Given the popularity of the superhero manga series My Hero Academia, which has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump since July 2014, a video game adaptation was perhaps inevitable. It’s also no surprise to see Bandai Namco Entertainment, given the publisher’s devotion to anime over the years, steering the release of My Hero One’s Justice. But right out of the gate, it’s clear that the developers at Byking struggled to distill the verbosity of the anime, among other things, and create an experience that’s at once spectacularly informed by and in conversation with its source material.
The game’s storyline syncs up with the events covered from the middle of My Hero Academia‘s second season to the middle of its third, starting with gullible high-schooler Izuku Midoriya training under old senile Gran Torino and ending with the seminal battle between All Might and All For One. Fans of the manga will surely find it exciting to be part of such significant fights like Class 1-A president Tenya Iida going head to head with Hero Killer: Stain, or series deuteragonist Katsuki Bakugo battling series antagonist Tomura Shigaraki, but after a while, the experience of playing the game can feel akin to being dropped into a TV show’s “previously on” segment.
Given that My Hero One’s Justice anticipates the player to be intimately familiar with its source material, its storyline will as such prove confusing to the uninitiated. The game also doesn’t add any new wrinkles to the manga’s events, so those already acquainted with My Hero Academia will see the game’s storyline as nothing but redundant. Worse, the game barely touches on My Hero Academia‘s themes of identity, hope, and connection.
In essence, the game’s story is an excuse to fight and little else. My Hero One’s Justice is a 3D arena fighter not unlike Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 or One Piece: Burning Blood. There are two play styles to choose from at the start of each fight: normal, which allows players to auto-combo at the press of a single button, and manual, which grants players freedom in the length of combos. No matter the choice, though, each character is capable of only one combo string. And while combos can be mixed up with two Quirk specials, character-specific moves mapped to two face buttons on the controller, neither are effective at altering or extending combos. Curiously, the game’s combat system, though simplistic, aligns perfectly with the series’s penchant for grandiosity during fights. It’s disappointing, then, that My Hero One’s Justice reduces fighting to a single tactic: button mashing.
There are over 20 characters to choose from in My Hero One’s Justice, including heroes like All Might and Eraser Head and villains like Dabi and Muscular. While each is idiosyncratic in their own way, once players understand and master a character’s weaknesses, combat begins to feel tight and responsive. However, some characters, like Bakugo or Shoto Todoroki, can indefinitely spam their combo string. It’s here where the tedium of My Hero One’s Justice‘s combat sets in, as interrupting combos is difficult and reading attacks is cumbersome. Players will often find themselves pummeling each other to a pulp—whether playing offline versus the CPU or online versus another human—while watching their life bars rapidly decrease.
My Hero Academia makes it abundantly clear who outclasses who in combat prowess, but My Hero One’s Justice only exacerbates the disparity and makes it worse when some characters do significantly more or less damage than others. Muscular may hit hard, and his short dash is perfect when used in rapid succession to close the distance between himself and his opposition, but all that power means nothing when he can’t connect his combo.
In the end, My Hero One’s Justice is a ploy to capitalize on the popularity of My Hero Academia. It doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from its fighting-game brethren like Black Clover: Quartet Knights or The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia, and because it’s so in lockstep with the events of My Hero Academia, it doesn’t color outside the lines—to enhance our understanding of the manga’s characters and themes. And since it only requires you to button-mash to victory, My Hero One’s Justice fails to live up to the series’s motto: You may get a “Plus Ultra” finisher, but your skill level will never “Go Beyond” the game’s rudimentary requirements.