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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R tries to balance modern touches with big omissions
A dated but definitive anime fighter that goes big when it should have gone bold.
This archaic and arcadey take on the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure universe manages to offer up a comprehensive package for fans, even if it fumbles when it comes to being a definitive one.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R review
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is one of the best-selling manga of all time, but it’s hard to pin down what’s so compelling about Hirohiko Araki's neverending story without coming off like a fanatic. The zany saga is far from a cult classic, but it's always had the same indulgent vibe.
Developed by Cyberconnect2 and released almost a decade ago, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle attempted to use punches, kicks, air juggles and assists as a Rosetta Stone for the series' specific appeal.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is a timely and content-heavy update to that 2013 release, but it's hard not to wish it was better at being a brawler or better at capturing the x-factor that makes the source material soar. Instead of being an echo of everything fun about the anime fighters, All-Star R often feels like an unmitigated reminder that this subgenre is a double-edged sword.
Cyberconnect2's second swing at bringing the Joestar legacy to life is just as chaotic and colourful at first, but it can't quite rise above the fray of its own fan service.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a Japanese manga series written and drawn by Hirohiko Araki.
The series has been running since 1987 and is said to have more than 120 volumes in circulation as of December 2021. That figure is a little vague as it refers to copies printed (but not necessarily sold), but the excitement around the series' various and ongoing anime adaptations suggests that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure isn't likely to fall into obscurity anytime soon. It's not quite as big a megahit as One Piece, Dragon Ball or Naruto, but JoJo is still a cultural phenomenon that's hung around for almost forty years.
The series itself is broken into multiple parts, each centring a different member of the Joestar bloodline. For instance, the first instalment of the series (Part 1: Phantom Blood) is about Jonathan Joestar while the follow-up (Part 2: Battle Tendency) focuses on the exploits of his grandson, Joeseph Joestar.
Each new instalment of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is loosely connected by the aforementioned family tree, though each part of the eccentric series brings with it dramatic changes to the setting, cast and genre. That dynamism is a bit part of the appeal. You never know quite what's around the corner with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, but you can bet on it being pretty weird.
Launching alongside the latest batch of new episodes of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime on Netflix, All-Star Battle R is a revised version of the 2013 fighter that boasts a new single-player mode, 9 new playable characters (with more due to arrive later down the line via season pass), new audio acting (pulled from the current anime) and 5 new stages.
The re-release also include several under-the-hood tweaks (and a reworked multiplayer component) designed to make the PS3-era fighter feel a little friendlier to modern audiences. It's worth keeping that last one in mind before you start comparing All-Star Battle R too much to the high bar set by fare like Arc System Works' Dragonball FighterZ.
What's here feels ripped right out of 2013. Sometimes for better, but often for the worse. On one hand, All-Star Battle R runs incredibly well even on the limited hardware available to the Nintendo Switch. On the other, the game often both looks and feels dated, shallow and very much of its time.
Familiar staples from that era of the genre are presented and accounted for, but there’s nothing as interesting or cinematic as Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode or ambitious as the roguelike campaign found in Killer Instinct.
When it comes to its single-player offering, All-Star Battle R doesn't shy away from breaking out all the classics. There's a gauntlet-like Arcade mode, a more self-contained Versus mode and a new All-Star Battle mode that replaces the Story mode that appeared in the original release.
Rather than re-tell the story of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure via dialogue boxes as that solo campaign did, All-Star Mode instead offers up a buffet of iconic match-ups and non-canon throw-downs that you can tackle or ignore at your leisure.
For obvious reasons, the excision of a dedicated story mode here makes All-Star Battle R difficult to recommend to those who aren't already immersed in or familiar with the source material. Every aspect of the package here assumes that you already know all there is to know about each of JoJo's various instalments, from Phantom Blood all the way through to Jojolion, the latest in the series.
Many of the encounters in the new All-Star Battle mode come with balance-breaking modifiers that accentuate and lean into the source material in fun ways.
For example, one mission recreates the dramatic showdown between Giorno Giovanna and Diavolo that serves as the climax of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind by having the former start the fight in a powered-up state that would otherwise take a full three bars of energy and a combo to activate.
Unfortunately, all this pageantry ends up being more fun in concept than it is in practice. All-Star Battle fights are typically either a complete pushover or over-tuned to the point where it feels borderline unfair. You can spend in-game points (earned through play) to unlock modifiers that tilt things back in your favour. However, many of these power-ups feel so advantageous that it feels like you're practically cheating your way to victory.
While All-Star Battle R does bring together characters and locations from across the series' history, the time and attention it gives to each part is not divided equally. When it comes to both playable characters and stages, the playlist here leans heavily on Part 3 - Stardust Crusaders and Part 4 - Diamond is Unbreakable in a way that's unsurprising but still detrimental to the experience as a whole. In addition, the fact that this remaster of All-Star Battle has been timed to launch alongside episodes of the anime adaptation of Part 6 - Stone Ocean does make the relatively small amount of characters, stages and All-Star Battle encounters from that arc feel especially odd.
Playing and winning fights earns you in-game points, which can then be spent on in-game medals, models, music, voice options and concept art. It’s all fun fan service, but it’s not nearly as sticky of a reason to keep playing as the game seems to think it is.
Aside from an in-game glossary, there's almost no effort made to explain how the game's colourful characters and stages featured in All-Star Battle R fit together. Given the complexity of the series' mythology and lore to date, it would have been neat if there was at least an attempt to offer an olive branch to newcomers or even a basic primer on the parts of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure that haven’t yet been adapted into anime like Part 7 - Steel Ball Run.
As someone who has already had my brain forever warped this series and its mythology of Stands, stone masks and super-powered vampires, I can't quite imagine what it's like to try and grok what's going on here without the proper context. That said, I'm pretty confident that it's not great.
Despite these metastructural missteps, All-Star Battle's biggest strength remains more or less intact. The idiosyncratic cast of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is still a fantastic foundation to build a fighting game atop.
With a new total of 50 playable fighters, the amount of character diversity here rivals that of games like Super Smash Bros. The roster here is divided by Battle Styles. These range from Vampirism and Hamon to Mounted Combat and, of course, JoJo’s signature Stands.
As you'd expect, that last one is the most common ingredient in the mix. Summoning a Stand instantly doubles a character's move-set and reach, but it also increases their hit box. At its best, pitting characters with different Battle Styles against one another can sometimes feel like a brawl between fighters from entirely different franchises.
New to All-Star Battle R, fights now also see you pick out a second character that you can call in for an assist when needed. Some of these tag-ins are offensive while others offer other kinds of utility. In any case, this doubling down on more-is-more brings with it a ton of additional strategic diversity and depth.
It also makes for some ridiculous on-screen combinations. The small town serial killer Kira never faced off against the icicle-wielding parrot Pet Shop, so watching the two collide on-screen is a hilarious treat.
Beyond the game's gargantuan roster, All-Star Battle R is an otherwise-conventional (if streamlined) anime fighter. Moment to moment, it's a little closer to something like Guilty Gear or BlazBlue than it is Street Fighter or Tekken.
The controls and combo systems in place are relatively intuitive, making for scrappy match-ups that are all about taking big swings and then pushing the advantage for all its worth. Land one hit, and you’re probably good to get a few more in for good measure. Dishing out and taking damage helps your character build up energy, which can then be spent on powerful special moves that can swing a losing fight back in your favour.
While the fighting in All-Star R mostly takes place on a 2D plane, hitting the dodge button will rotate and shift the background around you and your opponent. This little touch makes dodging feel far cooler than it should. What's more, your character will even strike an appropriate pose if you get the timing right.
Unfortunately, despite the mostly invisible revisions intended to make this PS3-era fighting game feel more modern, the action in All-Stars R often feels frustratingly fungible and imprecise. All too often, I’d accidentally trigger the wrong special move or fail a block or dodge for reasons that weren't always readily apparent.
The beauty of titles like Dragonball FighterZ isn't just that they capture the kinetic flashiness of the source material, but that the action is incredibly easy to read and the systems underpinning it are very fun to engage with.
In contrast, All-Star Battle R's sprawling roster can also be very hard to read on a visual level and all the additional complexity in the mix rarely feels like it translates into an experience that's all that much more fun. You can tell that the team behind this game have really put the effort in when it comes to making each character's animations reflect their personality and flair, but there's just so much in the mix that trying to keep track of each character's move-set quickly becomes exhausting and unwieldy.
With that in mind, it's hard not to wish that this remaster had shipped with fewer new characters and a few more new stages. If you’re approaching the All-Star Battle mode linearly, you’re likely to be visiting the same stages over and over again.
Most stages in All-Star Battle R incorporate some sort of interactive hazard. This additional flavour is appreciated, but the fact that many of these environmental elements functional identically served to limit their appeal to the realm of fan service.
Alongside the standard ranked and unranked online matchmaking, an attempt has been made to reinvigorate All-Star Battle R’s online player base via new mission events. These change each week but offer the chance to unlock new outfits and cosmetics if certain themed in-fight objectives are met. It’s a neat idea, but ultimately another uninspired attempt to add stickiness to gameplay that is anything but.
Even if you are more competitively inclined, it’s hard not to be a little sceptical about the idea of playing All-Star Battle R online given that it doesn’t have rollback netcode. This feature is considered a necessity among modern fighting game fans for good reasons, and its absence brings with it familiar and predictable pitfalls.
Is JoJo's Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R worth the money?
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is often disarming in how earnest it is about being quite so ridiculous, and while All-Star Battle R tries incredibly hard to emulate that indelible quality, it can’t quite manage to meet those expectations.
There’s a gleeful thrill that comes with watching a game try to encapsulate absolutely everything contained within the JoJo universe, but it’s quickly soured by how flattened it all feels. What's here is generic enough to accommodate the sprawling scope of the JoJo saga, but it's not quite eccentric enough to do it justice.
There are moments where the on-screen action shines, but those just serve to make the awkward pauses between them feel like that much more of a drag.
The best fights in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure do have a formula, but in its efforts to repackage that appeal All-Star Battle R ends up missing the point entirely. It can bring in the voice actors from the anime and it can boast one of the largest rosters in a modern fighting game, but it can’t quite get the vibe right.
Perhaps the most telling detail isn't what's here, but what's missing. I shouldn't be so disheartened that the best music from the anime isn't here, but if the experience of playing All-Star Battle R is going to fail to hit the same highs it might as well milk bangers like "Great Days" or "Il vento d'oro" for all they're worth.
There’s something here for JoJo fans. I'm just unconvinced it's the hype-as-hell fighter that the franchise probably deserves.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star R offers 50 playable characters out of the box. The original JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle for the PS3 offered just 41 characters. An additional four characters are expected to be added to this game post-launch via the season pass. A full list of the new playable characters can be found below:
- Robert E.O. Speedwagon
- Pet Shop
- Jotaro Kujo (Part 4)
- Yukako Yamagishi
- Trish Una
- Prosciutto & Pesci
- Foo Fighters
- Diego "DIO" Brando
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R is available on PC via Steam. In addition to a valid copy of the game, you'll need to have a machine that meets the minimum specs for the title. According to the Steam page for the game, these are as follows:
- OS: Windows 10
- Processor: AMD FX-4350 or Intel Core i3-6300
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 or AMD Radeon HD 7950
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 6 GB
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R has online multiplayer that allows you to go head-to-head against other players in either ranked or unranked matches.
While the control scheme for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R can be customised through the options menu, in-game taunts should be set to the select button (or its equivalent) by default.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle R supports both local and online multiplayer across all three platforms, though you will need additional controllers for the former and either an active Nintendo Switch Online or Playstation Plus subscription for the latter (when it comes to the console version of the game.)