The Joestar Family Reunion Begins Now!
HIGH The villain is a vampire who also has martial arts superpowers. I’m sold!
LOW Being asked to perform a ‘Dramatic Finish’ without being taught what that is.
WTF Robert E. O. Speedwagon? I’m Weather Forecast. Great to meet you, and may I introduce U.S. President Funny Valentine?
Using the word ‘bizarre’ in a game’s title is throwing down one heck of a gauntlet—bragging about strangeness is a bold move when many players are cynical, world-weary, and would rightly respond with skepticism. I certainly wasn’t ready to believe it when I first booted this game up. However, after ten hours of watching gay fetish pin-up models viciously beat each other up while jumping across 150 years of history, I can safely say, if nothing else, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure earned its name.
A 3D arena brawler themed around a supernatural martial arts manga, JoJo’s is about two-on-two fights in which a single player and a CPU sidekick battle a pair of enemies in tiered locations. The fights are designed to be quick and brutal affairs, focusing on dodging, countering, and spamming special moves, all of which threaten to overwhelm photosensitive epileptics with the sheer volume of flashing lights.
The game is an outstanding accomplishment in terms of the number and variety of characters. The story’s villain finds a way to obtain godhood by travelling through time, mind-controlling heroes, resurrecting villains, and collecting holy relics. As conceits go when adapting comics to video game form, it’s an incredibly good one since it allows for any conceivable combination of characters to team up. Villains from the 19th century can battle heroes from the 21st, different generations of heroes from the same family can be brainwashed into fighting each other, and then later team up in previously-impossible combinations to battle monstrous evil.
Luckily the core fighting mechanics are simple enough that having a roster of 30-odd characters never gets too daunting. All of them attack using the same basic commands, and they each have access to seven unique moves which can be activated by holding down L1 and hitting another button. The game doesn’t go out of its way to train the player in how to use each of these characters—that would be quite an investment of time, after all—so the moves are broken down into broad categories like short or long range, setting a trap, or powering up/weakening a foe. While every move looks a little different and varies in use, any character can be learned over the course of a single fight once a player gets the basics down.
And how many fights there are! This is a long game, at least by arena brawler standards. Spread out over 12 chapters, the player will find themselves controlling all of the heroes at one point or another, with Jotaro (identifiable by the black hat that’s somehow also his hair) serving as the closest thing the game has to a main character. Even by the standards of manga storylines, this thing is incredibly convoluted. The game does a decent job of explaining who everyone is and why they’re fighting, but neglects to explain the fundamental strangeness of the narrative—things like why all of the fighters have battle auras that come out of their bodies to do the fighting for them. It seems that somewhere in the four-plus hours of cut-scenes there might have been a little time to introduce the fundamentals of the world more organically than asking players to read through a glossary of terms.
Another way the game impresses is in the wide variety of scenarios on offer. There’s the bread and butter two-on-two fights that make up most of the battles, then there are two-on-one boss fights where the player and a sidekick have to do their best to endure crazily powerful enemies. There are horde fights where crowds of goons attack in waves until a certain number have been defeated, and JoJo’s even slows things down from time to time for a game of poker. The Bizarre Adventure is epic, but it rarely feels repetitive, and that’s a credit to good scenario design. There’s even a multiplayer online component that lets up to four players battle each other using any combination of characters they like. Sadly, there’s no way for local co-op or versus, though.
While I’m not familiar with the manga this game is based on and can’t speak to its fidelity as an adaptation, when taken on its own terms it’s a robust and satisfying arena brawler with almost too much story. Perhaps familiarity or emotional connection to the characters would have kept me from skipping through the last few extended monologues near the end, but my interest in the fighting never flagged, and that certainly marks it as a success.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 1 hour of play was spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains violence, blood, partial nudity, language, use of alcohol and tobacco. It’s wall to wall supernatural martial arts. The action within the game is fairly tame, but the cut-scenes feature panels from the comic in which characters are murdered in fairly brutal fashion. There’s also some discussion of soul collecting, deals with the devil, vampirism. Not to mention that every other character is a salaciously-posing muscleman wearing next to nothing. So yeah, probably not for the younger teens.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are subtitles for all story cut-scenes, and there are no audio cues that will have a major effect on gameplay.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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A fighting game without a versus mode? That’s like not having guns in an FPS.
That said, appreciate the review as Jojo has been a favorite of a friend of mine who is no longer with us and I’ve wondered if the games were worth getting. I can’t believe we barely get Yakuza games but we seem to get all the Jojo games.