A Bizarre and Fabulous Space-Time Adventure
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of those series that seems impossible to adequately describe, yet makes perfect sense when you read or watch it. It truly is a story that manages to consistently live up to its name. Its blend of supernatural horror, sci-fi, martial arts, and comedy elements are all wrapped up in a ludicrously stylized package that is perfectly executed to grab your attention with its unique artstyle. This award winning, long-running manga is still going strong today since its first arc was published in the eighties, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Thanks to mostly successful efforts localizing the manga along with the recent TV anime series in the west, fans are finally getting to see what all the rage surrounding this series is all about. Bandai Namco capitalized on the series’ newfound popularity in the west by releasing All Star Battle on the PS3 a couple years ago to moderate success. Now, fans get to experience more Jojo action with the release of the newest game in the series: Eyes of Heaven.
Eyes of Heaven starts right at the tail end of the third arc in the story: Stardust Crusaders. Widely regarded as one of the best parts of the Jojo universe, this part of the story takes place in the 1980’s. The popular series mainstay antagonist, the extravagant and cold-blooded vampire Dio Brando, has awakened from a one hundred year nap to continue his quest to eradicate the Joestar family and conquer the world. Strange psychic powers given physical form called “Stands” have been awakened in the series’ characters during this arc, and the Joestars, along with some friends, go on a quest to Egypt to wipe out Dio and his minions (who have Stands of their own, conveniently). The game begins at what is arguably the most memorable fight in the Jojo series to date: third arc protagonist Jotaro Kujo and his Stand “Star Platinum” versus Dio Brando and his Stand “The World”. This section also serves as the game’s tutorial. Finally defeating him, Jotaro gets a hold of Dio’s journal, and after reading a strange prophecy in it, burns it to ashes so no one else can be influenced by it. Jotaro meets up with his Grandfather and fellow comrade Jean Pierre Polnareff, and right when they are ready to leave, they encounter some mysterious characters who happen to look and sound an awful lot like their dear departed comrades who lost their lives during their adventure. As a matter of fact, they ARE their fallen comrades. The problem is their former comrades now want them dead, and they have sworn allegiance to someone they only refer to as “Him“.
After beating them and returning them to normal, a strange man, seemingly from the past, approaches them and tells them their friends and enemies alike are coming back because of something called “The Holy Corpse” which is causing all sorts of space-time anomalies such as this to occur. Jojo and company need to find all the parts of this corpse to put a stop to these anomalies for good. After a short chat, a portal opens and our friends start hopping to various timelines in the Jojo universe to solve this bizarre mystery. With this, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven’s story begins. The story mode plays out much like a small arc of the manga and the TV anime. This makes sense as series creator Hirohiko Araki himself was involved in drafting up the game’s story. Everyone fits in perfectly here and nothing in particular feels out of place, despite the time-jumping shenanigans being prevalent throughout the story.
Eyes of Heaven, at its core, is a 2v2 brawler. It’s not quite a fighting game, but it’s not quite a beat-em-up either. Players take control of one character, while the other serves as an AI helper to fight the enemy duo. Stages consist of fairly large arenas featuring locales found throughout the various arcs of the Jojo universe, complete with items to throw and certain areas to interact with, even stage hazards. Controls are pretty simplistic, with the analog sticks controlling character movement and camera controls and special moves are performed by holding a shoulder button along with one of the primary face buttons (L1+Square, for example) on the controller to activate them. There are even more special moves you can use by filling up your special meter, and using the touchpad on the Dualshock 4 controller you can activate a dual combo mode with your partner for extra damage. Additionally, you can push both shoulder buttons to do a “rush attack” with your partner which, if it connects, does substantial damage to the opponent unlucky enough to be caught in the crosshairs. The controls are simple enough and easy to grasp even for rookie fighting game players. If I were to compare it to any other game, I would say it felt most similar to Super Smash Bros. crossed with Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm in its method of controls and playstyle. One unique touch that adds some tension to matches is the “Soul Successor” gimmick which, if your AI partner is knocked out in the match, you get a big boost to your lifebar and attack power. This feature can turn the tide of battle pretty quickly if the opposing team isn’t too careful. The caveat to this is that if the character you’re controlling gets knocked out at any point in the match, it’s an automatic lose for you, so you have to be careful you don’t get knocked out first!
Players can also hop online to duke it out with some friends. Players can either do 2 player matches with 2 AI partners or you can have 4 players come together for an all-human 2v2 match. I played a few matches with fellow Hey Poor Player writer Jack Hills, and we encountered very little problems during our online play. Connections and load times were fast and fluid, and the only significant lag we encountered were a couple small frame hiccups during one of our later matches. Online matches utilize many of the same stages found throughout the game, and the humongous roster of over 50 characters is available for you to choose from right from the start. There’s characters from each and every part of the series from past to present available here (although not every character is featured), many of them being extremely popular and featuring different playstyles to boot. Characters in Eyes of Heaven are divided into one of three classes: Hamon Users, Stand Users, and the remaining characters fit under an umbrella “Other” type of sorts. Characters like Kars and Esidisi have “Modes” that they use, and human characters like Young Speedwagon have general titles assigned to them rather than a specific style. The vast majority of characters are Stand Users, since that is what the series sort of focuses on starting with the third arc. Regardless of your preferred playstyle, there is plenty of content for you to experience. For those unfamiliar with the Jojo universe an entire glossary of Jojo lore is available to help them understand the crazy, bizarre universe these characters live in.
The sound department is spot on in Eyes of Heaven. Many characters from the first through the third story arcs have had their TV anime voice actors fill their respective character’s roles, so players that also happen to be fans of the anime will instantly recognize their iconic voices the first time you hear them. Certain characters from the fourth arc have different voice actors due to the TV anime for that arc currently being in production, and many actors from the fifth arc onward are the same as found in All Star Battle on PS3. Stage music typically has an upbeat jazz tone to it, while certain pivotal battles have a darker, more serious sound to them. Again, this mimics the tone of the TV anime fairly well. There is no English sound option, so players with a dislike for Japanese audio with English subtitles may find this to be a negative point to the game. Sound effects are terrific as well, delivering the perfect amount of weight when you’re pummeling your opponents into the ground.
While Eyes of Heaven is packed to the brim with fanservice and oozing with style and exaggerated poses, it’s not without its fair share of problems. Firstly, this game is also available on the PS3, and you can tell when playing the PS4 version. Character models, though detailed, often have inconsistent animation quality. While special moves and certain story segments are beautifully animated and have nicely done lip-syncing, that is not the case during general story development. Character movements are stiff and lip movements are essentially flapping jaws. It’s pretty jarring to see on a current-gen console, to say the least. Additionally, special moves can be a little clunky to pull off at times. With your characters moving a bit on the sluggish side and there being somewhat of a delay when inputting commands, it can be difficult to connect your attacks at times. All of this is compounded by the camera not being the most helpful at times. This can lead to some matches being frustrating, especially when there’s two or more human players involved. It’s also worth mentioning the elephant in the room regarding name changes. The Jojo universe is teeming with musical references, and this becomes even more prevalent starting with characters and Stands from the fourth story arc. While it’s an unfortunate legal necessity in order to bring Jojo to the west, certain stands and characters have had their names changed or altered in order to avoid copyright issues with the musicians they’re referencing. For instance, Giorno Giovanna’s Stand “Golden Experience” has been renamed to “Golden Wind”. That’s strange on its own, but you can still hear Giorno distinctly call it “Golden Experience” through his spoken parts. It creates a sort of dissonance to read one name yet hear another through audio. Although, logistically that’s really all that could be done as far as alterations are concerned. I wouldn’t exactly go so far as to call it censorship, but it’s still a rather annoying change nonetheless.
Still, even with these problems Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven is still a fun game to play, and even more fun with some friends. It may be geared more towards hardcore Jojo fans and it may lack the technical finesse of more polished and established fighters out there, but it still fills its role nicely. It also serves as a great entry point for those unfamiliar with the Jojo franchise. The game is currently available on the Playstation Store as a digital download for consumers in the US while European players have the luxury of also being able to purchase the game physically. If you’re on the fence after reading this review, there is also a free demo available to give you a taste of what the game is like. There’s something you don’t see too much of nowadays! Give it a try and let us here at Hey Poor Player know what you think!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed) PS3; Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment ; Developer: CyberConnect2; Players: 1 Offline, 2-4 Online ; Released: June 28, 2016 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Jojo’s Biazrre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven for PS4 given to HeyPoorPlayer by Bandai Namco Entertainment.”