‘J-Stars Victory VS+’ Review
Platforms PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita Genre Fighting
Platform Played PlayStation 4
Developer Spike Chunsoft Publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment
J-Stars Victory Vs+ is the western released version of the original J-Stars Victory Vs, which combines the universes of many Weekly Shonen Jump manga into an alternate universe. J-Stars is clearly built around providing manga fans with an array of fan service. Those who don’t know many of the manga on offer can still find a lot of fun, due to the over the top personality and absurd nature of most of the manga throughout. This isn’t a fighting game built to provide an in-depth gameplay experience, this is a game built around providing a fun experience for manga fans; which it delivers in spades.
Overall there are over 50 characters from more than 30 different manga series, with over 30 playable characters and a dozen available in a support role. Characters will even deliver unique pre-match banter toward certain opponents, adding a simple yet amusing reason to watch the pre-match introduction. The selection of characters alone is well deserving of praise, whether you’re a manga aficionado or dabble in the occasional anime. There is something here for everyone. Better yet, if you’re curious about any of the manga represented J-Stars offers an in-depth written summary of each anime and the characters involved.
Previously I mentioned this isn’t a fighter built around providing in-depth gameplay, and I feel this rings true from the opening bout. Like most anime based fighters (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Dragon Ball Xenoverse) J-Stars delivers a serviceable fighting experience, but it certainly won’t be seen at any eSports fighting events. Unlike the previously mentioned fighting games J-Stars sets itself apart by having victories earned through a first to three KO’s system; or two in one on one battles. Instead of fights being won on a simple KO, players will be able to respawn and have a second chance at helping their team before their opponents reach three KO’s. It’s an interesting system that allows for some amazing turnaround wins after working out your opponent’s strategy, should you happen to fall first.
The main reasoning J-Stars won’t be loved by the hardcore fighting community is the fact gameplay contains many chance factors. Players can constantly engage their support class (after a certain cool down period) which can easily dampen the strongest of opponents, or they can dominate the battlefield enough to fill their Victory Gauge. When the Victory Gauge is full players can produce a Victory Burst, which are some of the most visually impressive moments in J-Stars, with characters delivering iconic special moves; in a similar fashion to the X-Ray system in Mortal Kombat. Though they visually looked spectacular, when playing online it was easy to see these were a deciding factor in almost every win. I found even when I dominating my opponent, if they were able to somehow earn a Victory Burst and deliver 2-3 finishing moves, the match would certainly be a lost cause. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to switch the feature off in any fashion, which I think will be a hard sell for anyone aside from the hardcore community to stick around and participate in the already small online population.
J-Stars also offers local multiplayer options, but does so in an awkward and weird fashion. Instead of providing one camera and only allowing players to keep within a certain distance of one another, J-Stars allows players to freely move throughout the area. The freedom of movement means split screen is the only option for local multiplayer viewing. The split screen option is horrid, with the battlefield shrunk to tiny versions that are hard for either player to see clearly; which is a strange choice for a fighter that many will enjoy locally.
J-Stars also packs in a number of modes, including the newly added Arcade Mode. Which offers 8 different pre-determined time limit based battles to complete. After defeating the initial three time-based challenges on offer, beating the next challenge will unlock the next, and so forth. Victory Road is essentially the Tower Mode in J-Stars, where players can create a team and try their best against pre-made AI controlled teams. Instead of simply fighting pre-determined battles, J-Stars allows for a small amount of choice after certain matches where players can change their direction through the game board-like map. Advancing will open up increasingly difficult bouts, each containing small challenges to obtain throughout the match. Both of these modes and the standard Free Battle all offer additional variants on the J-Stars gameplay experience. Though none of them will provide as much entertainment, gameplay content and fun, as J-Stars Adventure.
J-Stars Adventure is the narrative component of J-Stars, which can be played with a second player. It contains four chapters, each centered on a particular series of anime. These include Bleach, One Piece, Naruto and Toriko. Though each chapter follows a different set of characters, each chapter is essentially the same overall story arc, including the same side missions and same key plot points. Though the different perspectives and dialog do offer interesting variations on the main story. Seeing different pairings of characters interact with characters from other universes is definitely motivation to give the epic quest another playthrough.
The main arc follows groups of characters working together to enter the Jump Tournament, where the best fighters from the Jump World aim to battle it out in order to win the tournament. This narrative isn’t ground breaking, but it provides a fun backdrop for the range of characters in J-Stars to interact in interesting situations; as well as in the multitude of side quests on offer. These quests are usually short, but the dialog and interactions between the different characters kept me coming searching the map to experience each one.
Exploring Jump World has the player sailing across the sea, land or air in their own ship. Traveling across the environment is quite tedious, until you’re able to upgrade the ship to offer faster means of travel. The exploration portion of J-Stars Adventure is reminiscent of a simple JRPG, while exploring the map you can enter random battles with other opponents in order to level up your character and earn items. Though leveling characters seems all but pointless. After almost two playthroughs of Adventure Mode I still didn’t understand their significance, nor is there any explanation as to why your level matters.
Venturing through J-Stars Adventure will also net you points which can be spent on items, ship upgrades, and coins. Coins are an important commodity in J-Stars as they can be exchanged for J-Cards. These cards can be collected and built into a deck to enhance your fighters, some will provide extra damage, less cool down in-between Victory Bursts and more. When playing online players can choose to face other opponents and their J-Cards built deck, or simply ignore the feature altogether. The option is much appreciated for those wanting a match without these enhancements.
Visually J-Stars doesn’t quite reach the animation level which was seen in Dragon Ball Xenoverse, but it is a colourful and pretty game regardless. Both character design and level recreations are picturesque representations of their manga counterparts. I do want to single out the Namek and Vegetable Top arenas for their unenjoyable design. Namek is littered with water sections, which the camera struggles to track probably when entering, making it easy to lose track of the fight; while Vegetable Top is cluttered with unbreakable objects that make finding opponents and getting around the level a nuisance.
Most objects in each stage are completely destructible, and I’m happy to inform that the destruction is present throughout the entire battle. The occasional building will indeed vanish after it comes crumbling down, but most objects will crumble when you send an opponent crashing through them and the devastation will remain. Seeing a large building slowly disintegrate after sending your opponent through it with an epic manoeuvre is extremely satisfying.
J-Stars also has an online multiplayer portion, but due to the niche genre the online community is quite thin at the moment. When I did find games on local connections they ran smooth and there was almost no disconnections throughout. Playing opponents internationally was a unfortunately a different story, with lag effecting almost every match to the point of making it almost unplayable. J-Stars also has an option to create private matches, which will certainly favour those who want to play online with friends. At the moment it is hard to tell if the online community will stick around, with Victory Burst deciding most matches, poor connection with international matches and an already small community, the safe bet for those seeking an online fighting experience is to perhaps give this one a miss unless you have friends online.
J-Stars Victory Vs+ is easily a must own for hardcore manga fans. Watching characters from different universes interact easily made the experience a memorable one. Though J-Stars won’t impress with in-depth fighting mechanics, the gameplay is serviceable and the visual recreations of each character and iconic areas looks great.
With four versions of J-Stars Adventure mode there is plenty of narrative based content to experience, as well as a plethora of different modes that offer different variations on gameplay. Unfortunately the sub-par online portion of J-Stars may not keep the online community around long, and the poor split screen options certainly hurt the replayability with friends.
Whether you’re a hardcore manga fan, casually enjoy the occasional anime, or simply want a fun experience that doesn’t take itself to serious, J-Stars Victory Vs+ is certainly a worthy purchase.
Range of niche and mainstream manga fighters.
Large variety of game modes.
Adventure Mode provides great character interactions.
Destructible arena elements.
Local multiplayer split screen.
Victory Burst determines many matches.
International online matches suffer horrible lag.