An anime fan’s dream come true, with characters spanning multiple Shonen Jump series, and style to spare, J stars is great fun. Despite this winning formula, the game still manages to fall short in some areas.
Gather round anime fans, because those hotly debated quarrels between you and your friends are about to be resolved! Who’s stronger, Goku or Luffy? Who’s got more style, Kenshin or Ichigo? Who’s the funniest, Gintoki or Ryotsu? Fear not, because J-Stars Victory VS is here to answer all those questions and more. With a playable cast of 39 characters (not including supports) spanning Shonen Jump’s most popular series over the years, if you’re an anime fan, there’s something here for you.
You can freely pair up any characters for 1v1 or 2v2 action-packed battles within large arenas that are faithful to each series that they represent. The battle system itself allows for a lot of freedom, with fully 3D movement, double jumps, blocking, dodging and dashing. Furthermore, the combat is simple to get in to. Epic combos result from alternating between a character’s light and heavy attacks as well as their signature special moves, of which each character has three. The characters themselves are all faithfully represented, the amount of love Namco put into this game really shines through. From Goku’s signature Kamehameha to Naruto’s Rasengan, each character feels perfect. The impressive screen clearing Ultimate Attacks (only usable in Victory Burst mode) are also a visual treat, they help keep the action engaging and dynamic. It’s all here in its flashy, over the top anime glory.
The modes included in the game are a Story mode featuring four campaigns, Victory Road mode, Versus mode, and Online mode.
The game’s story mode is quite expansive for a game of this type, it features travelling around an RPG-esque over-world with your upgradable ship as you fight through story based battles and optional side quests (with a local co-op partner if you choose). Completing these side quests will unlock additional characters and assists for use in the story mode as you try to save the Jump world from the forces of evil. The plot of J stars won’t be winning any awards in the near future. It exists solely to facilitate these iconic characters meeting up and causing interesting dialogues as their different ideals and personalities clash. As the game is entirely in Japanese and doesn’t feature fully voiced dialogue for the story mode cutscenes, being able to read Japanese is a necessity to be able to appreciate it fully. However, for those simply looking to complete the story mode or play the game itself, the menus are simple enough to navigate and all videos can be skipped.
The story mode itself is fairly standard gameplay-wise; you’ll go from battle to battle until reaching the end, upgrading your ship to access new areas as you go. It’s a notably meaty experience with enough variety to keep you entertained. Unfortunately, this is where some problems begin to surface. The usable characters in the story are limited to those that the game gives you, as such, if your favourite character isn’t among them, tough luck. Each campaign is also identical in its gameplay with the exception of the characters you’re given to use. Which is disappointing considering the 3 other campaigns exist solely to pad out the length of the game. Overall, the story mode is just a nice distraction to facilitate unlocking all the characters and assists.
Victory Road mode is a gauntlet where you fight a series of predetermined opponents of increasing difficulty, sometimes with optional objectives to earn a better rank. This mode is more fun than the story mode in the way that you can freely select character and assist as well as play with a local co-op partner if you so choose. It can get more monotonous than story mode, but the freedom of character choice I feel makes it the better of the two modes to gain JP points to unlock characters.
Speaking of JP points, any battles you complete will earn you these valuable points which can be spent in the J shop to unlock characters, assists, ship parts, or cards(to customize your characters with). While the default character selection is not bad, and you can unlock two characters of your choice from the get go, it does take some time to build JP points to buy the rest of the cast. There’s also an option to replace the in game soundtrack with one of your own choosing (with the exception of online play). Furthermore, the original soundtrack for the game just doesn’t pack a punch, as it features no music from the original anime series’ represented in the game.
Finally, we have the Versus modes, where most of your time with this game will likely take place. The Versus mode is great if you have a lot of local friends, and it’s fully customizable options make it the ideal choice if you like control. However, it is disappointing that you can only do 2 player matches locally with the option of CPU partners as the online mode offers more robust 4 player battles. The Online mode offers a ranked option where you’ll be randomly paired or can invite a partner and your team will be matched with other competitors. Earning points from winning increases your letter rank from G to a maximum of S1 so there is definitely a goal to shoot for should you undertake ranked mode.
For the most part the experience is fun. But here’s the thing… J-Stars Victory VS is a horrendously unbalanced mess of a game. It’s definitely not a traditional fighter, so it’s reasonable to expect some of that, but the amount of sheer unfairness this game can throw at you will leave you baffled. For this reason, I recommend that you pass on any competitive hopes and dreams. The game will most likely never get patched, and the majority of buyers live in Japan, making online matches, especially those in ranked mode a laggy, unbalanced mess that will have you throwing your controller in frustration.
When it comes down to it, if you’re a Shonen Jump fan or even an anime fan in general, J-Stars is definitely for you. Though due to the high cost of importing games, if you plan to play J-Stars casually, I recommend waiting for the price to drop. If you’re into competitive fighters or you want a balanced game, then steer clear of this party-centric title.
J Stars Victory VS for the PS3 and PS VITA gets a 6.5/10