Weekly Shonen Jump has become instantly recognizable for its decades’ worth of famous manga and anime such as the Dragon Ball and Naruto series. While many of these series have spawned video games of their own, Jump Force Deluxe Edition on Nintendo Switch aims to bring these landmark properties together for a one-of-a-kind game. Utilizing the vast history of Shonen Jump characters for a crossover fighting game does indeed sound like a dream come true for anime and manga fans, but aside from some flashes of fun, the overall execution results in a disappointing game.
A lacking crossover
Jump Force Deluxe Edition starts well enough, thanks to a fun opening fight between Goku and Frieza in New York City. Mysterious but predictable villains have contrived a plan to merge the worlds of various Shonen Jump anime and manga series with the real world. Using cube-like devices, they create “Venom” soldiers that serve as the main threat to our heroes, and it’s up to your player-created character and the anime heroes to save the day.
The premise works well enough as an excuse for the various anime series to cross over, but nothing clever is done with it to let characters shine. Outside of some key moments scattered throughout the 8-11-hour story mode, character interactions typically occur via dialogue exchanges between mostly static character models. Some of it is fun, but overall it feels a bit lifeless.
Knowing how important the voice actors are in bringing these characters to life, their absence for large parts of the game is sorely missed. Considering the great roster of 40+ characters across a range of Shonen Jump series, this ends up feeling like a huge missed opportunity. Your character adds nothing substantial to the story either since they’re silent. Whether it’s the overall plot or missing out on the easy wins that a crossover of this scale could bring, Jump Force simply doesn’t deliver on its story.
Structured like a filler arc?
You start by creating a custom character and selecting their basic combat style and clothes. The customization options are welcome but not too deep and can be accessed from the central hub area at any time. The hub of Jump Force is where you’ll be spending your time when you’re not fighting, visiting various separate vendors (somewhat tediously) to access the modes, items, and upgrades of the game.
You also select from one of three anime teams to join, but it has little game impact. Your characters level up as you progress, but unless you’re actively using coins to purchase new abilities or stat-boosting items, you’ll hardly notice. At least there’s some calming music and the option to traverse the hub in anime-inspired vehicles like a mini ship from One Piece.
The single-player offering is perhaps the least enjoyable way to play Jump Force. Missions are presented as a list you can choose from, but aside from story differences, almost every mission plays out as a simple fight. Key missions have the player fighting generic Venom soldiers or, more interestingly, famous anime characters that have been turned evil and need to be beaten to join your team. While fun at first, the lack of variety can make these fights feel repetitive, and as key missions almost always restrict your choice of characters, the huge roster feels a lot more limited than it is.
Free missions fare better thanks to additional wrinkles, such as winning with over 60% health remaining and a better choice of characters to use. But with only a few kinds of objectives, these can quickly become repetitive too. Most of my enjoyment in Jump Force Deluxe Edition came from playing custom matches with AI, where I was free to select characters, maps, and settings to my heart’s content, as well as the multiplayer offerings. In my time playing, online matches were relatively stable on both wired and wireless connections, and local play worked well too.
Kamehameha your way to victory
To fight, you choose a team of characters to go head to head in a 3v3 brawl. The variety of characters you can use as well as the flashy attacks and combos can be great fun, especially for players that are fans of these series. Being able to “Ora Ora” someone as Jotaro from Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure or “Detroit Smash” an opponent as Deku from My Hero Academia is undoubtedly a good time, and the game is at its best in these moments.
In combat, your character is locked onto your opponent in the 3D arena. From here the game gives you some familiar fighting game capabilities such as light and heavy attacks for auto combos, as well as blocking and dodge mechanics and a rush move used to either escape a combo or charge at the enemy. Energy can be charged to fill up a meter used for various special attacks, and it’s these unique signature moves that offer the most fun you’ll have with combat.
Thanks to the sheer amount of characters, there’s a good variety of special attacks to try out and even equip to your own character. Finally, once you’ve taken enough damage during a match you can use an “awakened” attack for huge damage. These moves are the most famous attacks that these characters are known for, and they make for a great spectacle.
However, basic auto combos are virtually identical for every character, meaning that unless you’re using a special move, the choice of character you’ve picked for a match makes little difference. On top of this, being able to pick three characters for a team is hampered by the fact that your team has a single shared health bar. By only having one health bar, Jump Force loses a bit of depth that a tag system would normally provide. And while I appreciate that the game offers defensive mechanics like the rush and dodge moves, these can have too long a cooldown or feel imprecise respectively.
The AI in Jump Force Deluxe Edition also offers an inconsistent challenge. Often the AI will let you mash the same auto combo to victory, but on higher difficulties, it tends to favor blocking and countering, which can make for drawn-out fights. At various times in the campaign the difficulty will spike, but not because the AI is outsmarting you or adapting to your style. Rather, the AI simply outputs way more damage, leading to some cheap-feeling fights. The lack of combat depth for you to master and the inconsistent challenge from the AI means that there aren’t many reasons to return to Jump Force after the novelty of using your favorite characters has worn off.
Performance that isn’t plus ultra
Jump Force Deluxe Edition has its fair share of technical problems. Whether in portable or docked mode, the game suffers from poor frame rates. Most notably this happens in the hub area of the game, and if you happen to be playing online then the sub-20 frames per second can be especially hard on the eyes. Thankfully, the frame rate is somewhat more stable during actual combat, where it most needs to be.
Outside of the inconsistent frame rate, the dynamic resolution also means that character models and environments can be noticeably lacking in detail and blurry at times. This isn’t much of an issue during combat, but when the game zooms in for close-ups on its characters it can be distracting. Easily the biggest issue across all modes is the frequency of loading screens. While each loading screen is pretty quick, the sheer amount of them that bookend every single cutscene and gameplay transition kills the momentum that the game is trying to build.
All that said, there are some positives to Jump Force‘s presentation. Its bright, colorful environments and variety of both real-world and anime locations are a welcome sight. Characters can also take on damage during a match that significantly alters their outfits, and the numerous particle effects from all kinds of special attacks can be great fun to watch, if a little too easy to lose sight of your character in.
Additionally, considering that the art styles of these various properties are so distinct, it’s commendable that developer Spike Chunsoft made a 3D style that can admirably work for all of them. However, while art style comes down to personal preference, the stiff facial animations and overly glossy look to the characters can make them appear more like plastic action figures than anime heroes.
Jump Force Deluxe Edition has great ideas and intentions but fails to execute them in a meaningful way. Its story woefully underutilizes the incredible roster of characters at its disposal, and some technical and design problems keep it from being the smooth experience a modern fighter on Switch needs to be. The simple but flashy combat can be fun while you try out some signature moves from your favorite anime characters, but the lack of depth means that this novelty will eventually fade away. How far your mileage goes before that happens will just depend on how much you enjoy these properties. Jump Force on Switch is a case of style over substance, so unless you’re a die-hard Shonen Jump fan, you may want to wait for a sale price on this one.
A review code was provided by the publisher.