The key word to keep in mind while playing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is, indeed, “bizarre.” The source material, Hirohiko Araki’s long-running manga series of the same name (minus the subtitle), operates on an entirely different level of weirdness that’s simultaneously unsavory and surprisingly endearing. Developer CyberConnect2 (Asura’s Wrath, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3) is obviously well-acquainted with the veteran mangaka’s peculiar visual style, and they do a commendable job of transferring it to video-game format with minimal fuss. From the skillfully presented 3D backgrounds to the slew of eccentric combatants and their accompanying signature moves and victory poses, All-Star Battle’s graphical details are relatively spot-on, providing a helping of fan-service throughout.
Even for those unfamiliar with the exploits of the Joestar clan and their madcap adversaries, All-Star Battle features enough eye-catching pizazz that the average beat-’em-up fanatic will likely find something to savor. Every character’s exclusive personality traits and physicality are incorporated into their one-of-a-kind movesets, making the already sizable roster (a grand total of 41 fighters with unlockables and DLC applied) a formidable beast that will take considerable training to fully master. All eight serialized story arcs are represented here (from 1987’s Phantom Blood all the way through the ongoing JoJolion volumes), and even Ikuro Hashizawa from Araki’s lesser known Boah tankōbon is playable. In comparison to something like genre titan Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the core mechanics of All-Star Battle will take some getting used to. Executing combos is a more erratic process that thrives on multi-layered attacks coming from a variety of unique skirmish configurations (six including Ikuro’s singular Boah Armed Phenomenon). To name a few, the Hamon technique allows for powerful charges that impart massive damage, Vampirism deals in HP-draining trickery, and Mounted, perhaps the most unusual way to pummel opponents, has characters like the paraplegic Johnny Joestar calling upon his loyal equine companion, Slow Dancer, to increase mobility and prowess.
There’s hardly a dull moment in the gleefully absurd familiarization phases of All-Star Battle, but the constant flow of kookiness comes with a distinctive imbalance to the idiosyncratic collection of brawler attributes. Some characters are overpowered, or possess special abilities that give them an almost unfair advantage. Jotaro Kujo and Dio Brando can stop time, Funny Valentine duplicates himself interdimensionally (restoring health in the process), and Yoshikage Kira’s constant barrage of explosives has the capacity to render him temporarily untouchable. It doesn’t help that the walk, jump, and dash speeds are unsuitably sluggish for the amount of chaos that often occurs on the battlefield; occasionally dodging projectiles feels like a totally random act. Nevertheless, the game offers enough diversification throughout its many modes (including practice, story, versus, and an online-only, rewards-based, customization-heavy campaign) that the slight hiccups in the rudiments of combat can be largely forgiven. With All-Star Battle, CyberConnect2 shows that the progress made with their recent work was no fluke; they’ve created the quintessential JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure interactive experience, an oddball mixture of zany visuals and anomalous personas that pays respect to both hardcore fans and Hirohiko Araki’s singular vision.