Jump Force is the type of game that many people won’t know what to make of. After all, it is based on the Shonen Jump manga, featuring a whole host of characters from across anime series. This includes fighters from Dragon Ball, Naruto, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Released in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the franchise, it’s a fighting game that has niche appeal. But can it prove to be a good enough game to attract a larger audience of players?
As a fighting game, the combat is the most important aspect of Jump Force. Actually getting down into battles can be quite fun. The basic controls are intuitive and very easy to get to grips with. Yet, there is also some complexity to the mechanics that allow you to pull off satisfying moves if you get them right. A great inclusion is the ability to switch between three characters during fights, although they all share one health bar. Swapping out fighters gives you some scope to try to be strategic in battles.
While Jump Force has included a story mode to play through, it adds nothing to the game. The developers could have used this opportunity to include different types of missions. Instead, everything follows the same basic formula with no room for variation. You spend your time moving around the world hub, going from fight to fight, all of which feel identical to each other.
Many features that are commonplace in games are missing from Jump Force as well. It is like the developers got distracted by the characters and overlooked basic mechanics that are necessities in modern titles. For example, there is no map to help you navigate around the world. Instead, you have to wander around and hope that you find your objective. Things like this are what you typically expect to see in every game and rarely even think about. Yet, without them, Jump Force becomes incredibly frustrating to play.
Jump Force’s roster represents every series from Shonen Jump. Popular anime shows such as Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Hunter x Hunter have characters featured in Jump Force. In total, there are more than 40 characters from across 16 series, meaning your favorites will likely be present to play as. A variety of DLC characters are also available to buy.
Unfortunately, all the characters feel similar and play in the same style. There is little variety in the roster despite its large size, making whom you play as redundant. While it is possible to customize characters with outfits and moves, this is also not really worth your time. None of the extra clothing is particularly impressive and the moves don’t add much to gameplay.
Jump Force starts with the real world somehow blending with the reality of Shonen Jump. This allows a powerful force known as Venoms to attack humanity. Determined to stop the invasion, the heroes from the anime series team up and form their own task force. As the plot unfolds, it later becomes clear that a nefarious villain is manipulating events. The shadowy figure wants to merge the fictional world with our own universe permanently.
If this sounds like a formulaic premise, then you are right. The story does little to engage the player or try to tell an interesting narrative. It simply chugs along from plot point to plot point without any meaning. Worse still is the fact that your progress is often stopped by having to increase your level to do the next quest. Grinding is one of the worst things about modern gaming and Jump Force embraces it to the extreme.
Even if the story was any good, you would not be able to enjoy it. The painfully slow progress makes certain of that. Ultimately, without any sort of interesting story, Jump Force loses its luster very quickly. Combined with the lack of variety in missions, everything feels very stale. It might not have been so bad if Jump Force didn’t force you into a narrative and just let you fight instead. But by attaching a plot that doesn’t entertain and you cannot avoid, it ruins the entire experience.
The premise of Jump Force means that the developers have chosen a rather strange art style. Rather than stick with the traditional anime or manga visuals, they have chosen to give each character a realistic look. Obviously, the real-world locations of the setting inspired this decision but it does not work well. It gives the fighters a bizarre appearance that looks out of place. The menus and UI are also poorly designed, while loading screens are far too frequent and long. The only redeeming features in terms of the presentation are the voice acting and rather charming soundtrack.
It’s the little things in Jump Force that let it down the most. Missing navigation tools or character biographies are oversights that you usually take for granted. But you genuinely miss them when they are not there. This is a real shame because the basic fighting mechanics are actually enjoyable. Jump Force has plenty of potential to deliver an experience that anime fans would consider a must-buy. Yet, in the end, it fails to be anything other than ordinary.