You must die, I alone am best.
Every once in a while a game comes along that mashes every fan’s fantasies into one package. For anime fans, that game is J-Stars Victory VS+ for PS3 and PS4. This arena brawler combines an impressive roster from 32 different series into one massive package that defines the term fan-service. Combine that with the fact that Spike Chunsoft has tossed in plenty of new features for the PS4 version, including a quirky campaign and tons of stuff to unlock, and the value is through the roof.
J-Stars is not a new game. In fact, there was a previous version released for Vita and PS3. This is the first time it has landed on PS4 though, and it coincides with the 45th anniversary of the popular magazine Shonen JUMP (hence the name J-Stars). Plenty of the characters created by the company also appear in the game, Dragonball Z, Naruto, and Bleach. This is also where most of my knowledge of the subject matter ends. I have never heard of 75% of the roster in this game, but that did not stop me from having a great time with their over-the-top attacks.
MSRP: $59.99 (PS4) $49.99 (PS3)
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
Multiplayer: Online and Local
There is a lot to see and do in J-Stars. The main story mode is broken down into different paths for various characters. Each one had me visiting different worlds within the JUMP universe, and of course fighting different enemies. There are quests to complete and upgrades for my ship (which is used to traverse the world) and it feels fleshed out. The dialogue was just as insane as one would imagine with a game mixing this many different series into one, and again there are a lot of in-references scattered throughout the dialogue.
An arcade mode has been added to this version which is exactly what I expected – a series of progressively more difficult fights. The free mode allows for online and local play, and the shop is where I could spend my J-points to unlock new characters, both for matches as well as supporting characters. Like I said there is a lot here, and it would take a substantial amount of time to unlock and see it all.
The fighting is where things will fall apart for some. A meticulous skill-based system this is not. Every character has two main attacks, as well as a host of special attacks accessed by holding down the bumper buttons and other attacks. The moves are larger than life. Sending enemies through walls and across the large stages is commonplace. It reminds me a lot of the DBZ games without the flying. Special moves are the best part, as they are just as insane as I could have hoped for. Watching Luffy from One Piece smash enemies with giant wrecking balls, or dramatic sword slashes from Ichigo are a visual treat.
Each one is unique and fun to watch, reminding me of flashy insta-kills from BlazBlue, or even less like the spectacle of watching fatalities in Mortal Kombat.
What is sticky about it all though is the fighting feels stiff. I would get locked into attack animations that I could not get out of. Moves are overpowered, and trying to play it with any sort of tact is just fruitless. I am sure there is a hardcore community out there turning red as they read this, but to me this game just feels like a button mashers delight, and that is just fine. The real treat of this game was seeing these insane attacks take place on screen, and watching over-the-top sequences play out. I never cared if I lost once I accepted that, and playing with friends harkens back to the days of Powerstone, and we all know that game was unbalanced as could be.
Visually the game matches the styles of each character extremely well. Even the various types of animations are represented well. What is disappointing is it looks a little dated when compared to other PS4 games. This is obviously a port of the same engine from the PS3 version, and it shows. Thankfully, the performance holds up, even in the most extreme scenarios. Even with tons of stuff happening the frame rate remained pretty solid. I am also a fan of the large arenas where the fights take place. Taking foes from the top of a hill to the bottom of a lake makes for some intense situations.
More frustrating than it should be though is the camera. It flails itself all around at times, and even with the lock-on mechanic, I lost enemies more often than not.
J-Stars Victory Vs+ accomplishes what it sets out to do. It is pure fan-service for fans of anime, most importantly the series it includes. The roster is massive, the special moves are insanely fun, and the fighting is great as long as you don’t take it too seriously. There is a ton to unlock and you can tell the developers knew the source material. If you are looking for a unique distraction from all the serious fighting games, this is the one to own. Fans of anime need not even hesitate.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.