The last time J-Stars was a real game (Outside the release of the original Japanese version of this game) this was a Japan only, Smash Bros style brawler for Gamecube and PS2. Since then, Shonen Jump crossover games have been on the down-low, while various Jump franchises have increased in popularity with greater public releases of products. Within that time we have had various Dragonball games, a number of Naruto games, the burst of JoJo’s and even a Saint Seiya game added into the mix. At this point, J-Stars must be a given right? No it’s not.
The biggest problem with crossover games where the developer does not hold the rights to all of the characters is the legal red tape it is getting all of the licensing in foreign regions. This is similar to the problem Capcom had with Tatsunoko Vs Capcom. But that didn’t stop them and neither did Namco with J-Stars.
J-Stars has evolved a lot since the last time it’s been seen, first using an over the shoulder style camera angle for one person and using a ‘Gundam Vs’ style team battle system with team stocks however, it uses assists and universal attacks to make everything feel very new. All of the in-battle prompts are really easy to see, and the game makes it easy for beginners to get stuck in with the story mode’s training.
The combat is similar to the Gundam Vs games in the sense where it was minimal input types and depending on the directional to face button combinations will give you a different action. So doing moves themselves was quite easy but the technicality really comes from the movement. The 8-way movement with the supplement boost gauge means that managing your boost while still keeping top mobility is the key to winning. The combat also has a Trump Card/Power up mechanic which is needed to do the signature attack of a character. Normally these have enough power to kill off a character considering how long it takes to build it but different characters have different ranges so it’s something to be aware of.
One thing that caught my eye however is the aesthetics of the game. It literally feels that a lot of it was ripped out of Shonen Jump weekly. As someone who used to use that book in academic reading material, it was incredibly nostalgic. A lot of the menus and game UI has references to the books which gave it that extra depth of fan service which this game is supposed to be.
Saying that the cast of characters in this build was a wide range of popular favourites to some even I didn’t recognise. Some characters came from very old IPs where I had to look up who they were. All of the big Jump players were in there, anyone related to Naruto, Bleach or One Piece (And Saint Seiya now considering how much of him we are seeing) but the sheer amount of diversity is what makes this character list special. All of the ones I saw were animated beautifully, older characters keeping their old quirks and drawing aesthetics while newer ones were clean and polished all the while keeping really good 3D models.
Considering how many references and appearances of Shonen Jump characters that is in this game, even the biggest Naruto, Bleach and One Piece fans will have to go look up who everyone is. Overall with the rising trend of anime and Japanese culture, this is the game that can ride the wave of the market. Not to immediate success but something that will grow in popularity in time, for a very long time. What this also does is give hope that we might see more of the more obscure franchises coming over to the West in all sorts of media. Supporting this game is definitely a way of going about it.