Anime is a favorite form of entertainment for many. There’s something for everyone, whether you like high-octane action, or simple slice-of-life comedies. One of the biggest genre of anime is the Shonen genre. This genre is comprised of animes in which action is a huge focus. These are animes like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, etc. These are some of the most popular animes, and naturally have tie-in video games to go along with them.
Often times, these games take to form of fighting games, given the fact that fighting sometimes, if not often will take centerstage. However in esports, the only anime fighter to reach true mainstream success, is 2018’s Dragon Ball FighterZ. But why is that? There have been plenty of anime fighters in the past, and the animes they’re based off of often have a widespread impact, so more of them should be a success, right?
WHAT MANY DO WRONG
Many anime fighters, especially nowadays will come with a gimmick or a big selling point outside of the fact that they are based off of an existing property. In Dragon Ball Xenoverse 1 & 2, it was that you could create your own character and help rewrite the series history back to normal. A similar selling point was featured in the recently releashed Jump Force. Although that game, like its predecessor J-Stars Victory Vs had a different selling point. For those two games the main selling point was the story that tied all the major shonen series at the time together.
However, a huge problem arises with these anime fighters, at least in terms of being viable competitive fighters. Almost all of these games trade gameplay for fanservice. Now lets get one thing clear: These games are still fun, and can still be enjoyed. However from a purely competitive standpoint, these games simply don’t work.
The Xenoverse Games and Jump Force
One of the biggest selling points in the Xenoverse games and Jump Force is the ability to create your own characters. In both games you could outfit your character with gear and outfits from your quests, but also and more importantly, give them attacks that other fighters use (with the exception of DIO and Jotaro Kujo in Jump Force). From a fans point-of-view, these are great additions to the game, however from a purely competitive standpoint, these games are effectively unplayable.
Custom characters are essentially wildcards in these game. Since they can have any combination of moves and attacks, it makes any attempt to counterpick or place these characters onto tiers impossible. They’re either overpowered, or severely underpowered, with many different variations inbetween. The Xenoverse games have it a bit worse in this regard. Characters can have multiple variations under one character slot, each with it’s own set of moves. This also effects the original characters, with even some of those characters can be edited too.
J-Stars Victory VS
J-Stars has a different issue, but an issue that a lot of anime fighters somehow continue to run into. In J-Stars, the gameplay is pretty 2-dimmensional. The basic gameplay basically boils down to one formula. That formula is: Run to the enemy, block their laggy attacks, attack them a build meter, and hit them with your super. Rinse an repeat until all opponents are down. This bogs down the entire experience, making it unfun to play, even casually. Even a character like Joseph Joestar can only make the game enjoyable for maybe an hour at best. It’s not just J-Stars either though. Xenoverse 1 had this issue, Eyes of Heaven had this issue, even My Hero’s Ones Justice had it.
These games often devolve into button-mashers, which often quickly die off in the competitive community. For anime fighters however, these game still live on through their communities, sometimes with a fair amount of reach outside them. However, there is one anime fighter that while very close to being a truly good competitive fighter, fell short. This one isn’t even commonly talked about in it’s own community, making its fate a bit more tragic.
JOJO’S ALLSTAR BATTLE: SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR
In 2013, Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 released Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: AllStar Battle. This game was the long awaited spiritual sequel to 1999’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future (Jojo’s Venture as it’s sometimes called). The original Jojo’s Venture was a 1v1 2D fighter developed by CAPCOM and Virgin Interactive. The game was a very complex fighter with a very rewarding and high skill curve, with many unique characters. It’s still a cult classic among Jojo fans today, even still being played competitively online today. The only real complaint the game received (outside of Hol Horse), was the lack of series diversity. Every character in Jojo’s Venture is from the series 3rd part: Stardust Crusaders
AllStar Battle aimed to fix this issue, by incorporating every existing Jojo part to date in the game. The roster contains characters from Part 1’s Phantom Blood, all the way to Part 8’s Jojolion. An added bonus is that some characters will have special callbacks to their respective parts. Part 2’s Joseph Joestar has his “Next you’ll say” trick. Part 4’s Higashikata Josuke gets mad at insults to his hair, and so on. From a fans perspective, this game is perfect. This is where things begin to fall apart.
Doomed from the start
AllStar Battle is different from it’s PlayStation 1 counterpart. The most obvious change aside from the roster is the change in style. Rather then it being a 2D fighter, it is a 3D arena fighter, much like Tekken. You have your weak, medium and heavy attacks, a button to summon your stand or charge your Hamon, and a dodge button. This all looks to have the framework of a pretty good fighter, but two things drastically hold it back.
A baffling decision
For whatever reason, the developers decided to lock the games framerate at 30fps. This incredibly baffling decision makes AllStar Battle a very slow game when compared to other fighters. What makes this weirder is that Jojo’s Venture was able to run at a smooth 60fps on weaker hardware. It just seems like a weird oversight, especially when Bandai Namco had released fighters that ran at 60fps before. Heck, they worked with Nintendo on Sm4sh, which came out a year later and also ran at 60fps.
No we don’t mean the stand, we mean how combat in AllStar Battle works. The controls are fairly straight-forward, and are similar to Jojo’s Venture. However, combos seem to be secondary in this game. The mechanics very often will make spamming seem like the most viable option. A good majority of moves come out very fast, have very low endlag, and a high amount of stun. This makes constant use of these moves good for dealing damage, and even starting combos. This devolves the gameplay into “who can spam first”. These flaws gave AllStar Battle a short run in the competitive spotlight, and was overshadowed by 2015’s Eyes of Heaven by Jojo fans.
How FighterZ got it right
Dragon Ball FighterZ was a game built by the ever famous Arc System Works. Unlike other anime fighters, Dragon Ball FighterZ was developed as a competitive fighter first, and a Dragon Ball game second. Both aspects of it however, are masterfully balanced out to create a truly wonderful experience. FighterZ boasts a large roster of iconic characters with a brand new story for fans to enjoy. It’s deep game curve and high-skill high-reward system keeps its playerbase coming back. This game understands what makes a good fighting game, as well as what Dragon Ball fans want to see in a Dragon Ball game. This is why it rises above the other anime fighters. We can only hope other Shonen games follow FighterZ in quality.
Featured Images source: https://www.cgmagonline.com/reviews/jojos-bizarre-adventure-star-battle-review/