Developer CyberConnect2 have finally branched out of their Naruto fighting game-making comfort zone and opt for another IP. After throwing a dart on a board filled with anime and manga names, they somehow lucked out with the long-running JoJo's Bizarre Adventure series. At the very least, they have a frame of reference game-wise thanks to Capcom's past efforts. Still, this new 2D fighting entry subtitled All-Star Battle for the PS3 will amp it up with possible character variety and lovingly-rendered art direction if the recent TGS 2012 build is of any indication.
Right from the get-go, the demo wowed us with its color palette and stylized aesthetics that stayed true to the manga it's based on. Odd character poses and fighting stances, insanely-crafted wardrobes, sound effects of punches popping up comic-style; fans will love the work CyberConnect2 did.
Behind its flash is also fighting game substance. Each of the four selectable characters on the demo have their own particular methods of mayhem. Cowboy-lookalike Joseph Joestar has the mix up-heavy cracker volley attack where he spins two discs which can be followed up with a counter-attack pose, an additional combo attack, or an overhead. His zones include his cracker boomerang, which can return to him when holding down the attack button.
Recent protagonist and actual cowboy Gyro Zeppeli attacks with steel ball projectiles as well as ride on a horse that opens up vertical bumrush and knockdown moves. One of the manga's antagonists, Wamuu of the Pillarmen, uses bursts of wind in his anti-air attacks as well as performs a spinning overhead attack and delayed human torpedo move. He can also turn invisible for a short bit; while a silhoutte and wind trails remains, he can absorb hits in this form temporarily while also make opponents guess what moves he will launch. The recovery for the move is long though, so players should use this with care.
No JoJo title will be complete without the fan's favorite protagonist Jotaro Kujo; he fights with his Stand which he can bring up or dismiss with just pressing the R1. Though he has no projectiles, he makes it up with the mid-range reach of his Stand that has an anti-air, a sweep, and a knockdown rush punch that can be used as a combo-ender.
Each fighter has his own Heart Heat attack (the game's equivalent to SSFIV's super and Ultra combos); this can be activated with a down, down forward and forward motion followed by two attack buttons and requires just one Heart Heat gauge. A bigger version of that, a Great Heat Attack, requires two Heart Heat gauge and a press of the L1 button (or a down, down forward, and forward motion plus three attack buttons).
Each of these moves are different for each character and some even have follow-ups: Joseph Joestar whips out a machine gun in a super-cancelable attack, does a wall bounce push on his opponent and then juggles his opponent into oblivion. Jotaro Kujo's Heart Heat attack is just a glorified version of his Stand's rush punch attack where you can get more mileage out of it via button-mashing during the move. Gyro Zeppeli's Great Heat attack, while fancy, requires him to be on his horse.
To make itself stand out from the crowd, All-Star Battle allows fighters to sidestep attacks by pressing X. Some of your attacks can be cancelled by pressing the L2 button at the cost of your heart heat gauge. Furthermore, background objects can damage players depending on where they're standing. Halfway through the fight, we triggered a bunch of horses to run around in a run-down coliseum. If you're in the way, it will knock you down. Tell-tale signs of incoming objects are highlighted by manga panels that pop up in the middle of the screen. While we're fine with the first two evasive and attack cancel mechanics, we do hope that there's a way to turn off the third bit in serious matches because it may seem too disruptive for its own good.
It's hard to gauge whether All-Star Battle will be a fighting game considered for the tournament space, especially given that the game is still in its early stages. Nonetheless, fans of the manga and adventurous gamers can look forward to All Star Battle when it hits Japan shelves in 2013. A North American release seems likely, as Namco Bandai previously filed a trademark for "All-Star Battle" within the region.