perused as well.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. is tragic in a way, because while the game itself is still solid and fun to play, there’s just too little on offer to justify the price tag. It feels as though Capcom is a stern father, placing an undesirable meal in front of a child and saying “You’ll eat what I give you and you’ll like it.” A couple of extra game modes or a little more polish on the graphics could have gone a long way, but as it stands it’s just too much for too little. Die-hard fans of the Dreamcast release or the manga and anime series will probably come away pleased, but for everyone else there are much better ways to spend your money.