As arguably the biggest anime and manga franchise on the planet right now, all publisher Bandai Namco had to do was put together a serviceable adaptation of Gege Aktusami’s modern-day sensation and reap the rewards. Regrettably, the dismal Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash is the worst kind of tie-in: a vapid cash grab clearly developed on a shoe-string budget with few redeeming features for existing fans or fascinated newcomers alike.
The game, developed by Japanese outfit Byking – the same studio behind the My Hero One’s Justice series – falls into the trappings of rote arena brawler, but this isn’t an inherently bad thing per se. Unfortunately, it’s a really bad one, with restrictive gameplay and an unrefined combat system, which lacks the balletic beauty of its source material. For a series defined by its outstandingly choreographed combat scenes, this outing is an abject failure.
It lacks the flare of other anime adaptations, too. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle has its issues, but it could never be accused of failing to capture the zany vibes of Hirohiko Araki’s outlandish series, with its menus fizzing with all kinds of subtle references. Here, the lack of budget is practically impossible to ignore, as even key features like the character selection screen are relegated to a soulless list of character names in the forgettable Free Battle mode.
Story mode is the main draw for solo players, but it lacks any of the pizazz of the property it’s based on, with the plot restricted to just the first season of the anime and its prequel movie. This feels like a bizarre decision considering the second season launched recently, and it makes the game feel out-of-date before you even get started. Regardless, the fiction is hard to follow when presented in this form, with mostly static character art and text bubbles.
Even within its confines, popular characters are missing, like Kasumi Miwa and Mei Mei – although Bandai Namco is generally pretty good when it comes to post-release support, so there’s a good chance they’ll be added in later as DLC. Of course, whether you’ll want to pod out even more money on an already bitterly disappointing experience is unlikely, so their absence is fairly pertinent from the outset in our opinion.
Key characters like Yuji Itadori, Satoru Gojo, and Nobara Kugisaki are available from the outset, but playing as them is a rather miserable experience, as alluded to previously. Each fighter has three core attacks and two specials, as well as a super move. But you can generally get through most of the game’s content by mashing a single button, and the lack of animation variety or overall impact makes this a desperately drab affair.
Outside of a couple of decent animations, you never really feel as powerful as the characters you’re playing as, and an invincibility system which renders all opponents invulnerable when on the ground means you’ll find yourself waiting around for foes to get up instead of punishing them while they’re knocked down. It’s all so slow, and it’s compounded by the default 2v2 team scenarios, which makes each match feel overly long and laborious.
There’s an online co-op option which tasks you with working alongside friends and strangers, but the combat is so crap you’re not going to want to engage with it for more than a few hours. And while there are a lot of unlockable items, many of these fall into the category of profile flourishes, like name tags and avatars and so on. It’s not a negative that there’s a lot to obtain, but the rewards are unlikely to amuse even the most ardent anime fans for long.
It's just a bad game from top-to-bottom really, which fails on its primary objectives. As an accompaniment for existing fans, the package feels lightweight and out-of-date – and as a tie-in, it’s unlikely to attract newcomers to the franchise as a whole. Byking has failed to replicate the intensity of the anime’s battle scenes, serving up a soulless arena affair that doesn’t really appear to have any reverence for the source material it’s inspired by.
Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash is unfortunately cursed trash. Its shallow, unsatisfying combat system fails to capture the balletic brilliance of the anime and manga’s striking skirmishes, and its disjointed single player campaign is unlikely to be enjoyed by franchise faithfuls or prospective new fans. Given the enormous popularity of Gege Aktusami’s series, it’s frankly unfathomable how badly Bandai Namco has dropped the ball here.