The New JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Game Is Going To Own
A lot of shounen series get turned into video games. It makes sense: they’re both popular and popular with children, have lots of characters and cheap violence that could easily translate into many genres of video game, and they run for uncountable eons before finally deciding to close so the artist can retire to his 1000 square foot Tokyo mansion and try to recover the carpal tunnel in his hands. But not all shounen series make the transition to playable form equally.
Consider Dragonball Z, easily the most famous one. Every character—hero and villain—has a very similar moveset: martial arts skills, flight, several times of energy blast. Most of them can transform into stronger states. Some of the villains can regenerate, absorb enemies, or create smaller versions of themselves. Toriyama admitted to writing most of the series on the fly, and it definitely shows in the lack of creativity found in a comic series that is supposedly vividly action-packed.
And this isn’t just a cursory examination of the ridiculous 291 episodes in that series. I was reading Curtis Hoffmann’s Dragonball manga chapter summaries off a local BBS, years before the series was ever shown on Cartoon Network. I beat that mediocre SNES card-based RPG, Dragonball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyan (pictured left), untranslated, off a ROM snatched from the bowels of AltaVista. I probably know more details from this stupid series about steroid guys with skyscraper hair than I know about the strange people who keep showing up at family reunions.
But the fact is that the Dragonball franchise hasn’t yielded any good games. Some of you probably have fond memories of the Budokai games for the PlayStation 2 or maybe the Butoden games for the Super Famicom. But all of these games had a cast of nearly identical punch guys (sometimes with different iterations of the same character taking up multiple character slots in an example of fighting game copy-pasting that even Midway would call absurd) with strongly congruent and uncreative abilities. They just didn’t have much to work with.
In contrast, I remember playing Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament for the PS2. Aside from some crippling control issues (shoulder buttons for jumping and ducking, up and down for strafing?) it was a fascinating experiment because every character had several unique gimmicks, like the dude who could use body paint to either strengthen himself or bind his opponent’s powers. Even the Aryan ninjas from Naruto (which is a bad series, don’t get me wrong) have more interesting capabilities than their Dragonball equivalents and therefore their games are slightly more tolerable.
But there’s an actual great shounen series that doesn’t get enough electronic adaptations. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure would be an even more logical choice for a fighting game than the cascades of Dragonball Z schlock that somehow manage to be profitable. There’s very little of the badly written I-must-unleash-my-true-power shounen garbage that pollutes its contemporaries to this day. Instead, its author breaks the bank thinking up the most insane supernatural powers possible for his characters to slaughter each other with. Every fight is not a lame test of power levels but a match of wits where every foe is a complete mystery until the heroes can even begin to tackle them. Fights are rarely decided by strength and more frequently by exploiting the environment, manipulating the enemy through words and actions, and overcoming one’s own weak areas. And the scales tip back and forth like some demented metronome. Victory will seem certain for the hero but the villain saw his every move coming and appears to have the upper hand, but the protagonist has a half-dozen backup plans running through his head. Phoenix Wright has nothing on the unbelievable amount of turnabout in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
And in place of a series of progressively stronger bad guys with the same powers, you have an ancient Aztec vampire who can shoot blood-leeching tentacles out of his toenails, an evil baby that becomes a grim reaper to chop you up through your dreams, a crooked gambler who wagers souls in hilarious con games, a serial killer who explodes hands and can trap you in a Groundhog Day time loop, and guy who can turn your powers and memories into CDs that he can stick into his own brain and run as programs. And instead of a predictable progression of bigger stakes until the whole universe is going to get killed, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can go from a world-threatening situation to a localized horror story to a women’s prison to multiple alternate dimensions with ersatz versions of heroes and villains past.
This is why I’m excited about the upcoming JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fighting game (contains some spoilers for all 8 parts for those of you without enough free time to read a hundred plus volumes of goofy one-upsmanship fighting). It has everything going for it. All of the major characters are announced as being playable and the preview videos look fantastic. Each JoJo and villainous counterpart has a unique feel and varied set of moves that sets them apart from each other and from similar characters in other games. I don’t think you’re going to see any shotoclones or Goku xeroxes here; much of Araki’s astounding creativity is going to seep through the cables and bring us joy.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is going to have usable stands, just as in the Dreamcast game, which itself was a fantastic endeavor. This will nearly double the amount of characters and skills available and bring in all sorts of fun combinations. This combined with the (probably) already present variety of playstyles is going to result in a fantastic game.
I see nothing but great things for this game. I might end up falling flat on my face if it ends up being comparable to Ehrgeiz or Kakuto Chojin, in which case I retract nothing from this article and will write a suitable review of it. They’re the ones who didn’t live up to my unreasonably high expectations, but there’s nothing wrong with expecting the best. I won’t STAND for it otherwise.
If Spike and/or Namco Bandai are going to foist another annual pile of Dragonball mush upon us, they would do well to learn from their betters. Yes, I know that Namco Bandai is the new JoJo game’s publisher, but they’re not responsible for its creation. The guys who gave us Asura’s Wrath and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja and Dot Hack//Boredom are. OK, so maybe my optimism is unwarranted. But I believe that no manga other than Berserk has as much potential to transmute into brilliant video games. If this game comes out in America (and with the recent resurgence in JoJo’s popularity, it might), I’m buying enough copies to found a country with an economy based on them. Then the PS4 won’t be able to play them because Sony hates backwards compatibility and used games, and then I’ll be broke, but how is that different from where I am now? JoJo is great.