A brawler that takes some of manga and anime's biggest names and pits them against each other in what can only be described as explosive battles, J-Stars Victory VS+ is a welcome addition to the PlayStation 4's library for fans of Japan's numerous colourful creations. With a reasonably big character roster, plenty of fan service, and more devastating special moves than we care to count, the franchise's first Western escapade is undeniably fun.
However, dedicated fighting enthusiasts may not stick around for very long. The game's combat is accessible, but at times, it borders on the very basic. Standard combos can be mashed out using a combination of the square and triangle buttons, while character specific special attacks are delivered by pressing circle. There's just enough to see and do when it comes to the intricacies of each fighter, but it's the combat mechanics themselves that don't leave much room for experimentation or variety.
Everything from basic combos to powerful, stamina-draining specials will knock your opponent to the ground when they connect, and although there are some ways to juggle your enemies ever so slightly, the fact that characters become temporarily invincible as they get back up tends to slow the pacing of each brawl. As such, J-Stars isn't quite the hectic, bombastic fighting game that you may have been expecting – it's more about basic positioning than it is pulling off outrageously cool moves, and that's perhaps a bit of a shame, considering the source material that's being drawn upon.
On the other hand, because the combat is easy to get to grips with once you know the controls, you can jump from one playable character to the next without having to take the time to relearn too much. This is good news, because the cast offers a great range of personalities, from instantly recognisable heroes like Dragon Ball Z's Goku and One Piece's Luffy, to more obscure characters like Dr. Slump's Arale. Needless to say, seeing fighters from across the manga and anime sphere beating the absolute snot out of each other will be a dream come true for many a fan.
Your initial hours with the title will likely be spent unlocking most of these personalities, and you do this by spending points that are earned whenever you fight. The in-game store offers both playable and support characters, which, when combined, makes for an impressively large amount of representation across dozens of properties. Unlocking them all can take some time, but the fact that you're constantly getting rewarded, no matter which mode you're enjoying, ties the whole experience together quite well.
Speaking of modes, one of the release's biggest time sinks is its story. Split into four separate tales which each involve a different ragtag group, story mode offers some light role-playing game elements and a plot that's essentially an excuse to lump all of these characters together. What's quite charming, though, is how the title admits to this laziness by having the narrative glazed over by a faceless God, who simply states that a big tournament is happening, and you shouldn't question it.
Indeed, the plot itself is daft to say the least, but the whole thing's told through some cheesy character dialogue which keeps it moderately interesting, particularly when one of your favourite fighters pops up. What's more, story mode actually incorporates a world map, on which you control a ship that can eventually sail on land as well as sea. Key battles are opened up across the map as the tale progresses, and there are even optional quests to undertake, all while you level up your group and recruit other characters.
All in all, it's a decent mode – if a little repetitive – and the aforementioned RPG elements add a touch of spice to things. However, the same can't really be said for what else is on offer. Versus mode, both offline and online, is pretty bog standard, while arcade mode puts you up against predetermined teams of combatants one after another, and is equally banal. That said, it's clear that the main draw of the title is its concept and cast, and in that regard, its failure to deviate away from the basic expectations of a fighting game is forgiveable.
As for fights themselves, you can either enjoy one-on-one duels, or team battles. The latter is generally what the game is built around, as arenas are big, destructible, open spaces that are nicely designed. Team battles are two-on-two showdowns, and a winner is determined when one duo notches up three K.O.s, which also means that each team can only respawn one of its members up to three times. The title employs a lock on mechanic to keep track of your enemy, and as such, team matches tend to boil down to you and your ally fighting two separated foes – usually across the map from one another. That said, this also means that you can gang up on one singular opponent when their partner is busy respawning, which can lend itself to some slightly more tactical play.
The real fireworks start when you activate your victory burst, though. As fights drag on, you'll eventually gain the ability to press R3 and trigger a victory burst, which powers up both you and your ally. In this state, you can let loose with a dangerously effective ultimate attack, which can have a multitude of effects. For example, Goku attacks with his trademark spirit bomb technique, and afterwards, he'll remain in Super Saiyan form. All of the ultimate moves are great to watch, and it's especially satisfying to end battles with such destructive offensives.
As mentioned, J-Stars' combat isn't the deepest, but it really can be a lot of fun when you've used to the flow of battle. Although you can win clashes on easier difficulties by simply hammering your attack buttons, blocking becomes an important part of higher level play – even if such play isn't all that advanced to begin with. Holding R1 makes your character adopt a defensive stance that chips away at your stamina bar for every incoming blow that hits you, and timing a block just right allows you to dodge it entirely, leaving your foe open.
Management of your stamina bar is crucial at times, as without it, blocking is impossible, and you won't be able to pull off any special moves. Likewise, support characters come into play with a tap of L2, and they'll dish out some impressive looking individual attacks that can get a persistent opponent off your back, but you'll have to wait for their abilities to recharge before you can call on them again. Again, it's simplistic stuff, but it's still all about enjoyable, accessible mechanics in a title that puts its crazy concept front and centre.
Moving onto the game's visuals, you can certainly tell that it's releasing on three different platforms, all of which differ wildly when it comes to hardware specifications. While the title can look decent on PS4 thanks to some cool visual effects and detailed character models, stages are filled with muddy textures, and some fighters look like they've had their charisma sucked out of them due to the game's rather uniformed art style. Obviously, though, it's always going to be difficult to mash numerous art styles together in one release.
An accessible and ultimately enjoyable brawler, J-Stars Victory VS+ may not hold the attention of dedicated fighting fans for long, but it's sure to provide plenty of entertainment for those that are interested in the included manga and anime franchises. A solid character roster coupled with some eye-catching combat is what this beat-'em-up is all about – even if it could afford to take some more risks, given the wealth of source material on offer.
Knowing Ichigo and Aizen are in this game makes me yearn all the more for a Bleach fighting game to be made. I may check this out at some point, but hopefully by then it's a PS Plus freebie.
I got it on PS3. Not a bad game, But I still wish more series would have made the cut like Kinnikuman. Could have put a few more playable female characters too.
No dub no buy is my motto. I'm so sick of subtitles in anime.
@drpepperdude100 I'm the exact opposite. I hate dubs so much for the American voices for Naruto, Luffy , etc. Zero dub and Japanese with subtitles is a huge plus for me.
@drpepperdude100 The problem is that putting dubs into these games would make the localisation process longer, and it'd cost the publisher more money. One of the main reasons companies like Bandai Namco are releasing games like this in the West is because they only have to do translation work. It's quick, and it's relatively cheap.
It's a shame, but with how many copies these kinds of Japanese games sell, it makes sense.
@drpepperdude100 Considering that, for a good third of the roster, there are no official English voice actors; and the other two-thirds are scattered between multiple companies, an English dub for this kind of game would be prohibitively, ridiculously expensive; more expensive than the sales for a game so ridiculously niche could justify. Would dubbing positively contribute to sales? I don't know, probably! For a decent amount of time, publishers like Bandai Namco have avoided these sorts of games because they feel like the "no dub no buy!" mentality has enough of a hold to make the localisation of these games prohibitively expensive - it's only recently that they've realised that the community actually buying these niche games just doesn't care - if the game's based on an anime, chances are their target audience is watching it subtitled anyway, particularly if they plan on staying up-to-date.
Don't get me wrong, it is a bit disappointing that the potential audience is so small the publishers need to cheap out on a localisation... but anything to save me from the horribad English voices of Naruto and Sasuke is a net positive in my book.
@tudsworth I hate having to look at the bottom of the screen to understand what the characters are saying, it feels like it's distracting me away from what's actually going on. As far as cost I think the DBZ characters alone would easily get people into the game but not with the Japanese voice actors.
@vegeta11 There are some bad voices but I still find hearing a foreign language and reading distracting subtitles is a far worse experience to my English hearing ears. I used to watch lot's of anime with subtitles but now I just wait a few years until I can buy the dubs.
@ShogunRok Of course not having English voice acting is a huge cost reduction but it also means less sales in the North American market.
It's a 10/10 in my book. The amount of fan service in this game is just amazing. I'm loving it so far.
And please keep including Japanese voices on localized games (I'm looking at you, Persona 5).
@drpepperdude100 I... get your point, but if you quite seriously think DBZ alone would sell this game... Dragon Ball XenoVerse has English Language VA and is a very similar style of game to this. Were I just interested in Dragon Ball... it'd be a considerably better proposal for me than a game with three DB characters and 20-or-so I'm just not interested in.
As for fewer sales in the NA market... the increase in sales, historically speaking, doesn't actually account for the increase in cost. I doubt that will change any time soon, unfortunately.
I'll definitely pick this up when it's dirt cheap, I want something new and different to MK X, I can't wait all day for street fighter (insert Roman numeral)
Also I needs me a soul calibur game
If I'm not mistaken, this one has less playable characters then 'Jump! Ultimate Stars' for DS. It's a little disappointing that not as many get to stand in the spotlight.
I want this just for the Saint Seiya character.
But I'm not willing to part with $60 for it.
30 or 40 yes.
I was sad to read that Allen Walker was a support character and I didn't see Zoro listed at all.
No dub? Good, people need to learn how to appreciate the originals how they were intended. Call me a weaboo all you want. I can't stand dubbed anime. And you shouldn't either. Sure there are good English voice actors, that's not the problem here. It's the culture becoming lost in translation. English isn't my native language, so I have no desire to hear it. Text only is fine, if I need it. Many doors will open if you get over your fear of other languages. Don't be stuck in the mud.
Naruto and Bobobo will probably be my mains once I buy this off of PSN. But are there any Ultimo or Rosario Vampire Characters?
@drpepperdude100 I understand what you mean, i find it irratating when dubs aren't offered, but some of the anime on the game don't have English dub.
It doesn't bug me like it does you just because I speak English and French, and in my daily life I hear all sorts of different languages around me: German, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch , Spanish etc. I don't think it's a huge thing that bothers North American people, more like just you guys in the states, cause Canadians are really use to multiply languages being spoken around them.
Just cause it's in Japanese with English dub doesn't mean it's still not worth playing, I'm just happy we got the game lol
@drpepperdude100 Same here I prefer dubs for both games and anime, though I don't mind watching subbed anime.
Subbed games though, I can't play. There need to be english voices.
@ToddlerNaruto Yeah I've never bought a game without English voices except for a PS1 DBZ game that was the worst DBZ game I've ever played lol. I used to watch anime that didn't have dubs yet with subs but I realized that looking at the bottom of the screen instead of at the action was making me miss details from the actual animation. For example when I went back and watched the last season of Bleach with dubs it almost felt new to me because even though I had already watched it with subs I understood it more with dubs and was able to watch the interactions in better detail instead of reading text. Of course if I could speak Japanese I would have no problem watching the original Japanese versions but I don't so the Japanese voices sound extremely weird compared to English voices, especially the girl voices.
@drpepperdude100 I agree with you there. I'm from California, USA and grew up watching english dubs, so I'll always prefer them over Japanese voices with English subtitles.
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