Oh man, I’m so ready. J-Stars Victory Vs+ looks so cool. An epic crossover between fighters from some of the most popular anime franchises, both classic and modern. There’s tons of fanservice. The game is developed by the freakin’ Budokai Tenkaichi guys. What could possibly go wrong?
J-STARS VICTORY VS+
The CGI intro does a good job of introducing the characters and their powers, and the background song sounds fittingly like an anime opening song. Also, Seiya is in this? I had no idea! Cool.
Okay, so I’m on the main menu. So many options! Let’s try a 1 on 1 fight. I pick Goku (because of course I do) and two other characters (one as a partner, one as support) and another three for the CPU.
The fight starts. Man, this looks rough. I’m talking ‘upscaled PS2 graphics’ rough. It also seems to be 30 fps for some reason. I don’t think there’s a valid reason why a game that like looks this should run at 30 fps on next gen hardware in 2015, but eh, I give it a pass because the environments have some pretty cool destructibility mechanics, and the actual fighting is pretty fun. Another thing I notice almost immediately: all the voiced dialogue is in Japanese. Menus and subs are English but as far as voices go, they left the original voices.
It’s easy to grasp the game mechanics and the game is not very execution heavy, so I was doing flashy combos in a matter of minutes. You have a weak attack button (Square), a strong attack button (Triangle), you can lock on and dash towards your opponent, you can call a support character to assist you. Each time you knock out an enemy it goes to your team’s count. The first team to reach a certain amount of KO’s (usually three) wins. I can see myself getting a lot of mileage out of this.
Why are there so few characters though? There’s like… six of them. Looks like I need to unlock the rest. Okay, fair enough. Maybe I need to play Story Mode first? Let’s do that.
Alright, so there are four different story modes. Man, this game has a lot of content, doesn’t it? So cool. Let’s go with the first one, “an adventure featuring Luffy.” I don’t even watch One Piece, but sure, why not?
Story mode looks cool. Apparently the ‘God of Jump’ is organizing a fighting tournament and wants my party to find the pieces of an amulet I need to present as an invitation, and I need to look all over the world for the pieces. I like the idea of the RPG-style world map and the small cutscenes are nice. They seem to have nailed the character dialogue too, although to be fair I don’t know much about some of these characters. Of course, it’s all a flimsy excuse to justify the fighting, but I don’t mind. It’s just so fun.
So off we go, my ship carrying my party comprised of Luffy and Ace (from One Piece) and Seiya (from Saint Seiya –duh-) to explore the world!
I’ve been playing Story Mode for about six hours now and I’ve only gotten one of the three pieces of the amulet. In the meantime, I’ve talked to seemingly every single character that’s been on an anime in the last thirty years, did a metric ton of quests and side quests for them, and fought a lot of random battles. And 90% of the quests in this game involve fighting in one way or another. Because you see: some areas or abilities are closed off and you need to upgrade your ship in order to be able to get to them, and the people who can give you the upgrades will always ask you to do something for them first. And most of the times, that something is ‘fight someone, somewhere.’
I’ve also unlocked a lot of characters. But only in Story Mode, mind you: in order to unlock them for the rest of the game, you need to purchase them from the in-game store, using game currency. And you can only unlock some of them at any given time until you progress further into the story, since character slots are limited.
I’ve been using Luffy almost exclusively too, since he levels up a lot faster than the other characters and the others don’t feel as good to play as as him. Because yeah, characters level up during stoy mode, so by the time you get a new, level 5 character some of your other ones might be well over lvl 20. Maybe I’ve gotten used to him after playing for so long. But I almost got that second piece of the amulet, so I must be nearing the end of the story. At least the fighting is still fun!
Story Mode just goes on and on, doesn’t it. I don’t want to do any more quests. I don’t want to hear any more about how Luffy’s hungry. I don’t want to fight any more random battles where I just spam the same combo with Luffy and win with little to no challenge. Because after 12 hours of story mode, I’m so overlevelled at this point I’m just going through the motions. What originally seemed like an “easy to master” game now feels like a slog. Battles are just constant spam of the same combos because I know they work. Every character just repeats the same one liners over and over. I’ve fought the same enemies and watched the same animations hundreds of times now. But at least I have the three pieces of the invitation now. Oh yeah. Now I can just finish Story Mode and move on.
I’m at the Tournament Stadium, ready to fight my opponents. I win the quarter finals. I win the semis. I win the finals. I’m done. At last. The God of Jump congratulates me on my victory. But wait, he’s saying something else now.
“The tournament was just a cover,” he says. Come again? “I was looking for strong warriors who could help me destroy the true threat to the world. I now ask you search the world and find the three items you need in order to travel to the dimension where this threat lies. Only this time, I’m not telling you where they are.”
No. No no no no. AW HELL NO. You don’t pull this crap on me, game. I’ve been stuck in this Story Mode, which wore out its welcome like six hours ago and, let me remind you, it’s the first out of four Story Modes and now you do this shit?
I sigh loudly and begrudgingly finish Story Mode. There’s some speech about how I’ve saved the Jump World and I’m a hero. The story ends with Luffy celebrating while the God of Jump says we’re having a feast and I get to see the 2D pictures of food falling from the sky. I guess that’s a spoiler. I don’t care anyore. I’m done with this. I decide to check the rest of the game. There’s another game mode called Road to Victory where you just play fights using a pre-determined party, but it gets boring almost right away too.
(Notice how I’m not actually throwing any punches on any of the screenshots? That’s because you can’t take a screenshot while an attack animation is playing. Yup.)
Turns out there was a lot that could go wrong with J-Stars Victory VS+. While a good idea in concept, the sheer half-bakedness of everything in this game ends up being its greatest weakness. Everything in this game feels like it either needed more time to reach the most of its potential, or needed to be cut down significantly. Game devs need to understand that you can’t hide most of your roster behind a boring, repetitive story mode and expect people not to be fed up with it if they are determined to see everything the game has to offer. The game looks half-assed, plays half-assed, and while it can be fun in short bursts of mindless fun, it gets old fast. Stay for the fanservice, but go check anywhere else for depth.
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Published by Bandai Namco
Genre: 3D fighter