Fighting in the match of the millennium with the Jump Force closed beta
Admit it: you’ve always wondered who would win in a fight between Luffy and Ichigo, or Goku versus Superman. Well, maybe the second isn’t happening anytime soon but you can test that first matchup in Bandai Namco’s Jump Force.
So that’s exactly what I did during the Jump Force closed beta. I also took on Naruto, Rukia, and Blackbeard, and roundly kicked all of their asses as ‘Straw Hat’ Luffy. As you might guess from the name, Jump Force gathers a ton of characters from Japan’s massively popular manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, for what is to be the ultimate fantasy brawl. From Naruto to Dragon Ball, there are a ton of recognizable heavy-hitters in this lineup.
The closed beta had a total character count of 16, with your custom avatar being one of them. The rest are all from various Jump series: Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto; Ichigo and Rukia from Bleach; Goku, Vegeta, and Frieza from Dragon Ball; Luffy, Zoro, and Blackbeard from One Piece; Gon and Hisoka from Hunter X Hunter; Pegasus Seiya from Saint Seiya; and finally, Yusuke and Toguro from YuYu Hakusho.
That’s not the full list though, as some revealed fighters like Aizen (Bleach) and Yugi Moto (Yu-Gi-Oh) weren’t playable yet. Plus, I have no doubts that there are still a ton of unrevealed characters on the way. I’m personally betting on Kenshiro from Hokotu No Ken (Fist of the North Star) and Kenshin Himura aka Battousai from Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X) making the cut.
The odd duck in all this seems to be the player avatar, who incorporates moves from the character they’re based on. There are a couple of pre-made ones when you start, and I chose what looks like the Pirate King version of Luffy. Weirdly, it turns out that he has moves from Luffy, Pegasus Seiya, Yusuke, and Goku. I expect your avatar’s looks and moveset to be customizable in the final version, but the beta didn’t have that feature.
The fighting is a whole lot like the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series. You pick a team of three to duke out with the enemy team, except your characters all share a single life bar. Basic moves — normal and heavy attacks, throw, and jump — are mapped to the face buttons, with special moves adding the R2 trigger into the mix. These special moves all vary depending on who you use, but you’ll have no trouble recognizing famous ones such as Goku’s Kamehameha or Yusuke’a Spirit Gun.
Combos aren’t hard to pull off since they’re done by tapping or holding the attack buttons, but advanced moves like dodges and cancels take practice to pull off. Plenty of those general moves are no strangers to the anime world, such as the burst dashes or teleports. Honestly, it pretty much feels like you’re watching a 3D anime at times, what with all the camera cuts and over-the-top special effects. Fans of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, or even the recent Dragon Ball FighterZ (our review here) will know what I’m talking about.
From what I’ve played the combat is pretty tight and feels great, on top of looking astounding when you’re doing special moves. Matches are held in wide open arenas — the beta featured Namek, the Matterhorn, Hong Kong, and New York — though there are invisible walls that restrict your movement in some directions. Hopefully this gets fixed or we get visual indicators to show where the arenas end.
Still, those last two stages look great with all the lights and buildings. The game is already flashy with particle effects and such, but the stage transitions are noteworthy too. When Zoro knocked my butt across the New York stage we were flying from Times Square to the rooftops, surrounding it all, and finally crashing back to the ground again in a mighty chain of combos — it was devastating to me but it did look freaking cool. I also love that the characters and their clothes all show signs of battle damage.
It’s a bit weird seeing 2D characters rendered in 3D though, especially since the excellent Dragon Ball FighterZ made their characters look exactly like their anime counterparts. There’s just something uncanny about how Luffy, Goku, and the rest appear, which is made even weirder once you realize their faces have no real expressions.
The interface also needs more refinement, though that’s probably in the cards already. For instance, the ability meters were simply too hard to read at a glance since they were small and blending in with the background.
Even so, it’s still a closed beta so its best to hold judgement for now. From the hours I’ve played, Jump Force in general is definitely shaping up nicely. The combat is simple enough to attract anime fans who may not be into fighting games, and the overall systems look promising enough. The star-studded cast is certainly exciting, and I can’t wait to see who else makes the cut and what the storyline is like.
It could seriously do with a better name, Bandai Namco should have a solid hit on their hands when Jump Force releases for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in February next year.