Back in July 2018 we were extremely lucky to get hands-on with Bandai Namco’s Jump Force. Thankfully, this early iteration of the anime fighter was everything I’d hoped it could be. With barely even a months work poured into it, the E3 demo was a stylish brawler that teased my appetite for everything Shonen. When Gamescom 2018 came around and we got the chance to go hands-on again, I jumped in.
For those of you that don’t know your Waifu from your Best Boy, or what the hell moe is then my own hype might seem perplexing. Jump Force is a video game celebration of fifty of Shueisha’s own Shonen Jump publication. Shonen Jump is a compilation of weekly manga shorts., quick stories that tell incredible tales of pirates, ninjas, gods and monsters. It has had a deep cultural impact in Japan and across the world, spawning some of the most iconic creations in anime history. If you’ve ever seen an Astro Boy t-shirt, heard the name Goku, or sat back and watched Ichigo wield his oversized zanpakuto, then Jump Force will seem instantly recognizable to you.
Significantly, the latest iteration of Jump force includes a number of additional fighters and a couple of new maps to kick around in. These newly announced fighters include, Gon and Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter, as well as Sanji, Sabo, and Blackbeard from One Piece. Vegeta round off the new entrants to the ring because no Bandai brawler would be the same without more DragonBall. We got some time to log in and, once again, pit our wits against the AI in a 3 vs 3 matchups. A wrecked New York city square and Hong Kong stage were the backdrops for these particular encounters. While we did not get time to try out Planet Namek, the newest stage, the Hong Kong map is a mix of bright lights and environmental hazards. It all looks and feels similar to the previous cityscape that we played in July. The same, however, is not strictly true of the new characters.
While Bandai dropped in a plethora of new characters, the most significant of these additions has got to include the arrival of Bleach mainstays Ichigo and Rukia, as well as Hunter x Hunter characters Gon and Hisoka, at least for me. For the list of previously available characters, check our July hands on. We had limited time playing these particular characters but every moment was a blast. Ichigo and Rukia obviously play differently to Gon, who does not wield an edged weapon. Each character with a sword in hand tends to take longer to launch into attacks, picking their moment and leaving players open to counter attacks while they step forward. Like our previous playthrough, quick closing and huge dramatic leaps are all part for the gameplay meaning things rattle along at a tremendous pace. What surprised, however, was the diversity between characters, even among series fellows. Ichigo, for example, can open up a number of special attack by clicking the pad shoulder buttons. These pleasingly authentic moves tend to provide an unexpected ranged utility that Ruikia lacks in some spaces.
Despite this diversity, each battle continues to be well balanced. Tagging characters in and out is far more fluid than it felt in July and the team of three no longer share a health bar. Character voice acting is authentic, moves feel fluid, and the team at Bandai Namco has done an excellent job thus far. While the rest of our time with Jump force was brief. I can say that the AI continues to be too forgiving, even for press, the character roster continues to impress, and I’m certainly not tired of seeing my favorite anime characters flash through the air with swords unsheathed.
After we finished destroying Hong Kong, I got the chance to sit down with Koji Nakajima to chat about Jump Force.
Gamespace: I’ve played jump force and loved it. I just wanted to ask why bring these anime characters into the real world?
Nakajima: The game is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Shonen Jump and we wanted to do something that will surprise the readers. Part of that surprise is bringing the characters into the real world to fight. As we’ve announced today, the player themselves is the protagonist and they can fight alongside characters like Luffy. There is also the online lobby that we’ve introduced. We want fans to have a different experience in Jump Force than they’ve had with character games in the past.
Gamespace: Will we find out these characters enter the world?
Nakajima: In story mode, we are trying to explain how that has come about. The game is set in a fusion of jump worlds and the real world. That fusion has brought about a crisis in the real world. So, the player can stand up alongside Luffy, alongside Goku, and other characters to try to resolve this crisis.
Gamespace: How difficult is it to translate these characters from anime or manga into a fully 3D environment?
Nakajima: The biggest challenge of the entire project was taking these 2D manga and anime characters and translating them into photo-real 3D. That is part of the reason we’ve spent so long working on this title. We’ve invested three years on this game already and we announced at E3 and we had a version there but now we have a higher quality version at Gamescom and the quality is only going to get better.
Gamespace: How did the Unreal 4 engine influence the process of making Jump Force?
Nakajima: The Unreal 4 engine helped particularly with the graphics, in this case, to make them photorealistic.
Gamespace: As well as having a very particular look, each character has a different playstyle when we tried out Jump Force. Will, that continues to be the case for the rest of the roster?
Nakajima: Each of the Shinen titles has characters with their own individual traits and we wanted to keep some of what makes each character special. But on the other hand, if you make the characters too distinctive then it can make it a bit hard to play. What we are aiming for is something anybody can enjoy. A balanced game, like you have in titles like Dragonball Xenoverse.
Gamespace: Just to round up, do you have a favorite question so far?
Nakajima: I like them all. If I had to choose one though, then you will have to wait as I think it will surprise fans. So, watch this space.