July 06, 2015
Spike Chunsoft’s 2v2 arena brawler J-Stars Victory Vs+ has finally made the jump to the West, following a release in Japan last year. An enhanced version of the original, + adds a new mode and some re-balancing, while retaining the Japanese voice track. But is it any good? Well no, not really. But before we get into exactly why, it’s worth covering exactly what J-Stars Victory Vs+ is and what content players can expect.
J-Stars Victory Vs+ stars a cavalcade of playable characters ripped from the pages of the Weekly Shonen Jump manga (and its associated anime). Luffy, Goku and Naruto take centre stage and over 30 more fill the ranks, with a sprinkling of support characters thrown into the mix too. It’s such a broad roster that even the most ardent Western manga fan is going to struggle to identify everyone. There’s loads of them!
There’s a decent amount of modes too. From a single-player perspective, the story-based J-Adventure mode is arguably the main event, punctuating the fighting with an extremely light RPG-ish approach. Navigating the map in an upgradable ship, players roam the land getting into battles, engaging in side quests and adding fighters to their ranks of allies as they go. There’s four slightly different storylines to choose from; Motion (Luffy), Hope (Naruto), Research (Toriko) and Pursuit (Ichigo).
However, aside from the thrill manga fans will get from seeing their favourite characters interact, story mode has little to offer. The story’s weak, the RPG elements are basically non-existent and the cheap-looking presentation smacks of bargain bin fodder. It just ain’t all that. Stripping all of this away and getting down to the business is Victory Road mode which chucks a sequence of battles at the player along with a series of challenges. Meanwhile, Free-Battle mode lets you fight it out with friends and strangers either locally or online.
All of which is good, I guess, but the thing that lets J-Stars Victory Vs+ down is the combat. The very core of the game, the thing that all of the modes are wrapped around, is too lightweight to keep you invested for more than a few hours. Simple and repetitive, it’s going to start to feel like a grind long before you’ve explored every aspect of the game.
Here’s how it works. Each of the J-Stars’ numerous characters has access to a light attack, a heavy attack and a special, with a block modifier allowing for area-of-attack specials and a block-break attack to burst through your opponent’s defences. Throw in some flashy ultimate attacks - each reflecting the character’s signature move - and that’s the arsenal each player has at their disposal.
There’s a bit of variety within this. Some characters are a little more ranged while others need to get up close and personal to inflict the most damage, but the truth is every fight follows a similar pattern. J-Stars isn’t quite simple enough to be considered a dumb button-masher, but more often than not you’re going to be dabbing at the light attack button to open up your opponent before hitting them three or four times with a combo, linking it up with a special and then finishing the fight with an ultimate.
That’s how every encounter pans out and it’s repeated over and over again. Initially fun, the enjoyment wears off quickly. Before long it just becomes tedious. There’s just not enough depth or variety to keep you interested beyond the initial few hours. J-Stars Victory Vs+ is a game that, at best, you’re going to want to dip into. I just can’t see it staying in your disc tray for long.
Unless, of course, you’re a big Shonen Jump fan. There’s an initial thrill to seeing your favourite characters meeting and quipping, before beating the crap out of each other. Plus, the game finally lets you settle that argument about who would win a fight out of Goku and Fist of the Nose Hair. But the game itself? It’s lightweight, repetitive and difficult to recommend. Even the biggest fans will struggle to enjoy J-Stars Victory Vs+ beyond the opening few hours. Disappointing.
Familiar tunes and customised soundtracks are a welcome addition, but the sparse voice work in cutscenes and the decision to leave some characters mute is a shame.
The character models, the animation, the presentation, the environments - J-Stars Victory VS+ does not look like a PlayStation 4 game.
J-Stars’ core gameplay is repetitive and lightweight, offering little in the way of depth or variation despite the game’s impressively large roster of fighters.
All of the modes that you would expect are present, but J-Adventure mode is a slog, Victory Road is dull and Free Battle offers little to keep you invested. Poor.
What a grind-fest! The only people who are gonna earn this Platinum are the most dedicated trophy-hunting manga fans. And lunatics. Everyone else should steer well clear.
Loads of characters, a decent selection of modes and plenty of fan service can’t hide the fact that J-Stars Victory VS+ is a dull, repetitive, shallow and ultimately tiresome brawler.