Anime games are in a weird spot. During the late '90s to mid-2000s we would get varied games like Berserk: Guts’ Rage, and Arc System Works’ Fist of the North Star. Aside from Dragon Ball — which in the last few years has gotten an RPG, 2D fighter, and even a Dead By Daylight clone — most anime series are relegated to 3D arena fighting games like My Hero: One’s Justice or the Attack On Titan duology.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is no different. Gone are the days of Capcom’s excellent 2D fighter Heritage for the Future, and Japan-only beat 'em up GioGio’s Bizarre Adventure; instead, console entries over the last decade have followed that same style with games like Eyes of Heaven and appearances in Shonen Jump crossover games like Jump Force. The one outsider was 2013’s All-Star Battle, which was a more traditional fighter. Nine years later, it makes its way to modern platforms in the form of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R, an updated entry that makes some good changes but ultimately doesn’t fix problems the initial game had.
If you're unfamiliar with the source, a quick recap: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a manga series created by Hirohiko Araki as part of Shonen Jump magazine. JoJo tells the tale of one family’s line, with each ‘part’ of the manga following a different member of the Joestar bloodline. Cyberconnect2 has faithfully collated all eight eras of JoJo into a single game for a true all-star battle.
All-Star Battle is a 3D fighter in the vein of games like Tekken, in which battles are fought on a 2D plane with the ability to dodge into the foreground or background. While the game doesn't have the mechanical depth of a traditional fighter, there is room to craft unique combos. It also offers an ‘easy beat’ system in which simply tapping 'Y' will craft its own combo for anyone who struggles with traditional button inputs seen in games like Street Fighter.
Over the course of the manga, new fighting styles were introduced. Stand users are the most prominent in the game’s cast, with users having two modes; one where the character themselves fights and another where they summon their stand to fight. Since stands did not exist until part three of the manga, there are also the Hamon users who play the most similar to typical fighting game characters, with Jonathan Joestar feeling like the game’s equivalent to Ryu. There are also character-specific styles, such as part seven’s cast being on horseback, and characters with Vampirism abilities. Each fighter feels unique, even including the characters with two separate iterations like Jotaro Kujo.
All-Star Battle R replaces the original game's story and campaign modes with the new All-Star Battle mode, which offers up 104 fights spanning each era of JoJo. These fights range from recreations of classic JoJo battles like Stardust Crusaders' Cairo-spanning finale and — the best part — Diamond Is Unbreakable’s finale of a businessman and teenager throwing shards of glass at each other, as well as dream bouts like DIO facing his estranged son Giorno. While you can jump around parts at will, some can get a little tedious due to a lack of stages representing them; with all 17 of the Battle Tendency fights taking place in one arena.
Each fight comes with its own unique set of challenges and modifiers based on what happened in the manga. Completing these challenges rewards you with extra colours, costumes, and collectables. Sadly, there is no quick restart for any of these battles, which becomes frustrating when there are challenges involving not losing a round during a bout, making you return to the menu and load in again. Overall, though, All-Star Battle Mode is a big improvement of the original releases' modes, merging their functionality into one in a satisfying way.
The game also offers an arcade mode, a barebones affair in which you fight through eight random bouts with no rewards to speak of. There’s also online battles with ranked and unranked modes. Sadly, the team has opted not to include rollback netcode in this release, using the same delay-based solution from nine years ago. When you have a good connection online is a solid experience; however, when it’s bad, it's borderline unplayable due to the horrendous input lag.
All-Star Battle R also includes 10 new fighters not in the original release, including a mixture of formerly huge omissions like Foo Fighters and Diego to some out-there picks like Ghiaccio. It’s worth noting that all but three of these newcomers were also included in Eyes of Heaven and reuse animations and models from that game.
A weird oddity in this release lies in its treatment of Stone Ocean (of which the anime is currently ongoing). All-Star Battle mode only includes one canon fight from the part. The Space Center stage and the ASB version of Pucci are totally absent from this release, with the developer opting to use a different version of the character with abilities from earlier in the story. While these are being added later on, it feels weird to remove content present in the original game.
Fan service is undoubtedly the strongest aspect of the game. It’s a total love letter to JoJo and its history. From the gallery modes and fully customisable character taunts — with a litany of quotes from the series, and even characters from the manga narrating the menus. However, gameplay is where the fan service really shines, in the way that concepts from the series are adapted to fighting game techniques. Small things like Diavolo’s dash being attributed to his time skipping powers and Josuke's super-filling the opponent's health bar before pummeling it back down had us giddy.
One aspect that is a bit of a letdown is the complete omission of music from the anime — tunes like Fighting Gold and Awaken, My Masters would have made for fantastic background music. And while the omission of the licensed tracks is understandable, the idea of fighting to Jodeci’s Freek’n You sounds incredible.
The Switch version runs at a solid 30FPS like the original PS3 release, as opposed to the updated 60 on other consoles, with the only noticeable downgrade from the original being the lack of NPC models in the background of some stages like Rome. While not a huge issue, it’s a shame to see the Switch version downgraded compared to much older hardware.
While you won't find an Evo-calibre fighting game here depth-wise, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R is miles ahead of your typical 3D-arena anime fighter affair. It would be a hard game to recommend to someone unfamiliar with the franchise, as without the fan service aspect you’re left with a basic fighter with some barebones modes. However, for those who adore JoJo, it’s an excellent example of how to do fan service right, and one where you can feel the love and adoration of the franchise's 35-year history flowing through every part of the package.