When the opening trailer for Jump Force dropped, it quickly became clear that something special is coming fro anime aficionados. The unveiling of this anime brawler took Dragon Ball FighterZ and doubled down on the insanity with a whole new dimension of incredible action. After the initial ruckus, we got our hands on with an army of anime’s finest in a preview of Jump Force.
Due out later in 2019, Jump Force is an anime-inspired brawler that pits players against each other across a variety of stages, and a series of scenarios. Most importantly, it features a whole host of recent history’s most iconic Shonen Jump characters. Heroes from Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Bleach are already confirmed, and with well over 100 individual series in the Japanese publisher’s back catalog we can confirm there are definitely more to come.
Situated right in the center of London’s Hyper Japan Expo, our first look at Bandai Namco’s amalgamation of Shonen Jump’s most iconic individuals did not give us much backstory. What it did give us is a chance to get in and beat the hell out of the AI in an early demo. Two stages were available for us to choose from. The New York stage bristles neon like the shining heart of any major megalopolis. Billboards, that cling to the towers around the arena crawl up into the night and light each engagement in a bewildering array of colors that make the surrounding environment feel just as busy as the fights that take place in the streets below.
Matterhorn, in comparison, is a stage situated in the valleys of the Alps. A serene green field sits at the base of the worlds most icon mountain range and provides a simple backdrop to the action that takes place. Which of these is your preference is personal preference and both look incredible, they are distinctly different. While the Matterhorn stages allow for a clear and concise fight, New York is flashy, distracting, and littered with architectural collateral, vehicles to incinerate, and all manner of explosive objects to crash through.
Before settling on a stage for this destruction it’s down to the core of Jump Force, the opportunity to settle anime arguments of old, who is the best hero. Whether you just want to punch Naruto for 200 episodes of filler or, like me, do not get One Piece, you will have an opportunity to settle those frustrations. Our hands-on gave us access to nine of the roster of upcoming characters. We managed to get hands-on with Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto, Luffy, and Zoro from One Piece, as well as Frieza and Son Goku from the Dragon Ball franchise.
Choosing three characters, the demonstration kicks players into a three vs three match, in a battle to the finish. This is a tag style encounter, so all three share a health bar and can tag in to assist. This and the relatively unfinished AI makes for a fairly fast-paced demo. While the demo is a very early build it did give us an opportunity to get a handle on the type of conflict we will be seeing. As you’ve already seen from the trailers, Jump Force takes the Dragon Ball FighterZ concept and brings it into a fully 3D environment. The graphics take a distinct move away from the hand illustration of the anime and towards a faithful CG adaptation of the characters and their powers. The Unreal 4 engine has been utilized to great effect, leaving everything from the impact of attacks to the insane transformations feeling like they are native to the world, rather than an illustrated afterthought. It’s something that Bandai, in particular, have been successful in doing recently.
Getting to grips with the controls in Jump Force doesn’t take too much of a leap if you’ve played fighting games before. It is not exactly a replication of what you are used to but it is not far away. Movement is still controlled using the analog sticks and a variation of action and trigger buttons control the basic moves, grabs, leaps and special moves. It is these leaps that are a particular signature of Jump Force. Rather than confine characters to a small dojo, the huge open arenas available meant that getting up close and personal can prove problematic. Jump Force solves this by including a number of flashy closing maneuvers. These allow characters to leap in with fists raised and attack from long distances before following up with a series of pretty impactful close combos. These are not without risk and if adequately blocked may not even land. Once up close and personal, the opportunity to grapple proves compelling, especially when you can toss your opponent through a tanker truck and on through a building, confirming that stage transitions of a sort do occur.
While these moves are far from finalized, it is clear that characters do already feel different. Zoro, in particular, feels heavier and slower than say Naruto and Sasuke, yet the result is a set of far heavier blows. Every character brings a series of their own iconic powers to the fight. Some of these are obviously outrageous, and a set of transformations is tied to each individual. Each transformation and their subsequent attacks are utterly ridiculous but a fantastic nod to fans. In particular, Son Goku’s Kamehameha and Naruto’s most powerful attacks will leave no fan disappointed. The nine tails, in particular, is a great translation to this format. How these sequences will quite work in multiplayer has not been defined yet, but for now, things feel flashy, fast, and generally well put together.
Despite the great interpretation in parts, this is obviously a very early demo so voice acting and cutscene animation is sketchy at best. If this was a finished product we’d be critical but this was the result of weeks of work so this is far from surprising.
What we can say from out time with Naruto and friends is that Jump Force could be the ultimate anime brawler. On the surface, it is a fast flashy, and faithful adaptation of the characters that anime fans adore. From a more technical stance, it takes concepts established in games like Dragon Ball FighterZ and blows them out into a wide world. It creates fights that are a flurry of fists and close quarters takedowns, where choosing when to close, engage, and switch out your team is critical. We didn’t manage to squeeze any more information out of Bandai Namco at the time but you can keep an eye out for further developments on the official Jump Force website.