Is it? Could it be? Yes, another localised game this month seeing a European release before it makes its way stateside. J-Stars Victory VS was initially released, in Japan, for both PS3 and PS Vita in March 2014. Courtesy of Bandai Namco Entertainment, June 2015 sees an English localised release of the game, titled J-Stars Victory VS+. VS+ contains everything from VS, alongside an all-new Arcade Mode and game balance adjustments made based on feedback from Japanese players. The English version sees a release on the PS4, in addition to the PS3 and PS Vita. The game consists of 5 game modes, outlined below.
J-Adventure serves as the story mode for the game; taking place in Jump World, a crossover of the included Weekly Shonen Jump characters’ universes. This mode is split into four arcs, each focusing on a different party of three characters. The aim of each arc is the same, to compete in the Jump Battle Tournament. In order to compete in this tournament, one must acquire three Hero Emblems; this is accomplished by, you guessed it, fighting in specified battles across the map. The world is traversed by boat. Alongside earning Hero Emblems, there are story-related quests to upgrade the boat, allowing one to reach new areas of the world. There are also a myriad of side quests that can be completed during J-Adventure. These allow one to level up characters, and earn J-Points.
After winning the Jump Battle Tournament, the adventure continues. Three sacred keys must be collected in order to progress, with the arcs each finishing upon winning the third battle on another planet. This mode features a selection of difficult battles, located at Korin Tower, requiring tickets, at a cost of 500 points each, to enter. The J-Adventure mode alone will provide countless hours of enjoyable gameplay, for the first arc one chooses. With levelled up characters and certain ship upgrades already present, one can speed through each additional arc; however, it is still time consuming, and not as fun, to play through identical arcs with the only change being the characters available.
Victory Road is a mode of gameplay separated into multiple places, be they towns or planets, strewn over a map. In order to progress to each new area, one must make their way from the leftmost battle to the rightmost battle displayed. There are multiple pathways that can be taken, but only one needs to be utilised to progress. However, completing all battles in an area does provide rewards; choosing any battle in the completed area individually, and unlocking new areas upon completing several areas in the progression. Fully completing this mode will consume a substantial amount of time, with one having to replay battles while taking alternate routes in order to “100%” each area. This mode will be more enjoyable than J-Adventure for those that just want to fight progressively more difficult battles without spending time on an actual story.
The Arcade mode, new for the localised version of the game, contains a selection of battles with different opponents, grouped into listings of 6 battles. Free battle allows the player to setup a battle of Player vs. Player, CPU vs. CPU, or Player vs. CPU, specifying the characters in each party. Online battle is split into two sections; Friendly Matches allow you to duke it out with friends with no drawbacks to losing, Ranked is where people play to win, their performance actually mattering.
The Arcade mode contains difficult battles, and as such is not a good starting point for players new to the game; the game tutorial is worked in to the start of J-Adventure, the ideal place to start the game. Free Battle mode is beneficial for testing out team combinations and getting used to new characters and their movesets. While not as engrossing as other modes, it will be greatly appreciated by those aiming to take on difficult battles, either in-game or online. The online mode is the highlight of the game, absorbing one into battles with friends using their favourite characters, and is sure to steal many hours from players’ lives.
At the end of each battle, in addition to levelling up characters and attributes, J-Points are awarded. J-Points can also be earned by completing side-quests, and in pitiful amounts from trivia questions on loading screens. Theses J-Points are spent in the J-Points Shop; in here, one can buy ship upgrades, modifier items, treasure maps, Korin Tower Tickets, coins, and characters. Ship upgrades can be applied to the ship from the menu, and carry over across arcs in J-Adventure. Modifier items allow one to improve a character’s level, or their team’s triumph, effort, or friendship levels. Treasure maps are used to find sunken treasure, consisting of modifier items, usually working out at a fraction of the retail price. Korin Tower Tickets are used in J-Adventure mode to battle difficult opponents in the Tower. Character unlocks are for all modes except J-Adventure, in which characters are unlocked through story progression and side quests.
Whilst the game does have a lot to offer, being enjoyable and somewhat addictive, especially with its trophies, there a few areas in which the game is lacking. The camera tends to focus only on the player character, to the detriment of effective fighting on occasion; one may not notice whilst playing through the game casually, but it is extremely difficult to perform a tag-team melee attack when the button prompts are appearing off-screen. Thankfully, the game is not dependent on this attack, but trying to achieve the trophy grows tiresome all to quickly. Another of the game’s downfalls is the character roster; due to the localisation taking over a year to materialise, there are some characters that have become popular in the interim that do not feature in the line-up. Luckily, there are enough popular characters included to whet the appetite of Weekly Shonen Jump series fans. An incredibly minor issue, that is admittedly unlikely to be noticed by many, is that one character, Koro-Sensei, features his VA from the OVA rather than the 2015 anime series. This will not disrupt enjoyment of the game, but may bug those with keen ears.
J-Stars Victory Vs+ is a long overdue game for the English speaking world; that said, it is definitely worth the wait. An all-star character roster of fan favourites from Weekly Shonen Jump series, with stages pulled in alongside them makes for a very enjoyable game. There are few complaints to be made of the game, and even those of note don't impede enjoyment of the game much. One can only hope that any future Weekly Shonen Jump fighting games don't take as long to make their way over here.