Jump Force

You’ve got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Martin Kitts

Part of the 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of Sho­nen Jump, a weekly manga comic so widely read in Ja­pan (7.5 bil­lion copies and count­ing) that it has in­evitably achieved a mea­sure of fame far be­yond its home­land, this is truly an all-star fight­ing game. Any­one with even a pass­ing in­ter­est in the genre will be fa­mil­iar with many of the char­ac­ters here, be­cause these are some of the most il­lus­tri­ous names in manga.

There are 16 dif­fer­ent se­ries rep­re­sented at launch, in­clud­ing the big­gest-sell­ing manga of all time, One Piece, the sec­ond big­gest, Dragon Ball, and sev­eral other ti­tles from the top 20 list, namely Naruto, Bleach, Fist Of The North Star and JoJo’s Bizarre Ad­ven­ture. They’ve all been in plenty of videogame adap­ta­tions over the years, in­clud­ing the some­what sim­i­lar J-Stars Vic­tory Vs, from the same de­vel­oper, but Jump Force has a par­tic­u­larly spe­cial buzz about it.

It’s an on­line-fo­cused one-on-one fight­ing game, with the twist be­ing that each player picks three of the 42 char­ac­ters, swap­ping be­tween them at crit­i­cal points to make best use of their abil­i­ties. All three share a sin­gle health bar, which gives the game a dif­fer­ent sort of dy­namic to a typ­i­cal tag-team fighter – by the time you re­alise your first choice is just a bad matchup for this op­po­nent, half of your team’s col­lec­tive health could have been wiped out.

A cou­ple of ba­sic at­tacks are avail­able for chip­ping away at your op­po­nent, but the se­ri­ous dam­age is done with spe­cial moves that be­come avail­able as a sec­ond en­ergy me­ter slowly charges. There are three lesser spe­cials that you can break out al­most as of­ten as you like, but once the gauge is half-full you can launch a sig­na­ture move so epic that it comes with its own cutscene. At full charge you can do the same thing in ‘awak­ened’ form, which ba­si­cally means there’s no es­cape.

It’s also pos­si­ble to spend some en­ergy on awak­en­ing a char­ac­ter, tem­po­rar­ily be­stow­ing en­hanced skills and po­ten­tially grant­ing a trans­for­ma­tion to some other form, de­pend­ing on the char­ac­ter in ques­tion. These pow­ers can per­sist be­tween rounds, and as the match pro­gresses you’ll see fight­ers ef­fec­tively lev­el­ling up while their clothes be­come shred­ded from dam­age. At the end of it all, they re­ally look like they’ve been in the wars.

Cut to the chase

Be­cause a solid combo can fling a fighter half­way across the arena, there’s a chase but­ton for clos­ing the gap. It makes you lock on and dash to­wards your op­po­nent’s lo­ca­tion, at which point you’ll ei­ther launch into an­other set of moves or re­ceive a well-timed counter from your foe.

Fights against other hu­mans tend to play out as a tense se­ries of feints and jabs, as each player tries to draw a coun­ter­able er­ror from the other, be­fore ex­plod­ing into a light­ning-fast flurry of spec­tac­u­lar vi­o­lence.

It’s amaz­ing to watch, with spe­cial moves that look like they could flat­ten a city block, and rapid-fire changes of cam­era an­gle as the mo­men­tum swings back and forth and the pace heats up to dizzy­ing lev­els. There are more tech­ni­cal fight­ing games around, but there are surely none that will catch the eye of a ca­sual ob­server quite like this one. It’s a vis­ual feast.

There’s a rock/pa­per/scis­sors thing go­ing on be­hind the scenes, with al­most ev­ery move be­ing strong or weak against some­thing else, and that’s where the char­ac­ter­switch­ing re­ally comes into play. When your go-to moves start get­ting blocked or coun­tered, switch­ing to the next fighter can change your luck. Swap­ping char­ac­ters also has the ben­e­fit of in­stantly clos­ing the dis­tance on an op­po­nent, which is al­most like hav­ing a free hit, so there’s a cooldown to stop it be­ing overused.

In­stead of a menu there’s a huge on­line lobby where play­ers gather round booths of­fer­ing var­i­ous game modes and in­ter­act with one an­other via dances, weird an­i­ma­tions and a list of pre­de­fined phrases, which goes a small way to­wards break­ing down lan­guage bar­ri­ers. Of course all of the act­ing in the game is in Ja­pa­nese, and we can’t imag­ine the tar­get au­di­ence would have it any other way.

On the down­side, the fre­quent load­ing screens, com­plete with progress me­ters that bear no re­la­tion to how long you’ve got left to wait, will surely test your pa­tience. Start­ing a bat­tle or even re­quest­ing a re­match with the same char­ac­ters comes with a frus­trat­ingly long pause. It’s com­pletely at odds with the snappy and im­me­di­ate na­ture of the ac­tual game­play, and can tilt the bal­ance from ‘one more go’ to ‘time to go’ if you’re on a los­ing streak.

Still, it’s the fights that re­ally count, and they’re crazy fun. It goes from be­ing a but­ton-mash­ing frenzy at the low­est lev­els to a re­ally cagey cat-and-mouse kind of thing when you fig­ure out what’s go­ing on, and its cu­ri­ous ca­pac­ity for last-sec­ond re­ver­sals and vic­to­ries snatched from the jaws of de­feat is ei­ther heroic or sus­pect, de­pend­ing on who’s on the re­ceiv­ing end. That’s surely the mark of a mul­ti­player favourite.

“You can launch a sig­na­ture move so epic that it comes with its own cutscene”

left With two play­ers on one Xbox, the cam­era swings be­hind who­ever is cur­rently on the at­tack.

above In the midst of all this there’s an epic come­back in progress.

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