If you’re a gamer who needs to be grounded and have never delved into the manga backgrounds of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, you’re going to have a few issues understanding more or less everything that falls in your direction in All Star Battle. As Manga is still seen as being a more or less niche market in Europe and North America, it’s either a bold or foolhardy move from Namco Bandai to mass release CyberConnect2’s fighting extravaganza and count on word-of-mouth raves doing the rounds. Will it earn a new set of fans or will it end up in the bargain bucket?
Context be damned! It’s the fighting gamers care about and it comes in shovels-full. You possess the power to create favorable light, medium and heavy attacks, an awesome dodgem feature, more unique specials than I’ve ever encountered previously, and a huge crew of unique, playable characters. All sounds great and well above board so far, yet it can actually take a while to find this basic information out.
So there is no tutorial whatsoever. My friend Kiko says it’s just like the Cossacks. You take the baby and throw it in the Dneiper, okay? If it lives it’s going to be a warrior. Otherwise, it dies. This is a good idea if you’re modus operandi is elitist and hardcore. Not so much for everybody else. Still, the practice mode will improve your techniques with the characters. Nevertheless, the moves list available for each fighter consists of around 10+ attacks. Practicing each one well means you must manually select it from the list each time. Indeed, you’ll soon find yourself a surprisingly vicious, competent brawler. You can perform most of the advanced techniques available after a while, but you’ll really need a notebook and need to make notes unless you own a photographic memory. I would call it an interesting improvement on Street Fighter.
There are scores of characters available. Some will appeal more than others. Some are spirits. Others are cavalry. None of them are complete without special stage-related trigger attacks, such as being run over by a squad of chariots or having teetering chandeliers fall on your head. This is for sure not your average fighting game!
The modes available are mostly your standard fair, there’s the classic arcade mode, where the goal is a high score. There’s also a convoluted story mode with no context, unless you already know the tale. Despite there being generally not a huge amount of content for the single-player-oriented players besides collecting the usual costumes, taunts and other little customizable tweaks, it’s the devout players that will get the most out of the game. As is, I’m told by some of manga freak friends that every stance, gag and special attack is ripped with great accuracy and love from the source material. It will be a fantastic treat to the fans and the gloriously over-the-top special moves can’t help but bring a smile.
Difficulty in fighting games is often a subjective matter; All Star Battle is no real exception, the first few story mode battles can be swept under the rug with simple mashings of the light attack button. To clear the game and subsequently test your mettle online, however, will require dexterous use of the game’s mechanics and, as always, plenty of practice. Play it for an hour and you’ll get past contextual frustration and begin delving into the intricacies of the combat. That will, naturally, relieve any leftover doubts. If you’re patient and like a certain level of culture cross-pollination, this game is a good way to wade gently in the manga pool.