Few shonen anime series fit popular culture’s continued obsession with western superhero tropes quite as well as My Hero Academia. This long-running manga and anime follows the journey of Izuku Midoriya, a young boy born without powers (or Quirks, as they’re known in the series’ canon) in a world where extraordinary abilities are now the norm. Taken under the wing of super icon All Might, our boy Izuku must learn to be a hero at a school for exceptional talents while navigating the melodrama of education. While it might sound like a cross between the X-Men and Persona, the emotional core of its overarching story has always helped ground the silliness of its concept.
As the premise for a fighting game, it fits My Hero One’s Justice 2 like a glove, with a rock/paper/scissors setup helping determine which type of move works best against another. Counterattacks trump attacks, special attacks defeat unblockable moves and unblockable manoeuvres beat counters and – somewhat unsurprisingly – blocking. It’s a system that requires a certain amount of guesswork and the studying of your opponent's behaviour. Much like the first game, being able to effectively downplay an opponent’s attack is all down to correctly selecting its elemental opposite. It’s a fun setup, although it lacks finesse and we wouldn’t be surprised if some players completely missed the nuance of its move meta and just mashed buttons.
Each bout is fast and action-packed, but the size of each arena and the sheer number of elements on-screen can make keeping track of the action a frustrating exercise in concentration. The camera is obscured a little too often for our liking; even if we're only talking a few seconds, that’s an age in a fast-paced fighting game such as this. The over-the-shoulder view can also mean your own character ends up blocking your view of your opponent (especially if you’re using someone with a larger frame, such as Kendo Rappa). The introduction of a new dodge manoeuvre does help readjust this a little, but it’s definitely not a fix. A roster of over 40 characters adds more variety (a big jump from the first game), but the core combat still feels quite shallow compared to other fighters available on Switch.
Thankfully, Bandai Namco has clearly heard fan complaints about the threadbare nature of the first game’s story mode by introducing a much larger single-player effort. Each event is split into chapters, each containing a showdown between various super-powered familiar faces. These chapters contain various objectives – such as winning a bout with an Ultra Move – which will earn you new unlockable content, such as customisation items. Completing this sizable story will then unlock a ‘Villain Side’ option that enables you to replay bouts from the perspective of the show’s various big bads (as well as unlocking some extra fighters to boot). It is something of a cheeky retread, but it does add an intriguing alternative take on previous events.
There’s also a new arcade mode to sink your teeth into, which serves up a more traditional fighting game ladder setup. You can still select your duo of sidekicks, but now with the added option of electing different ‘routes’ based on a set of cards. Each route gathers together a different gauntlet of fighters and you can unlock new rewards such as concept art and customisation items as you go. In fact, My Hero One's Justice 2 is constantly rewarding you with new stuff, so even those just looking to mash buttons and soak up the anime melodrama will get that constant dopamine hit as you brawl through its substantial content.
Those looking for a little more company in their arena fighting can opt for co-op battles with up to three other players (with two players controlling the respective sidekicks for each side). It’s a neat little approach that makes for some great couch co-op (and it’s here that My Hero One's Justice 2’s messy combat model feels right at home). As you’d expect, there’s also support for online play, although you will need a Nintendo Switch online membership in order to access this part of the game. The netcode we experienced was decent, with mostly stable connections, although the lack of a rematch option does seem like a strange omission for a modern online fighter.
While it inherits many of the problems that made the first game feel quite insubstantial, My Hero One’s Justice 2 is a still a notable step forwards thanks to the introduction of new modes and a far meatier story mode. The action can still be a little messy and it lacks the precision offered by many other anime-inspired fighters, but with over 40 characters from the canon to choose from, an impressively deep customisation system and a constant stream of rewards, this is a still an authentic tribute to the series that My Hero Academia fans will get the most kicks from. Fighting game aficionados will probably go elsewhere, but for those looking for a fun and mostly chaotic fighter will find an enjoyable experience here.