Set for release in February 2019, Bandai Namco’s Jump Force has just become one of my most anticipated titles.
I was lucky enough to get in on the game’s recent closed beta, and having not really seen much of the game beforehand, I didn’t really have any expectations of it. Though after the recent Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, I feared the worst. Finding myself in a bustling central hub upon launching the game, those fears still lingered. But as soon as I threw myself into my first match against the CPU, I found that I could dispel any negative thoughts lingering in my mind; Jump Force is actually bloody good.
Unfortunately, only Vs CPU and Quick Match options were available in the closed beta. I could see that there was a place to accept missions and another to take part in events, but interacting with them just told me they were unavailable. I also spotted a couple of shops: standard and premium. I’m looking forward to finding out what they sell. But with little else to do other than pick a fight, that’s what I did. I decided to start with a few bouts against the CPU before jumping into heated battle with other players.
After selecting a trio of characters and a map, I found myself in my first fight. At this point, it hit me how stunningly beautiful Jump Force looks. Honestly, it’s one of the most impressive games I’ve laid eyes on this generation. Environments are dripping with detail, while characters have their anime features but appear more human. It’s a bit weird but also rather likeable, and everything is brought together by wonderful lighting, crisp picture quality and some rather snazzy special effects. Screenshots do not do this game justice. In motion, it is a sight to behold.
When it comes to characters, Jump Force already has a varied roster. The beta forced me to choose an avatar upon launching it; basically a pre-made custom character with a pre-allocated list of special moves. Presumably you’ll use them in certain modes in the full game, but in the beta I wasn’t forced to use my avatar at all. I was able to select any three characters that took my fancy from the likes of Naruto‘s Sasuke to Bleach‘s Ichigo Kurosaki. There were more than 10 characters available overall, and four arenas to do battle in. Needless to say, there was plenty of enjoyable combinations to be had.
Forget visuals and characters though, when it comes to fighting games it’s how they play that really counts. Thankfully, Jump Force doesn’t disappoint. It has a combat system that fans of the likes of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games will be very familiar with. You have weak and heavy attacks which can be combined to perform combos, a chase manoeuvre lets you close the distance between you and your opponent quickly, and there’s a dedicated throw button. Attacks can also be charged to allow them to break an opponent’s guard, and you have a special meter that can be expended to pull off flashy special attacks. There are four special attacks per character, and aside from being very destructive, they’re also great fun to watch.
While you choose three characters to take into a fight, you’ll be surprised to find that they all share the same health bar. As such, you’ll find yourself calling on your team mates to assist you in battle or to swap places with you in order to access new special moves rather than to give yourself a breather to keep you in the fight. Sharing one health bar also means that the fights are over with quite quickly. The fluidity of the gameplay and the over-the-top nature of the pugilists means that every bout is an entertaining one though, keeping you going back for more.
It’s safe to say that my time with Jump Force was a pleasant surprise. It really did impress me. Perhaps the best way I can describe how it made me feel is to say it took me back to my first game of Dragon Ball FighterZ. In fact, it’s very similar in ways. It’s just as accessible for a start, and the combat is just as much fun. Providing it has a solid enough range of modes upon release and its online features are up to scratch, Jump Force could turn out to be an essential fighting game, especially for anime fans.