I Have Travelled Across Time To Test Your Might
HIGH Trampling enemies on horseback in a fighting game.
LOW Being expected to defeat a vampire with a constantly-refilling health bar.
WTF 30% of the battle pairings in All-Star Mode
There’s a major obstacle facing someone attempting to make a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fighting game, and that’s the profound strangeness referenced in the title. Where other battle-intensive manga and anime revolve around similarly sized characters battling one another with comparable abilities, Jojo goes absolutely nuts with its roster. How does a small talking dog fight a magic falcon? How does an animated doll fight a parapalegic gunslinger riding a horse? JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is all about answering those questions.
A fighter that somehow manages to look exactly like its hand-drawn source material while featuring 3D characters in 3D environments, ASBR is clearly aimed at fans of the franchise. Eschewing any kind of narrative retelling the comic’s plot, the game instead breaks up its main attraction – the titular All Star Battle Mode – into thirteen different maps, each one drawn from the story’s eight phases. Rather than force the player to work their way through these fights in any kind of linear fashion, players are free to pick and choose the battles they want to sample, the only restriction being that they have to complete half of a map’s encounters before they can take on a ‘setpiece’ battle.
The battles themselves offer interesting twists on scenes from the manga, mixing and matching characters from throughout time periods and allowing characters who lived decades apart a chance to throw down. This can lead to some intensely satisfying matches, such as seeing Dio Brando, Victorian Vampire, throw down against his future version DIO, the magical time-controlling monster who lets a silver and gold golem do his fighting for him. Every battle also has mutators designed to mix things up, offering things like auto-refilling health and special bars, to better simulate the power imbalance between characters from the early and late periods of the manga, where things went from regular old monsters doing martial arts to cosmic battles between godly entities.
The stages add interesting complications to matches, with each one offering a a way to use an environmental element to damage one’s opponent.
Every map has an area of the ground marked with red, and if either fighter is knocked to the ground in that region, it sets off a timer that ends with significant damage being caused to anyone who happens to be in the area when the attack happens. This can range from a fallen chandelier in a mansion to a horse galloping its way around an arena – and while the main action all takes place along a 2D plane with players holding ‘away’ to block, a dodge button allows for lateral movement that shifts the plane of combat, opening up opportunities for strategic placement. It’s an interesting complication that can turn the tide of battles rather quickly.
The fighting mechanics are top-notch as well, with every character’s moveset drawing from a fairly standard set of controller commands, so it’s relatively easy to jump from one character to the next. ASBR doesn’t limit the abilities characters should have access to based on their manga powers, either – gun-toting and other long-range focused characters will still be able to do massive damage from huge distances away. Between the dodge ability and the relatively limited sizes of the arenas, though, the combat never feels unbalanced in their favor. Yes, I was able to cheese my way through some online battles by focusing on extremely cheap ranged attacks, but the moment I came up against players who’d had a little experience with the myriad methods of closing distances quickly, I found that drilling down on the fundamentals was the only way to ensure success.
In addition to offering a solid tutorial and training mode to get people used to countering and interrupting their enemies, ASBR goes out of its way to be accessible for anyone who might be a little shaky with the fighting genre.
In addition to many different kinds of moves that can be combo-ed together, every character has a basic continuous combo that can be performed by simply jamming on a single button if they manage to find an opening. While this button-mashing technique is easy enough to slip away from with a little bit of experience, it accomplishes what it needs to — namely, giving new players a chance to feel powerful as they begin the process of learning the finer points. I’d also recommend starting with a basic, close-up brawling type character, though, as the fighters with more esoteric, world-bending abilities can be extremely difficult to wrap one’s head around until they understand how to move around arenas.
All-Star Battle R is an extremely daunting affair to jump into. Yes, the developers have done a good job of offering ways to ease players into its eccentricities, but at the end of the day, it’s still a game where a fashionisto who can zip and unzip any flat surface might find themselves facing off against a woman with prehensile hair. There are fifty playable characters here, and even though I completed most of the All-Star mode and collected a huge amount of unlockable content, I’ve just dipped my toes into what the game has to offer. Whether they’re fans of the manga and anime or not, this is worth a look for any serious fighting game aficionado.
Disclosures: This game is developed by CyberConnect2 Co. Ltd. and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on PC, PS4/5, Switch, XBO/X/S. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. 2 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Language, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, and Violence. In addition to the constant vicious fighting, there’s suggestive comments, suggestive costumes, light swearing – basically everything one would expect from a JoJo game. The violence is definitely toned down from the source material, though – you won’t see anyone drinking huge amounts of blood or getting brutally stabbed to death. Not great for kids, but the T rating is certainly appropriate.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles for all pre-fight conversations, and no audio cues that will have a major effect on gameplay. I played most of the game without audio and encountered no difficulties. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game’s controls are remappable.