Jump Force – Test

For the 50th anniversary of the Shūkan Shōnen Jump magazine, publisher Bandai Namco and developer Spike Chunsoft came up with something very special. Especially for anime fans, the announcement of Jump Force at E3 2018 was a little surprise. You can choose from more than 30 characters, from various Shōnen Jump Mangas. Whether Monkey D. Ruffy, Naruto or Son Goku – almost everyone is there! The only question left is whether the whole thing is also good for something playful. But a generic fighter in the style of Dragonball Xenoverse or Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, nothing should stand in the way, right?

The usual …

Once again the villain Frieza attacks the earth with a horde of henchmen, but this time it is our world. Ours? Yes! For a mysterious reason, dozens of heroes and villains of the Shōnen Jump Mangas have been brought from their universes into ours. In the fight against his arch-enemy Goku we, the players, are finally killed by an accident. Lying dying, we are fortunately revived by trunks and a helper. With new freshness and won superpowers we are initiated into the hero existence. Now it’s up to us to get to the bottom of the unexplainable events …

The plot of the game is not bad in itself, but of course not a masterstroke – but should not be underestimated. But those who expect a little more depth are wrong. Jump Force is based on typical mangas, both in the characters and in the story. So there isn’t more than a classic hero’s journey in it, but the story would have had a lot more potential. With so many different individuals a much larger number of scenarios would have been possible, which could have brought the interaction between the characters to the fore much more. The duel between the legendary swordsmen Kenshin and Zorro was one of the best moments in the story for me.

Madame Tusssauds

In addition to the somewhat superficial story, it’s also the visual feedback, where even the biggest fan has to shake his head. The cutscenes are by far the most horrible thing I was allowed to see. I don’t know how the development studio Spike Chunsoft managed to miss the target like that. The animations are a cheek! Don’t get me wrong, while fighting Jump Force looks good, even very good. The animations run smoothly and every character feels alive, but whatever happened in the cutscenes shouldn’t have happened. The characters don’t move much at all and are mostly idle, sometimes even static. The faces also feel like masks, as they always have the same expression. Furthermore, it looks as if the characters are made of plastic, almost as if they were bad action figures. Of course, you could argue that all protagonists were reduced to the same style, but still I can’t get rid of the feeling that a hobby programmer took care of the story mode. On top of that, you can’t even skip cutscenes and makes the whole thing even sadder. The only question I have is why they didn’t discard the plot completely and concentrate more on the actual game.

However, I have to admit that the animations in the fights themselves were incredibly well implemented, the effects are even better. Rarely have I seen a game that shows such a brilliant performance. The movements of the characters feel fluid and are well tuned to each character. Even small quirks of the characters come to light, like the scars on Zorro’s chest. But of course you don’t only fight with fists, but also with your iconic, individual fighting techniques, which are staged amazingly once more. Whether Rasengan, Kamehameha or Dekus Smash attacks, the game leaves nothing to be desired.

The acoustic implementation of the game is also well done and the Japanese soundtrack, which is unfortunately the only one, offers the original speakers of the corresponding animes for all characters. Nevertheless, the game can be played with subtitles without any problems.

What needs to be mentioned about the technology are the unspeakably long loading times and the constant jerking of the camera and the not constant frame rate. I tested Jump Force on the Xbox One, which shouldn’t be an excuse for bad performance. The loading times of the game are so long that I was able to do other tasks while waiting for the next cut sequence in order to bridge the time a bit. A No-Go!

Short fun

If you are awakened at the beginning of the story and after your death in the realm of the living again, you get the opportunity to create your own character. Here you have a relatively moderate number of choices. However, there is always the possibility to choose different hairs, outfits etc.. It’s not as deep as for example Die Sims, but it doesn’t have to be. Right after creating your hero you get the possibility to choose one of three fighting styles. This, but also the unique abilities of the player, can be changed in the course of the game and thus offer an apparent depth.

But I don’t want to go into the story mode at all, because after all it’s important to me how Jump Force stands out as a fighting game and not how my character develops in the course of a mediocre plot with bad cutscenes.

Jump Force feels pretty straight-forward at first, almost too easy for my taste. Normal attack, heavy attack, both of which are rechargeable. Additionally three special attacks and an awakening ability. Last but not least a few ways to dodge or block, a grip, and voilà, that’s it. To be honest: Yes, the multiplayer mode is fun, very much so, but only as long as you don’t go into it in depth. Why? Because the combat system lacks complexity. With little experience and an equal opponent, it’s easy to find fun with Jump Force, as you’ll quickly find your way into the game even without a lot of experience due to automatic combos and the beautiful-looking effects.

But as soon as you dive deeper into the matter, this changes. The initially fast, funky gameplay turns into a tedious wait, waiting for the opponent’s mistakes. Blocking is much too strong and in my opinion destroys the flow of the game. The only way to interrupt such a block is to grab the opponent – which can be countered. Of course, defenses belong in the movement repertoire of a fighting game and is even an essential aspect of it, but for me as a genre fan it was rarely so frustrating. In comparable games like Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm this was clearly solved better.

CONCLUSION

It’s unfortunate that a good game like Jump Force suffers from such a lack of fine-tuning and therefore falls into the category “below average” for me. It wouldn’t be a bad game if the developers just took a little more time. Of course such criticisms as the animations in the cutscenes or the long loading times are bearable, if at least the gameplay would speak for itself. But not even the developer Spike Chunsoft hit the mark. The much too simple game design hardly allows tactical depth and makes a competitive test of strength almost impossible. This circumstance is additionally intensified by framerate collapses. So if you expect Jump Force to be a fighting game that also offers long-term motivation, I have to disappoint you. Although the game shines with an eventful staging, there is still nothing under the hood that will captivate you in front of the screen for a long time. Jump Force may be worth a look for anime and manga fans, but only if it appears as a budget title at some point.

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