Jump Force debuted on the PC platform via Valve’s Steam distribution platform last February 15, but given the state of PC ports these days, we waited until at least the first patch just to give the developer (Spike Chunsoft) a chance to iron out the launch day kinks.
For the uninitiated, Jump Force is a 3 vs 3 3D arena fighting game that features a wide range of characters originating from various mangas from Weekly Shonen Jump. In no particular order, the game features characters from Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, Rouroni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, City Hunter, Hokuto no Ken, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Black Clover, My Hero Academia, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Quest, and Death Note.
Jump Force is basically the equivalent of a kid smashing mismatched action figures against each other, and as such there’s really no need for a plausible explanation for how these various characters from different realities ended up meeting (and fighting) each other. But the basic premise is that a malevolent force used a powerful magical artefact to bring all of the Shonen Jump’s fictional worlds to the real world, stranding some of their popular protagonists and villains along with you, the player, who gets to create a custom avatar that will take on the skills of various shonen heroes.
Right off the bat, we’ll admit that the story isn’t anything to write about. Even within the shonen genre, JUMP FORCE’s story is rudimentary at best. And coupled with the technical problems consisting of clunky amateurish cutscene animations, make for a story mode that is cringe-worthy even for the most obsessed of shonen fans. It boasts cutscene production values that would have been laughable on a Playstation 2 game, and shamefully inexcusable in current hardware.
That is not to say that the visuals look bad. Far from it. Jump Force looks good. It relies on aesthetics that bring to mind plastic action figures. They look bad in cutscenes because they’re made to act like living beings, and plastic action figures can’t really convey emotions real well. But during actual fights, you’ll be hard pressed to find any flaws – the fights in Jump Force are flashy, hyper-kinetic, and do justice to the characters that they feature.
Another thing worth noting about the story is that yes, the story is formulaic pap that no decent shonen fan would consider groundbreaking. But the appearance of characters from different franchises does have novelty to offer: character interactions between characters offer interesting insights and can even settle age-old debates: Who’s the better swordsman between Zoro and Kenshin? What would a dragon-inspired character like Sabo think of an actual dragon like Dai? Would the shinigamis from Bleach have any trouble with Yusuke Urameshi? These interactions come in the form of sidemissions that consists of a brief cutscene and a match. They are worth playing through at least once.
Balance is something that is hard to talk about when it comes to Jump Force. This is a 3D arena fighter, and fighting game aficionados know that there are a handful of 3D arena fighters that are balanced enough to be tournament friendly. So don’t expect polish in the same level as Tekken or Street Fighter. Jump Force is all about fulfilling shonen fans’ power fantasies. Treating it as a tournament fighter will only lead to frustration.
The mechanics also leave a lot of room for complaints. The game is exclusively 3 vs 3 for now. But unlike Dragon Ball FighterZ or One Piece Burning Blood, the characters in Jump Force share a single health bar. This makes for very short and unsatisfying fights if your opponent’s skill is way below or above yours. It also makes the actual 3 vs 3 mechanic slightly less impressive, as the extra characters’ only use at this point are for assists. The match is usually over before you even get the chance or the desire to switch. We hope a future patch adds 1 vs 1 and a way to lengthen matches (such as lowering the damage or increasing the health bars.)
On the PC side of things, it is always worth looking into how optimized the ports are. And in JUMP FORCE’s case, we’re glad that Spike Chunsoft at least knows how to optimize their game. Barring technical gaffes such as the lengthy loading times and inability to skip cutscenes (both of which were already addressed in the first patch), the game runs a smooth capped 60FPS at 900p on a low-end PC (GTX 1050 2GB, Pentium G4560, 8GB DDR4) with everything set to ULTRA. You could go for increased resolution if you have stronger hardware. And there’s also the option to cap the game at 30FPS if your hardware is weaker.
The online, is sadly, exactly what you would expect from the PC. Pick any 3D arena fighter on Steam and look at what people are saying about the online – not enough people playing, rage quitters, laggy because of server distance, etc. It is what it is, and we offer no excuses for the game except for the fact that most of these are part and parcel of the genre on the PC, and can hardly be attributed solely to the game.
At the end of the day, JUMP FORCE lets you scratch the 3D shonen fighter itch and does a serviceable job of celebrating Weekly Shonen Jump’s 50th anniversary. There are better anime fighters out there, but there are characters that you’d only get to play on JUMP FORCE and there’s enough polish in there to justify at least a rent. Price is another factor that you’d have to consider your own. The base game is $60 and comes with 40 playable characters, while the season pass is $40 and comes with 9 additional characters – the details of which are still unannounced at the time of writing. Barring regional pricing, we’d recommend trying out the base game at first. Wait until they announce what you are getting as DLC.