Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (PS3)

Encompassing several years of Jojo's manga material, artwork, and an unusual assortment of Jojo's characters "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle" takes 3D fighting games to new heights of lunacy. The game itself offers a virtual cornucopia of content ranging from your standard arcade fighting experience to a campaign mode in which epic battles unlock greater things for those characters you have gained during your story mode playthrough. Unlike traditional fighting games that are somewhat grounded in modern-day, or past time reality you'll find that this particular fighter is so "over-the-top", and wacky that nothing really makes a whole lot of sense. From vampires to bloodline curses, and even serial killers Jojo's All-star battle will take you to the edge of insanity, and drop you off the deep end with the odd mixture of fights contained within. There's plenty of characters to learn, various new playing styles, and several modes of offline, and online entertainment for your gaming pleasure. The question that remains though is, "How does it do in comparison to other fighting games?".

In "Jojo's All-Star Battle (as I'm going to refer to it)" you'll find an unusual roster of feminine males, a handful of buff ladies, and some characters that will make you think "WTF!?". All of these characters, no matter what the gender may be are vivid in color, and come to life on the television screen like living manga. It is with these oddly crafted manga-like characters that you will be tackling various modes of play as you try to learn the mechanics involved, and understand the stories at hand. At the heart, and soul of the game lies a bare bones "Story Mode" that is like others you may have seen before in the fighting game universe. It is accented by onscreen dialogue which details the encounters/battles that are taking place in an episodic manner. In this immediately available "Story Mode" you will be prompted to choose an 'Episode', and a 'Part' which to take on. Each 'Episode' in the "Story Mode"carries with it several parts that vary in difficulty, and subject matter. The applied difficulty is listed in alphabetical order with "D" being the easiest, and "A" being the hardest. After choosing which episode to take on, and which part you want to play you will be thrust into battle with a predetermined pair of fighters, one of which you will be playing as.

If you are successful in defeating the opponent before you, straight out, or with the purchasable assist boosts (Attack Boost, Defense Boost, Lowered Health ...) made available before each match you will be awarded with some extra in-game currency as well as some gallery items (Art, Music ...), or even some new characters. As it stands the Story Mode is the only mode in which you can unlock the full roster of characters, with the exception of some purchasable DLC exclusives. Aside from the basic Story Mode playthrough you will find that the the story oriented mode also offers some secret stages/fights as well as an alternate set of 'Parts' called "Another Match' in which you take on the role of the game's villains as you try to accomplish what you did during your battles for good, only in an evil sense.

Battles in Jojo's All-Star Battle, for the most part are a huge departure from games such as "Soul Calibur", and "TEKKEN". While the goal of depleting an opponent's health bar to nothing remains the same the applied mechanics, fighting styles, and stage features/gimmicks make the straight out fight, anything but direct. As you'll find out the roster of characters contained within Jojo's All-Star Battle vary according to style. These "Styles" include 'Vampirism', 'Stand', 'Hamon', and 'Mounted'. When it comes to the 'Vampirism' fighting style you'll find that it basically ties in with Dio's many forms, and other characters like him. This fighting style enables Dio-like characters to drain the life out of others, and refill their own life while doing so. Hence the word "Vampirism". The "Stand" fighting style, which is also associated with specific characters is a Jojo's specific fighting style that basically revolves around the psychic summoning of a spirit assist character/creature known as a "Stand". Characters who sport this type of fighting style such as the Joestar clan can summon, and use the assist spirits in a fight to add extra damage to their opponent, and extend their reach as well.

The "Hamon" fighting style on the other hand utilizes a spiritual force to add damage boosts to special attacks. Unlike "Stand", the "Hamon" fighting style requires the use of a special refillable meter. By holding down the (R1) button you can slowly regain your Hamon powers, or strike others to refill the meter. The (R1) function in regards to the "Stand" fighting style will simply bring out your Stand. Lastly the "Mounted" fighting style takes in account the fighters who have lost the use of their legs, and must use horses to fight. While a majority of a Mounted character's battle is done on horseback they can be knocked off, and be forced to defend themselves from the ground at a disadvantage. In order to get back upon their horse the player must collect one of the several horse legs that are lying upon the stage floor. With these oddly designed fighting styles, and characters of different heights you will find that Jojo's All-Star Battle, in general is a wholly unbalanced game with a wholly unbalanced roster. As such players often times flock to the boss-like characters who are OP, or the characters with a distinct advantage entirely ignoring the rest of the character cast. The fact that the online battles suffer from significant lag only makes the fights to be had that much more unfair. Moving on though ...

Aside from the story mode you will find that Jojo's All-Star Battle also carries with it two more offline modes, and some online modes of play. The additional offline modes include a "Campaign Mode' that is grounded with online features, and an "Arcade Mode" in which you'll take on 8 computer controlled opponents in a series of two round matches. The "Campaign Mode" which is somewhat community oriented will have you facing off against 'Bosses', or 'Avatars'. When you first get your hands on Jojo's All-Star Battle you'll find that it is void of the Campaign Mode option. You will be prompted to download the tie-in DLC (which is free) in order to be able to take advantage of it. After downloading "Campaign Pack 1" you will be able to take on player provided fights (avatars), and harder than hell bosses so long as you have the energy to do so. The energy meter which is divided into multiple sections looks a lot like a digital device's recharge symbol.

By choosing to spend at least one of your energy bars you can simply search for a fight, and engage in one. The fight selection process will either pit you against a boss, or an avatar in a random roulette fashion. The longer you play, and use your energy to fight though the better the chance is that you'll get back into the previous boss fight you were working on. Keep in mind that bosses in Campaign have a ridiculous amount of health, and in order to defeat them you'll either have to gamble energy bars for a shot at greatly reducing their health, or continue to battle them outright in a fashion that is similar to "Arcade", and "Story" until their life is fully depleted. This may take several matches to do depending upon your energy wagers. Upon defeating an avatar, or a boss you will be awarded character customization items including special costumes, speech icons, taunts, and even tag lines. These special customization awards can then be applied in the game's "Customization Mode".

One thing that I forgot to mention that I should have mentioned early on is that the boosts you can buy by using in-game currency can be used in any of the modes including campaign. These boosts vary in price, and added effect. You can only choose up to 3 boosts per match, but the effects of those boosts will last through all rounds. Another thing I should mention is that stages come with the option of having "gimmicks" turned off, or on. Gimmicks, in essence are stage traps that can do extra damage to both players when activated. The Gimmicks range from attacking offstage characters to falling ceiling hazards. There's even a stage where a car, or horse drawn chariot will run you over if you remain in the path of it. The gimmick areas are always highlighted with a glowing red color, and once activated an animated panel style cutscene will unfold showing off the hazard/gimmick that's about to take place. You'll know when the gimmick is about to hit once three mini manga panels show up on the screen.

As I mentioned earlier on there's also some online, and offline match types in the form of the "Versus Mode". In 'Versus' you can choose to play locally amongst friends, or take your battles online in 'Player', or 'Ranked' matches. The Versus modes allow the player to set a player bio for themselves that includes a favorite character image, a quote/tag line, and a set of taunts. After setting your player bio to your liking you can go online, or offline against other persons of the world with the characters that you have previously unlocked. As with every other mode in the game you will face off in a two round match in which the goal is to retire your opponent. Keep in mind that when going online the connection status is displayed as well as the country of origin for both players. This feature is there to help you get into fights that are less laggy, and that are against players you would wish to do battle with.

Now for the verdict ...

Whether it's online, or offline there's no denying that "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle" is indeed one of the most bizarre fighting games you'll ever encounter. The colorful cast of feminine male characters, and masculine females complete a roster that is both unusual, and oddly unbalanced. The various fighting styles incorporated, while interesting often times do not make for fair match-ups, and cause those who would dare to take their mastery online to disregard lesser used characters and instead go for the characters that assure an easier more exploitable win. As with most fighting games these days the roster leaves a lot to be desired in those respects. The added fact that online matches between North American, and Asian players lag like an SOB only adds fuel to the ever growing fire.

As far as content is concerned there's plenty of modes to enjoy, interesting characters to use, and a set of fighting game mechanics that is like no other. The downside to all of this is that the offline is of much greater value than the online ever will be. Due to severe connectivity issues the online is a fool's errand that will not likely be revisited too many times. With that being said though you might find the offline versus mode enjoyable so long as your buddies don't act like dicks while playing against you.

In the way of graphics Jojo's All-Star-Battle damn near looks like something you'd see on the PS4. The applied 3D manga art style looks absolutely stunning as does every other aspect of the game. Even the soundtrack, and over-the-top Japanese dialogue makes for an impressive experience, and compares to playing an unobtainable import game release. With everything considered I'm still hard pressed to recommend this game though. I've been looking for a fighting game done right, and this fighter unfortunately falls far from the tree.

The character roster is extremely unbalanced, and the online isn't all that great due to severe lag issues. If Bandai Namco, and CyberConnect2 can somehow fix the netcode, and make the online experience enjoyable I'd be more than glad to return to it despite the games unbalanced nature. I'd even be glad to recommend it to you for the sheer fact that it's fun when it it works right (in the offline scenario). Sadly as it stands it's not all that great due to the lack of certain mechanics, and the fact that it is not all that viable in the fighting game scene. The issues with the lack of a recovery options (can't get up immediately after being downed) really damages the competitive nature of the game. It's like a slapfest in which the first person to strike gets the upper hand. Basically the first person to connect with a combo gains the advantage. The fact that there's no breakaway mechanics also limits the competitive aspect of the game. For now I'm gonna have to say pass. Maybe in the future I can change that verdict ...

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