UPDATE: ‘Jump Force’ adds Vegeta & More to the Fray – & it’s Still a Ton of Fun

Tom Regan
Games Dragon Ball
Games Dragon Ball Naruto Anime Xbox

2018 has already been something of a banner year for anime brawlers. In February, Dragon Ball FighterZ arrived and instant transmission-ed anime fighters back into the gaming consciousness. Already shifting more than 2.5 million copies, Dragon Ball games are suddenly back in big way. After playing FighterZ, it’s not hard to see why (read our review here).

Thanks to its eye-catching art style and surprisingly deep gameplay, Bandai’s 2D epic impressively managed to appeal to both casual fighting game fans and seasoned eSport veterans. Predictably, Bandai Namco has revealed that it’s already hard at work on a brand new spikey haired slap ’em up — Jump Force.

Announced during this year E3, this game is basically The Avengers of the anime world. For the first time in the West, Jump Force brings together a slew of both heroes and villains from the worlds of Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece — and in news that will surprise no one, fans are pretty darn excited. What is surprising though, is that Bandai’s latest couldn’t play more differently than FighterZ.

UPDATE: A ton of new characters have been added since E3. While our feelings on the gameplay haven’t changed, you can catch the new characters in action in the video above.

A New Perspective

Taking inspiration from PS2 classics like Dragon Ball Tenkaichi, the upcoming 3D brawler sees various manga mainstays plucked from their respective universes and thrust into our world. Doing away with the whispy cel-shaded look you’d expect, Jump Force instead goes for a surprisingly gritty and realistic aesthetic, leaving fighters to duke it out across real-world inspired (and fully three dimensional) battlefields.

Interestingly though, it’s not just the transition from 2D to 3D that makes Jump Force stand out. We sat down with the game’s producer, Koji Nakajima, he states that, despite FighterZ’s eSport success, this is a game that’s made for filling living rooms, not stadiums.

“We are trying to make the battle system and mechanics a little easier and more casual [ than most fighters]” explains Nakajima,

“Unlike DB Fighterz and the EVO titles…Fans of these series are going to come from very different backgrounds, so we wanted to make sure that whether you’re a casual or hardcore gamer, you can play Jump Force and have fun. A good comparison for this would be to the Budokai games.”

Brightly coloured, screen-filling moves are the order of the day in Jump Force.

After picking our dream team of Goku, Naruto, and Luffy — and using the latter’s extendable arms to give Frieza a good battering — it’s hard to disagree. Despite each player having three different fighters to switch between, each new character felt similar enough that there wasn’t a steep learning curve when Goku’s Kamehameha transitioned into Naruto’s ninjutsu moves mid-combo. Movement around the sizable stages feels surprisingly smooth, with beautiful animations helping instant transmissions and energy beams alike feel like they’ve been ripped directly from the pages of Shonen Jump.

“If we try and make unique controls for each character it would be too difficult to transition from one character to another,” explains Nakajima. “It would make the battle system too complicated for the user. So we wanted to establish a commonality between all characters and differentiate them through their special moves.”

A Shonen Dream

Jump Force is also a wonderfully gorgeous looking brawler, and as you’d expect from a modern fighting game, the special moves are a serious sight to behold here. Whether it’s Naruto illuminating the sky as he unleashes his screen-filling demon fox, or Goku obliterating his surroundings with a Spirit Bomb, Jump Force is the most “real” an anime has ever felt. It helps that a lot of the game’s stages appear to be based on real locations too. So far the game has revealed New York City‘s Times Square, the Matterhorn in the Alps…  and less ahem, realistic locales like Pod LandingPlanet Namek, Hokage Rock and the Thousand Sunny.

So far, only five fighters have been announced: Goku, Frieza, Naruto, Luffy, Sasuke, and Ichigo. There will be a ton more anime icons for players to pummel in the final game. For those who don’t know their Gaaras from their Gohans though, the name Jump Force is a knowing nod to weekly manga anthology Shonen Jump. With the beloved publication reaching the wise old age of 50 this year — Jump Force is how Bandai is choosing to celebrate.

With the weekly serial responsible for introducing the world to everything from Rurouni Kenshin to Shaman King, Jump Force has a mind-boggling amount of beloved characters to devise its roster from. Unsurprisingly though, Nakajima is staying tight-lipped about which anime icons are going to actually make the final cut. “Unfortunately we can’t reveal any new names, or how many characters exactly but … all your favorites will be there.”

With high-level competitive play not on the cards, the big draw here will be the game’s story mode. As cool as it is seeing Naruto and Frieza trade blows in Manhattan, we’re definitely curious to hear what the heck they’re doing in our universe. Sadly though, once again Mr. Nakajima kept his cards close to his chest on this one. “We can’t really reveal who’s going to be the main villain or the last boss. But as you’ve seen in the trailer, Goku, Naruto and Luffy are facing off against Frieza and then you see from afar [Death Note‘s] Light and Ryuk watching the scene from very far away. What does that mean? Well, we’ll leave that up to your imagination [for now].”

How’s Jump Force Shaping Up?

Jump Force
Seeing anime legends inhabit very realistic environments feels very cool.

As fun as our time with the game was, it’s hard to predict how deep Jump Force’s core fighting system will be after just 30 minutes of playtime. Yet, for anime fans, it’s hard not to see Jump Force as something of a dream come true. Until now, the answer to who would win in a fight between Goku and Naruto was just a friendship-testing playground debate, but in less than a year, we’ll finally be able to settle that once and for all.

Sure, it may not be the serious frame-counting fighter that hardcore gamers may want, but based on what we’ve played so far, Jump Force is shaping up to be a hell of a lot of fun.

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Tom Regan
Having written for everyone from Trusted Reviews to The Guardian, Tom is a London based writer who can't stop talking about games. Now he's joined the team at FANDOM as gaming editor, we have to constantly remind ourselves that he's not actually Ed Sheeran.