'JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure' is one of my favourite manga/anime series ever. Hirohiko Araki’s truly bizarre creation has influenced the Japanese entertainment industry since its debut in 1986 and has formed beloved franchises like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear into what they are today. Even now the ongoing anime has increased the audience greatly and the original manga is still running to this very day in Japan.
Handling such a culturally important series must be very stressful for any game developer, but CyberConnect2 proved their worth to the JoJo branding with 2013’s JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, a 2D fighting game that celebrated the series’s past and present. Fast forward to 2015 (in Japan at least) and CyberConnect2 continued their JoJo game series with the release of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven, which just released in North America on June 28th, 2016, and Europe on July 1st, 2016.
Story (Spoilers for the anime/manga)
The game assumes you know the anime/manga well before heading in, so I’m going to do the same in discussing the story. So just to be safe, if you haven’t watched/read until at least the end of Stardust Crusaders, definitely do so before playing this game.
Eyes of Heaven is the first JoJo's Bizarre Adventure game to ever feature a completely original story overseen and supervised by Hirohiko Araki himself. It begins during the final encounter with Jotaro and DIO at the end of Stardust Crusaders, followed by the final farewell between Jotaro, Polnareff (localised as ‘Eiffel’ in the game) and Joseph. While leaving for Japan, Jotaro and Joseph are suddenly stopped by a young Robert E.O. Speedwagon and Polnareff returns claiming he’s been attacked by the presumed-dead Avdol and Iggy. Iggy and Avdol reveal that they have been sent by “The Noble One” and after being defeated by Jotaro and Joseph, are healed back to normal by Speedwagon. Speedwagon explains that a piece of the Saint Corpse (ripped right out of Steel Ball Run) led him through time and that he is trying to collect all of the pieces of it, while also investigating an anomaly that is bringing people back from the dead and slowly destroying the space-time continuum.
Throughout the course of the story you’ll be playing as every JoJo and a huge number of supporting characters and I have to admit that my favourite part of the story mode was seeing the characters from every part interact with each other, especially the characters who appear in multiple parts of the manga. Particularly part 2’s version of Joseph Joestar and part 3’s older Joseph constant bickering and mocking of each other. The story is really well written, taking every single moment it can to reference the manga and celebrate the nearly 30-year long run of the series. You can tell the writers really understood the characters. Sadly, near the end of the story, there is way too much padding and filler just to artificially lengthen game-time to a point where it becomes really obnoxious. I spent a lot of time skipping cutscenes during chapters 10 and 11 of the Story Mode, which is a shame because, as I’ve stated, the characters are so well written. It doesn’t help that the plot, in general, is pretty easily predictable, that’s not something that a lot of people really care about when it comes to JoJo stories, but it was irritating.
All said and done, though, for the first ever original story in a JoJo game, there are way worse ways this game’s plot could’ve gone. Especially being a crossover, which would never work in the manga’s timeline. The filler near the end of the story seems like a victim of lazy writing and artificial length to the game and makes the Story Mode as a whole more tedious in the final chapters. This is a good Story Mode that tells a fun story with well-written dialogue that long-time fans of the series will love.
This is the first game in the fighting game series to feature full 3D arenas more akin to the Dragon Ball Z and Naruto games of the same style. Choosing from the cast of over 50 playable characters, with very few clones (at least in terms of gameplay), the player and a secondary character (controlled by CPU or a second human player) fight in 2v2 battles in locations from the manga. The gameplay is similar to CyberConnect2'sNaruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series where the combat is mainly focused on its combo systems. You have your light attacks, heavy attacks and special attacks. These special attacks have a cool-down period so you’re advised to use them wisely, especially since they do the most damage. You can also perform ‘Dual Combos’ and ‘Dual Heat Attacks’, attacks that trigger special animations that depending on what characters you choose to play with, can change the dialogue and animations of the attacks. These don’t strengthen the attacks, but they do look nice.
Like All-Star Battle, each character falls into a certain ‘Character Mode’ depending on what form of fighting they use. These are ‘Hamon Users’, ‘Vampires’, ‘Mode Users’, ‘Stand Users’ and ‘Mounted Fighters’. Hamon Users such as Jonathan and Joseph Joestar are very fast and agile characters, but require the use of Hamon Breathing in order to fully utilise their skills. Vampires, such as Dio and Vanilla Ice, can regenerate a bit of their health immediately after being hit and some can suck their opponents blood to gain more. Mode Users, such as Kars and Wammu can gain stat boosts from levelling up in battle.
Most of the game’s cast consist of Stand Users, each of these fighters have their own combos and skills and no Stand User plays the same as another. Jotaro and Josuke are two short-ranged, yet powerful Stand Users, except Jotaro is quite stronger than Josuke, but Josuke makes up for this in his speed. Then take a character like Koichi, who is heavily reliant on zoning, but can evolve his stand to give him entirely different move sets to lay traps for his enemies. There’s a reason these characters take up over 30 slots in the roster.
I should also mention the Mounted Fighters too. There are only a few of these characters since horseback characters only make an appearance in ‘Steel Ball Run’, but these fighters use projectiles as their primary attacks and are usually wise to attack from a distance. They have a certain ammo meter for their weapons that replenishes as time goes on and they can even dismount from their horses. I’ve neglected to mention this thus far, but the game consists of many hybrid characters, such as Old Joseph Joestar being a Hamon/Stand User. This way it keeps the variety at an all-time high, while also staying true to the characters and, by association, the source material.
From the start you have 3 game modes to try, ‘Story Mode’, which I’ve discussed already, ‘Free Battle’, your typical “VS” mode, and ‘Network’ for playing online. The actual missions in Story Mode consist of either fighting an enemy in context to the story, playing short mini-games or fighting in hoard battles. The hoard battles in particular constantly got on my nerves, not because they’re bad, because they’re not. They actually made me realise how much I’d like a JoJo ‘Warriors’ game. No, the thing that annoyed me was the support CPU’s AI in these stages. It’s practically non-existent. The CPU will literally stand there and get hit for no reason and it makes me wonder if the CPU was programmed properly for these stages. You’ll also find yourself traversing through the ‘Exploration Stages’. Basically, one of the battle stages opened up and filled with characters you can talk to briefly and some side-missions you can take part in in-between main stages. A lot of these side-missions also include re-creating famous fights from the manga such as Kakyoin’s showdown with DIO in part 3.
‘Free Battle’ is exactly what you’d expect it to be, play against CPU, play with CPU or play against another player in regular matches. As for online battles, they seem very solid. In the few matches I tried, the game seemed to run quite smoothly, and my inputs seemed fairly responsive throughout the fights.
Eyes of Heaven takes the fighting game series into 3D in a smart way by sticking true to All-Star Battle's mechanics, while also making it seem like a gradual transition like how many franchises in the past, such as Mario and Zelda, have. Maybe not to the extent of those games and definitely not as smoothly, but still enough for it to grow upon with possible future instalments. The designs of the stages are constant traps, making you worry about falling off the edge more than getting hit by your enemy and the camera can be downright terrible at times, but other than that it’s hard to find much to complain about as far as the core gameplay goes. It’s just a lot of problems surrounding it that keep it from being top notch.
One of the most noticeable things right from the start with Eyes of Heaven is that it re-uses pretty much all of its returning characters’ character models from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle and while this may come as a disappointment to some, personally I can’t really complain because All-Star Battle had a good art style and captured the manga’s artwork in 3D beautifully. One thing I can complain about definitely in the graphics department though is that, while the game was primarily developed for the PlayStation 3 in Japan and also released on PlayStation 4, the PS4 version of the game looks identical to the Japanese PS3 version, minus a few lighting and shadow effects.
At times the game barely looks like it’s even running at 1080p on the PS4 which is insane. There’s a lot that could’ve been improved, such as a lack of anti-aliasing in certain areas and the 30fps cap. Yes, this is a fighting game on PS4 (a port of a PS3 game none-the-less), that runs at 30 frames-per-second. It’s almost as if the PlayStation 4 port of this game was just made because they forgot that the PlayStation 3 isn’t relevant anymore. Again, the art style of the game is great, but the game still looks like a last-gen game which I find extremely confusing considering that it released in December 2015 in Japan.
The voice-over track in the game is fully voiced in Japanese from most of the cast of the anime (minus a few from Diamond is Unbreakable because this released before that was even confirmed to be in production), with English subtitles localised by Bandai Namco. Once again, because of this, certain character’s and Stand’s names have been censored for copyright reasons, even though throughout this review I’ve been using the uncensored names. Characters like Polnareff have been renamed ‘Eiffel’, Crazy Diamond has been changed to ‘Shining Diamond’, Pet Shop to ‘Animal Shop’, and my personal favourite, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, named after the AC/DC song, has been renamed to ‘Filthy Acts at a Reasonable Price’. Brilliant!
I personally don’t mind these changes, it’s out of Bandai’s control unless they want a lawsuit or to pay tons of cash in royalties to a bunch of celebrities. What does confuse me a bit is why they left in the characters mentioning these censored names in spoken dialogue. For example, during cutscenes you can clearly hear Josuke shout “Crazy Diamond!”, but the subtitles will read “Shining Diamond!”. It’s a little inconsistency that’s been apparent in the official sub of the anime and All-Star Battle that I’d be complaining if absent, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
As for the music… CyberConnect2 got very lazy and instead of composing an entirely new soundtrack for the game or licensing some music from the anime, decided to re-use a lot of All-Star Battle's soundtrack. Not all of it, but enough of it to become obnoxious. What’s worse is that the only song I can really remember from All-Star Battle's soundtrack was the main menu music. It’s very boring considering that the anime has some great background music, leaving out the opening and closing songs. They really dropped the ball here because it really seems like a cop out on their end.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:Eyes of Heaven is a fun 3D brawler that I can confidently recommend to fans of fighting games and JoJo… and only fans of fighting games and JoJo. Apart from really solid gameplay that saves it from falling flat, there’s nothing to see here. The story’s fun, but eventually outstays it’s welcome, the visuals are out-dated (despite the great art direction) and the music is mostly reused and entirely unmemorable. That said, I definitely do see myself revisiting it with friends in the future for some fun, competitive gameplay because there is a great hook with the combat in this game that does leave the player feeling like they’re controlling a fight in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
|+ Great fan-service and references to its source.||– Story Mode outstays its welcome near its end.|
|+ Fun, satisfying combat.||– Outdated PS3 visuals on PS4 version|
|+ Great character interactions in Story Mode.||– Cop out re-used soundtrack.|