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Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R Review

Macho, macho men

I don’t play fighters much. Fumbling inputs and constantly pausing the game to check the moves list which I then immediately forget is my inevitable downfall with this genre. Yet, it is an anime-themed fighter that brings me to the ring with my first review of an aged titan in the genre. 

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R is the sexed-up port of the 2014 PS3 title (which lacked the all-important attached R) that has pummelled its way onto all the major platforms since international interest has picked up in recent years due to the wacky, pop-culture-heavy anime. Originally starting as a manga back in the 80s, Hirohiko Araki’s generations of super-powered vampire slaying Jostars have boasted a beyond excessive amount of style and humour that has withstood the test of time. Take for instance the copyright-infringing characters of R.E.O Speedwagon, ACDC, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Pepper and Vanilla Ice. These hyper-masculine, homoerotic champions are a satirical celebration of the fringe fashion trends and charting music of the day, continually launching the series into the zeitgeist and now resurrecting its best video game adaption on the series’ 35th anniversary. 

As far as fighting games go, there is no innovation here that we haven’t seen achieved in far greater measures today. Fighters can rotate around the stages and trigger stage gimmicks which can backfire amusingly, but there is only one such trap in each match and it is easy to anticipate. While a traditional one-versus-one fighter, characters from the 50-strong roster can also be assigned to an assistant role to launch a support attack before going into cool down. There is an HH meter (sic) that charges during battle and can be spent on easily executable super moves, or drained entirely for an ultimate attack. Again, nothing breaks the mould.

Bayonetta?

The primary All Star Battle mode demonstrates the love that has gone into the game’s presentation, beginning with a menu compromised of manga panels that feature popular match-ups of heroes and villains, as well as various abridged ‘what-if?’ scenarios with characters from unrelated generations. Each fight has a difficulty rank, meaning players can play through all chapters and all fights at their own pace. Once exhausting the lower-level fights, players will unlock challenging boss fights inspired by the major showdowns of each series.

In this remastered port, players can expect ten new characters from across the eight-generation series. In maintaining the sheer excess that the property is known for, nearly every match in the main All Star Battle mode will shower players with all manner of BGMs, alternative costumes, taunts, art and more. A missed opportunity of this release is the little love shown to the 16 maps on offer from across the decades-spanning series, featuring vaguely familiar yet insignificant backdrops with barely any dynamic or memorable, series-defining features – expect a lot of near-empty streets and featureless backlots.

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Now that’s a hot Tommy

This is a spectacle fighter first and foremost, with less emphasis on technical precision and instead favouring outrageous fisticuffs that mimic the flurry of memorable moments that come with each of the series match-ups. Characters attack and move in a fashion that is halfway between contortionist poses and interpretive dance – and I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most entertaining display of theatrical combat in a fighter (spoken by a person who rarely plays fighters). From Iggy (Pop) the farting dog that drives around the stage via his freewheeling supernatural Stand spirit, to series four’s leading man, Josuke Higashikata, whose healing abilities require him to fully mend an opponent before pummelling the shit out of them with his finisher. Being bizarre is this game’s mandate and it pulls it off with a ceaselessly satisfying aplomb. 

Special assists called support effects can be activated in the harder fights in the All Star Battle mode to help turn the fight’s tide. These rarely feel like cheats, but rather tactical investments. Harder fights often grant enemies particular bonuses such as extra damage or defence, whereas the player might be disadvantaged by the opposites of these occurring to the player character. The range of support effects is generous, from unlimited HH gauges to constantly recharging health. These purchasable assists have a cost to unlock and the currency used is earned from playing through fights across the various standard modes. This means that earlier fights are easier wins which grant the currency to create a player-managed difficulty curve as they progress through the All Star panels. Better yet, these assists don’t hinder the player’s score grade at the end of the fight, meaning progression remains as edifying as it is rewarding. 

Nice.

There are some downsides to this hugely satisfying macho brawler. Firstly, it is a poor introductory fighter, with little to no training resources and only the briefest of ineffective tutorials. There’s no explanation on how counter hits work, or introducing characters to the layers of complexity that come with certain combos only launching off of prerequisite combos. 

More egregious is the unstable, barely functional online mode. Online play can take upwards of a minute to connect to a player, only to lose connection and boot you back to the main menu before the fight begins. When the fight does connect, it is distressingly bad. Expect interruptions every two or three seconds with an invasive window saying “transmitting,” and an irredeemably bad input delay that makes any attempt at technical fighting a complete waste in favour of button mashing and hoping for the best. It is a shame, as there is a strategy here for keeping players invested with weekly seasons themed on rewarding players for using maps and players from each respective series featured for that week. Over my couple of weeks of persevering in trying to review the online play, my determination is that it is dead on arrival.

Despite All Star Battle R releasing as an anniversary celebration, there are some missed opportunities with regards to series seven and eight. The latest series, Jojolion is a disappointment, featuring only its leading character and no other significant elements despite the series being fully wrapped well before this game’s release. Likewise, despite a couple of added characters and maps from series seven’s Steel Ball Run, there is a whole cast of exciting villains and heroes that simply don’t make the cut. Despite this, Bandai Namco are teasing mysterious character releases for future paid season passes. This seems a cynical move from what was being sold as a definitive, stand-alone remaster.

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Better without context

Final Thoughts

All Star Battle R understands the assignment but makes some odd choices that prevent it from scoring an awesome A. It brings a cast of 50 brilliantly realised characters from the eight series, all with their anime voice actors and superfluous personalities intact. Yet it barely services the fandom of the two most recent series, supposedly keeping that content for upcoming season passes. A dysfunctional online mode limits this sexy package’s longevity and barely any concessions are made to lift this port from its near decade-old trappings. However, Jojo’s has never been more popular and its best game is still a delight that will plant a grin on fans’ faces wider than that of a Jostar’s hairless chest.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R Review
GOOD Grief
The best video game adaptation of the wildest manga property gets a better-than-average port. For Jojo's fans only, though.
The Good
Excessive style
Humorously stylised, authentic presentation
Varied and robust roster
Wealth of novel extras
Support abilities curb the difficulty without patronising the player
The Bad
Lacks the innovations of contemporary fighters
Online matchmaking is a lost cause
The most recent arcs feel poorly serviced
7.5
Good
  • CyberConnect2
  • Bandai Namco
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • September 2, 2022

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R Review
GOOD Grief
The best video game adaptation of the wildest manga property gets a better-than-average port. For Jojo’s fans only, though.
The Good
Excessive style
Humorously stylised, authentic presentation
Varied and robust roster
Wealth of novel extras
Support abilities curb the difficulty without patronising the player
The Bad
Lacks the innovations of contemporary fighters
Online matchmaking is a lost cause
The most recent arcs feel poorly serviced
7.5
Good
Written By Nathan Hennessy

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