The closest you’ll ever get to seeing Goku in Smash Bros.
Ever want to see Naruto fight Luffy from One Piece? Or Goku fight Ichigo from Bleach? How about Joseph Joestar fighting the tentacle monster from Assassination Classroom? Well J-Stars victory Vs+ lets you do that even if you didn’t want to.
J-Stars Victory Vs+ is a fighting game featuring characters from series featured in the Shonen jump manga imprint, a manga magazine geared mostly towards males.
Rather than playing like a traditional fighting game, J-Stars feels more like a 3d brawler and in a way reminds me of Anarchy Reigns in both the general gameplay and the combat. You have your weak attack, strong attack and your special attacks that run on a stamina meter. An interesting feature is the ability to charge your stamina meter by pressing R1 and X. At first I thought it would be a cheap way of regaining stamina, but it is balanced out by the player’s vulnerability when charging. However the actual fights are mostly determined by who can strike first, as there’s no way to block during a combo or any moves capable of breaking out of one either, so all you can do is wait until the opponent finishes their barrage before making your own counterattack. Or you could play as Yusuke and spam spirit gun you cheap range spamming loser.
You can also choose between three different buffs for you character, Friendship, effort, and triumph which affect stamina use, defense, and attack respectively. These buffs can be leveled up in all modes of gameplay and leveling them up unlocks the ability to unlock more characters.
The game’s main story mode isn’t anything special. You can choose from four arcs (each with the same basic storyline but with some differences in battles and playable characters available to the player) in which you travel around a giant open world in a constantly upgrading pirate ship as you spend the first portion of the story trying to enter a big tournament while the last section of the story can best be described as the anime equivalent of the Subspace Emissary minus the bombs. What I did like was that you could go to different character’s worlds and talk to some of the characters that aren’t playable in the game, leading to some fun and engaging conversations. Part of the story mode’s appeal is seeing characters from different series interact with each other in entertaining dialogue conversations. I never knew I wanted Bobobo and Korosensei to team up until I played J-Stars.
The story mode is the best place to earn points. Points are used to buy additional characters, items for story mode, and coins that can be exchanged for in game trading cards that give boosts and special abilities to characters. I like the point based system of unlocking characters, it lets you choose what characters you want instead of forcing you to unlock characters that you’ll never even use before you can get the one you want. This doesn’t mean you can buy up all the characters at once though. You have a limited amount of character slots, but more slots can be unlocked by leveling up your three buffs.
One thing that I have mixed feelings about is the character roster. Yes you got your popular characters like Goku, Naruto and Luffy, along with characters from series that are gaining popularity overseas like Korosensei from Assassination Classroom and Chitoge from Nisekoi. But then you have alot of bizarre obscure characters that aren’t even popular in the west like Taro Yamada or Luckyman. it gives those series more exposure but at the same time I feel that there could have been more recognizable characters put into the game instead. I’d rather have Jotaro Kujo or Zoro in the game than Luckyman and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Thankfully all the characters play differently. No two characters are alike in terms of play style or move sets. Its nice to see that you can have a fighting game roster on this scale that doesn’t include any clones.
Characters are divided into two categories, Playable characters and Support characters. Support characters can aid the player in battle in ways ranging from granting temporary invisibility and attacking the enemy. There are six character slots in a match, two playable character slots for each team and one support slot for each team as well. If you don’t like what the support characters have to offer you can put a playable character in the support slot and use their attack as a support instead.
I’d also like to bring up a problem I found when more than one of the same character is used in a single match. Normally in fighting games you can pick different color palettes or costumes to help distinguish players using the same character apart. J-Stars doesn’t do this at all. The only way to distinguish players apart when they are using the same character is the color of the health box above their head and even then that can become tricky to notice. I played a match with six Bobobo’s and it was pure chaos.
With all these characters and properties its surprising how few stages there are. There’s only a small handful of stages and those are usually either a city with destructible buildings or some arena-like stage. There should have been more stages in the game or at least more variety to them, especially when you consider that only one stage has any actual hazards. The stages give an illusion of being larger than they actually are, which on one hand adds more detail to them but on the other hand it makes me wish that the stages were actually larger.
If the story mode doesn’t float your boat, there is a branching challenge mode and an arcade mode available. Or you could just play online. The online aspect is fairly good but I didn’t like the lack of communication present in the lobbies. Once in a lobby you have no way of communicating with another party member without a mic. This can be a problem if you need to talk to a game host about starting a match or telling a disruptive player to stop what they are doing.
There were a couple bugs in the game that I encountered, such as one where as Saiki I would summon rocks only for them to immediately break accompanied to a very obnoxious noise. Another glitch occurred when a character online would use their final attack but no audio could be heard, and another that completely removed the background music until somebody activated victory burst. Nothing game-breaking but they were rather bothersome to me.
Overall, J-Stars Victory VS+ is a fun and distinctly unique sort of fighting game. With a different approach to the genre, the game features a wide variety of characters, and decent replay value in its story mode that’s only only held back by some bugs, a lack of stages, and the exclusion of some more popular characters, J Stars would be right at home with both fans of Shonen manga and fighting game fans alike.
Final Verdict 4.5 / 5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed) PlayStation 3 and Vita; Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment; Developer: Spike Chunsoft; Players: 1-2 (local) 1-4 (online); Released: June 30, 2015 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99 (PS3, PS4) $39.99 (Vita)
This review is based on a retail copy of the game purchased by Hey Poor Player.