When Jump Force was first announced during the Microsoft conference at E3 this year, a select few of us from Geeks of Color were screaming. We’ve (Jordan and I in particular) spent ages arguing over who would win in a fight between Luffy and Naruto (Naruto), who had the better show (Naruto), and why there wasn’t a better game to really satisfy the needs of Shonen Jump fans. So, yeah, we were pretty excited at the announcement.
Jump Force was the first game we got to demo at E3, and it was because we were so damn excited from the trailer alone. The visuals place popular characters like Naruto, Luffy, and Goku in an almost post-apocalyptic New York setting, battling it out for dominance. It’s hard not to go back to being a 12-year-old anime nerd just from watching the trailer.
Initially, Jump Force plays like many standard fighting games. You pick your team of 3 versus the computer (or other player’s) team of three and select a stage to battle it out. In this particular preview, the selections were limited to about 2 of the most popular characters from each popular title and only 2 stages. In this stage of the game’s development, that makes sense, especially since the map I did get to play (Times Square) was certainly fleshed out. The map’s camera follows you pretty comfortably, and I felt that in the first few seconds of the battle, I got a pretty good lay of the land. i did find myself wanting to run around a little more, and the map itself was fairly linear in where it would allow you to go; riding Frieza’s busted body down the side of a building wasn’t an obvious option to me, which is fine, but I WANTED it, y’all.
I played as Sasuke, obviously, and was really impressed by his moveset. The rest of the team played as Goku and Sanji, and we were able to get a pretty good idea of how well-rounded they are. The movesets are all pretty faithful to each of the individual stories, without making mistakes like Goku being too powerful, for example. Little touches like Susanoo appearing during the fight with Sasuke show that there was some pretty careful consultation with the people that actually write these characters’ stories.
If you’re wondering, Light and Ryuk didn’t make an appearance in the demo, which only leads me to wonder how they’ll be incorporated into the final game. The developers have expressed a few times that they’d be too powerful to join the fight, which means they’ll probably end up having an interesting role in the game’s story.
As for the gameplay itself, I’m worried about one thing: I was able to beat it, and pretty quickly, too. This is saying something, because I’m comically bad at fighting games. Without really having to learn any strategy or even the button combos on the fly, I was able to knock out my opponents in under 2 minutes. I hope that this level of ease doesn’t translate to the final version. I know that what fans have been craving for years is a real, faithful adaptation of their favorite shonen characters, and there’s no reason that Goku should be handily getting worked over by Sasuke. Of course, this was just a demo, and difficulty is one of the easier fixes to make in a game’s production.
Overall, Jump Force really feels what I’ve been waiting for as a shonen fan. Bandai-Namco has been working pretty closely with Shonen Jump, and the game’s coming out as a marker for the company’s 50th anniversary. Just based on the faithfulness to the characters and the details in the environment alone, this feels like a pretty great tribute to 50 years of fostering manga fans everywhere. I’m excited for Jump Force to hit next year.