Bandai Namco has a stable of devs it likes to lean on for its anime fighting games. But for Shonen Jump’s latest Naruto-sized hit My Hero Academia, a new team joined the fray. Mostly known for its wild arcade arena shooter Gunslinger Stratos, Byking made its home console debut with My Hero One’s Justice in 2018. Less than two years later, Bandai Namco and Byking have delivered a sequel. While My Hero One’s Justice 2 is a little janky and unbalanced, it sports new features, gameplay improvements, and plenty of stuff to chew on.
Hit the ground running
Right off the bat, My Hero One’s Justice 2 does something unusual for fighting games. As soon as you press start for the first time, you’re dumped into story mode. It’s a small thing and you can hop to the menu right after the intro, but it makes the game arrive with more impact. The first game was just a title screen and straight to the menu, which gave it kind of a cheap feel. Boom: small thing totes addressed.
Aside from the obligatory UI changes, a lot of the structure here is unchanged. Story mode still has you going through My Hero Academia’s anime storyline with a comic book affectation. It picks up where the first game left off, or season three of the show. Each stage has bonus objectives with cosmetic rewards, you can unlock the villain perspective, etc. New this time are actual boss battles, with each chapter ending with a souped-up, super tough fight instead of a normal round versus the big bad.
Alongside Story Mode is Mission Mode, which is distinctly different from the first game’s. Previously Mission Mode comprised a bunch of Soulcalibur II-like gimmick conditions, which were either fun or super frustrating. This Mission Mode is more straightforward, presenting a sort of board game combining survival with RPG elements. It can feel a little grindy, but it rewards you with a growing deck of passive bonuses to play with. There’s also a light management aspect, as expanding your roster requires upkeep. You can spend cash to recruit more heroes, but if you don’t use them enough they’ll quit your agency. It isn’t as wacky as before, but there’s a lot of tinkering and progression to dig into.
Small changes, big results
Speaking of digging, while the gameplay systems are instantly familiar to anyone who played the first game, My Hero One’s Justice 2 has made a few little changes that make for a better experience overall. The core gameplay is arena fighter by way of Power Stone more than Gundam Versus, so there’s a lot more running and jumping around over careful, measured combat like in most other games in this space. The controls are all the same as before, but the changes alter how the systems function, addressing some problems.
Dashing is a huge part of My Hero One’s Justice. Hold the button down and your character charges at full speed — so frantically you can barely control it. But if you press it at certain points during a string, you’ll dash cancel, opening up the combo system. In the first game there was no drawback to doing this, which helped facilitate cheesy play and infinite combos. I’m sure infinite combos are still floating around in there somewhere, because that just happens. Either way, Byking made adjustments to make it less obvious.
Now, dash canceling costs meter. This is a huge boon, because it slows the pace down and forces players to make more quick decisions. Meter also builds slower, and a new sidestep maneuver eats it too. In short, you have to work more for combos, and possibly at the cost of a Plus Ultra finish. Sidekicks also now serve as interrupts, meaning if you save them until you’re in a bind, they’ll knock your opponent out of whatever combo you’re eating.
Another small change with big effects is a tiny control option. Like most contemporary fighters, these games offer an auto-combo toggle, letting less seasoned players mash out a solid combo with just the basic attack button. My Hero One’s Justice 2 adds an option to change how move inputs work. For a couple moves, you have to add a directional input to a button press. Before, you had to tap the direction, Smash Bros.-style. Now there’s a hold option, which is exactly what it sounds like. That’s neither the default, nor does it feel like a concession; it’s just an option that’s there if it makes more sense for the player. I like it!
Plus Ultra, more or less
My Hero One’s Justice is not a hardcore, technical fighter. Combos are loosey-goosey, the roster of a few dozen just feels imbalanced, and ranked online play is an amoral wasteland. All of these things are fine and expected in this territory, more or less, but what I’m getting at here is performance issues don’t impact my experience as much as they could elsewhere. However, as someone who played the first game on PlayStation 4, I’m actually shocked the Switch version of My Hero One’s Justice 2 runs as well as it does.
My Hero One’s Justice 2 runs quite smoothly, and the visuals (I played on a Lite, for reference.) never looked fuzzy. I’m no tech expert, but I never felt like the resolution was shifting to handle the action. If the frame rate did drop or chug, it was only briefly in specific situations. This is a visually busy game, and even when a character like Endeavor filled the screen with fire, it stood its ground. Although, one particular stage chugs a bit as the match starts, and sometimes sidekicks could drag things down (especially if more than one assist was happening at once).
The moment-to-moment gameplay was totally solid; I never felt like I was playing underwater or that my inputs weren’t responding properly. Performance issues can make or break a fighting game, even one on the zanier side like My Hero One’s Justice 2, but none of this game’s problems impacted my overall experience. Could visual compromises have led to more consistency? Maybe. But for a My Hero Academia game, having the colors bright and popping off the screen is important too. Post-launch updates would be welcome, but they don’t feel mandatory here.
My Hero One’s Justice 2 is about as straightforward as sequels get. All the basics are nearly identical to those of the first game, which makes sense considering the timing. But those basics have been added to and iterated upon in service of a bigger, better experience. Gaping holes in the first game’s mechanics have been patched up sensibly. The roster is huge, and there’s enough single-player content to last well after online gets old. Slight performance issues hold it back, and being an anime arena fighter limits its broad appeal. It isn’t a hardcore fighter that holds up to intense scrutiny, but it’s a delightful romp with tons of personality. Byking nailed its concept here; I hope we see more from that studio soon.
Release Date: March 13, 2020
No. of Players: 1-4 players
Publisher: Bandai Namco
A review code was provided by the publisher.