Jump Superstars (DS) review
"Reviewing Jump Superstars is like putting your manhood on the table and asking a jilted ex-lover to hold the knife: you can only close your eyes and hope for the best. Should the game be total and utter rubbish, my opinion stands to not only upset DS owners, but virtually every half-crazed-anime-fan on the face of this planet... and as far as horrifying prospects go, you'd best pass the knife."
Reviewing Jump Superstars is like putting your manhood on the table and asking a jilted ex-lover to hold the knife: you can only close your eyes and hope for the best. Should the game be total and utter rubbish, my opinion stands to not only upset DS owners, but virtually every half-crazed-anime-fan on the face of this planet... and as far as horrifying prospects go, you'd best pass the knife. Still, it's somewhat reassuring to know that Nintendo were involved with the development of this title from day #1. And with fans already labelling it the first true, Super Smash Brothers clone for a portable system, the Big N's experience may be everything. With a cast of 100's and the testosterone to spare, Jump Superstars is potentially the anime brawler of the century. We're talking Goku vs Luffy, Naruto vs Yu-gi-oh, Kenshin vs Jyotaro... when worlds collide, there can be only one.
Now breath deep, exhale, and relax. Speak the truth and no one gets hurt... my first impressions of Jump Superstars were average at best. Stop, consider the term first impressions, and understand I didn't judge a book by its cover. Honest now, I didn't. The story, if that's what you want to call it, simply has players wandering the Shonen Jump universe, kicking several shades of crap out of its inhabitants. There's no single, omnipotent power tying all this together (a good thing considering the crossover stereotype such writing represents), and the sooner you let go of any lost opportunity, the better. But then again, we've never had a problem with violence for the sake of violence, and these are some incredibly sexy match ups... the geeks know what I'm talking about.
You've no doubt seen them having these sorts of discussions before. Who's the strongest fighter, Goku or Vegita? Piccolo or Trunks? What do you think would happen if YuYu Hakusho's Uremeshi, a spiritual detective, got the drop on Shaman King's Yoh? And for that matter, how would Bleach's strawberry haired Soul Rever, Ichigo, fare in such a confrontation? I know, it's frightening stuff. Thankfully however, Jump Superstars is anything but scary. In fact, you might even call it down right welcoming. An enclosed, 2D playfield sets the scene with a range of conveyor belts, barrels and bottomless chasms serving to add the necessary elements of random danger. A comic book-style boarder then frames the action, page numbers and an assortment of written sound effects further build atmosphere.
Those lingering doubts however, they're still with us.
The game's J Adventure mode does nothing to ease concerns. A needlessly laborious tutorial kicks things off, grabbing players by the hand and walking them through virtually every aspect of combat. Standard attacks, double jumps, meter based supers, and tag combos are explained in excruciating detail, almost to the point of generating an air of boredom. Perseverance however, is it's own reward, and eventually players are given free reign of the game's surprisingly complex fight engine. Utilizing both screens, the DS presents the main action across the upper portions of the unit with the lower display used for a number of extra, gameplay options. A quick tap of the stylus will tag-in a second or third character, though doing so as the CPU pummels your on screen avatar proves troublesome. But still you push on...
It's not until halfway through Jump Superstar's second world that the title's hidden allure begins to present itself. With each victory, players will have earned a variety of "komas", blank comic panels of varying shapes and sizes. Furthermore, you should have also picked up a tidy range of character portraits that when combined with the aforementioned komas, create an impressive number of battle/support characters, as well as an almost limitless range of special abilities. Those looking to import Jump Superstars be warned, a semi-advanced Japanese reading ability is strongly advised. The game doesn't automatically match these icons for you, and their carefully worded clues will go straight over your head.
Putting aside such concerns, it's surprising to note that Jump Superstars has started to feel like a card-based action game. Assembled komas can be mixed and matched in any number of possible combinations, giving players the freedom to customize their "deck" any which way they want. Need 4, fully playable battle characters? No problems, slide their panels into a 5x4 grid, then fill out the remaining spaces with a handful of single square, special abilities. Alternatively, you could always scale back your offensive line-up, opting instead for extra support characters that enter the fray with the slightest touch of the screen. Some may refill your health meter, others will launch devastating attacks. Either way, it's up to you to discover the best combination. Yeah, good luck with that!
And suddenly, without even noticing, Jump Superstars has you.
Like a drug slowly working its way into your blood stream, the elation felt at unlocking a new character becomes an all addicting rush. Your hard fought victories and patient riddle solving have yielded results, and now you're looking for more. The bigger the koma you manage to combine, the more powerful the character is, the longer you'll want to play it. And you'll push on through countless hours and hundreds of rounds in order to reach that undiscovered, personal favorite. After all, a regular Goku is great, but a Super Saiyajin is better. Say, would you like an afro Luffy as well? Yeah, I thought you might...
That being said, once the lengthy J Adventure comes to an end, some 300 stages later, there isn't much left for players to do outside of revisiting the challenges they may have missed. The basic CPU versus mode is just that, a single customizable round of frenzied, well animated violence. Nothing more, nothing less. Where then, are the ladder style tournaments? And what happened to the genre standard, survival and time attack modes? Their absence is infuriating. Still, maybe we shouldn't be looking this gift horse in the mouth. Jump Superstars is outrageously playable for an extended period of time, and when the sheen eventually begins to tarnish, you'll be in a position to beat-up a few of your closest friends across the wireless, multiplayer modes.
I know you want to.
Through it all though, not once does the action look anything less than amazing. The tiny yet detailed characters have been fluidly animated, their unique charms each perfectly captured and rendered for players to enjoy. From Luffy's Gum Gum attacks to Jyotaro's magnificent Stand blasts, every frame has been designed with a keen eye for authenticity that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Jump Superstars you see, is all about highly stylized animated violence, dished out at a rapid fire pace that's sure to leave players breathless and exhilarated at the same time. The battles themselves are incredibly frantic, and when you've got four fully recognizable characters on screen, each laying the smack down in their own patented ways, there's a certain element of screaming fanboy pleasure to be had. Remember those comparisons to Super Smash Brothers? They were absolutely spot on.
Now granted, Jump Superstars has its caveats, the language barrier being the biggest for budding players to overcome. But would you still want to play it? Buddy, I've got news for you. You may not have a choice. The likelihood of a Western release seems almost impossible, though if it were to happen I'd happily eat those words. It's as such you may want to swallow your pride, pick up a walk through, and indulge in what is arguably the latest diamond in the DS' ever-growing crown. Jump Superstars isn't perfect, but then again, what is? Instead of perfection however, players can expect a deep, anime inspired brawler with almost unlimited appeal. Grab your dictionary, and challenge yourself.
It's what Goku would do...
* The box says it features 150 characters, care to find out?
* Action wise, Jump Superstars feels exactly like Super Smash Brothers
* The fight engine is surprisingly deep
* Support characters, help characters, there's a lot to explore
* Good luck trying to unlock everything. No seriously, good luck
* Deck building is incredibly addictive
* J Adventure mode goes on, and on, and... on
* The smoothly animated anime-esque visuals look a treat
* Multiplayer modes are an absolute blast
* Jump Superstars is lacking a few of the, more obvious, play modes
* The controls seem a tad unresponsive at first
* Those with zero Japanese ability may wish to reconsider their purchase
Staff review by Michael Scott (August 11, 2005)
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