'Jump Force' Review: Good Idea, Bad Execution

5.5/10 (PS4)

One of the most anticipated games of early 2019 is Bandai Namco's Jump Force, which brings the characters of Shonen Jump into the real world for three-on-three battles.

The bevy of trailers since its E3 2018 reveal showed off a robust 40-person roster, which got fighting game and anime fans buzzing. Unfortunately, Jump Force is a frustrating mess.

There's a lot of head-scratching ideas the Jump Force team decided to execute. Some are unnecessary and should have been avoided, which is a disappointment because the fighting, for all its flaws - and there are plenty - is actually decent.

jump force art box review score
Bandai Namco

STORY

When players first boot up Jump Force they are transported to a world where the real meets the Jump. Goku and Frieza are fighting in Times Square and your character just happens to be caught in the crossfire. After some anime-esque technology saves your life, you become a part of Jump Force as its new recruit.

jump force character customization
Bandai Namco

You'll create your avatar using the game's character customization system, which is the bare minimum of character creators. You're given hairstyles and attire similar to the fighters in the game (with a few exceptions that give you hair styles of characters not included) and you hop into the game. You pick up more attire in the shops for in-game currency or win them in missions but they are still just copies of the fighters gear. Fans who like to mish-mash characters together may enjoy this feature, but it's a little hard to stand out from the others when you're dressed similarly to them. You can't even change the color of your attire, you have to purchase different colors separately. Even then, there's not a lot of variety.

Once your avatar is done you need to choose a team. There are three groups that in-story have different roles but your choice doesn't affect your experience besides deciding what attacks your character starts with. And then you'll go through various missions that have you defeat Venoms, people and fighters who have been corrupted by Kane, the villain of this story.

Various Jump characters will begin appearing in the world and get corrupted. It's up to you and your team to defeat them and free them from the corruption. This is the extent of the story, really. You'll be sent out to defeat a character, win, have another fight and rinse and repeat. As you can imagine, this can get repetitive really fast especially since the AI isn't the brightest. In the early hours of the story, I spammed long-range attacks until I won. It's not an engaging experience.

And then when the AI begins to wake up, it's sudden and inconsistent. At first you're able to spam long-range attacks and then the AI starts to dodge and block almost every attack. While I was pleased with the change in difficulty, this could be very frustrating for casual gamers or those who are still trying to get the hang of the fighting system.

The story of Jump Force is pretty straight forward, with Kane trying to destroy (and then remake) the world. The storytellers try to make the motivations of Kane a bit more complex but it doesn't work for me.

jump force luffy and avatar
Your avatar can hang with the characters of 'Jump Force' like Luffy. Bandai Namco

PRESENTATION

A lot of people are criticizing how Jump Force looks, especially with the characters. But I like the real-world look of these characters, but I can see why it could be off putting. What I can't get behind, however, is the animations during cutscenes.

Every character model is stiff and is reminiscent of action figures standing around talking. The lips don't sync well with the dialogue - when there is dialogue - and they aren't nice to look at, which is a problem for a game that has quite a few cutscenes.

And then there's the loading screens. There are far too many load screens and they are way longer than they should be. This is especially maddening in the early parts of the story. I've experienced moments in the story where there's a cutscene, then a load screen, then a scene of two text dialogues (no audio), then another load screen.

Jump Force has a big load screen problem, which is more evident after losing a battle. It's bad enough to lose a match, but being greeted with a long load screen after hitting rematch doesn't help.

GAMEPLAY

The one feature that saves Jump Force from being a bigger mess is its gameplay. The flashy, fast-paced fighting is entertaining and brings that anime feel you'd expect. However, the mechanics are too simplistic.

You can just mash one button to perform combos and spam abilities rather easily. This is good for casual gamers, but if you're looking for a more deep fighting system you won't find it here.

jump force teamwork
'Jump Force' doesn't take the team mechanic to its full potential. Bandai Namco

Each character is unique and their movements and attacks are true to the source material, and I do appreciate the robust and diverse roster.

The three-on-three team format is sort of lost in Jump Force, though. All your characters share a health bar, which defeats the purpose of switching out. Most of my battles I stick with my avatar and just use my teammates as support. The only reason you'll want to switch out is to be able to rush down your opponent, which shortens the distance between you.

VERDICT

Jump Force is bogged down by unappealing visuals, a lackluster story and repetitive gameplay. The roster is deep and diverse, which every fighting game should have, but the fighting system while flashy is too simple and lacks what makes a team dynamic special and fun.

The idea of Jump Force is better than the actual execution and it's shame because there are moments where I was having fun battling with these characters. But a mediocre fighting system can't save this mess of a game.

Jump Force is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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'Jump Force' Review: Good Idea, Bad Execution | Tech & Science