JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure lives up to its name, but it’s not just JoJo’s bizarre adventure. Originally released in the arcade before being ported on to the PlayStation and Dreamcast, the title is also the player’s own bizarre adventure. Littered with unique characters who have some of the most crazy abilities seen in a fighting game, JJBA is a title that went largely unappreciated due to the loss of interest in the fighting genre in the west at its time of release. However, that wasn’t to say that it wasn’t popular amongst fighting game cliques.
Jump ahead to the 25th anniversary of the Japanese graphic novel series, and JoJo is seeing revitalization in other mediums. A new TV show and videogame were announced, but they weren’t alone. The 25th anniversary also saw the resurrection of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure arcade game that was released here in the west, based upon the Heritage for the Future revision which was also released on Dreamcast.
Now reborn in the form of a high definition remake, is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD Ver still a good fighting game in today’s world, where the fighting genre itself has also seen a comeback? Or does it fall behind the times?
Platform: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: August 21, 2012 (PSN), August 22, 2012 (XBLA)
Rating: 16 (PEGI)
Similarly to most arcade ports in its original era, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure features a campaign mode in which a second player may intervene and participate in battle. The campaign itself follows the story from the third book series from the graphic novel, Stardust Crusade. Whilst the title follows the story accurately, it’s not entirely clear as to what’s going on. Each campaign follows the storyline of the player’s choice of character, but does not display anything outside of that character’s perspective. In order to understand or see the full picture, players are required to beat the game for each character.
The story is relatively unimportant in this title, and serves merely as a backdrop. This is what was expected of fighting games, where players paid little to no attention to the story, unlike today when you get titles like Mortal Kombat and Tekken which feature a fleshed out story in their campaigns. In JoJo, the cutscenes simply introduce your next match, as well as to have the player develop an understanding of their character and learn what a ‘Stand’ is.
A Stand is essentially the spiritual manifestation of the character, giving them each their own unique ability. Jotaro — the lead protagonist — is able to double jump, meanwhile Kakyoin is able to remotely control his Stand from afar. The title goes into the bizarre territory in its abilities too, with Alessi’s power to turn player characters into children, or Iced’s ability to essentially turn into a giant pinball. This leads to various unique strategies for each character, enabling completely different play styles based upon the player’s character of choice. Much like the player character, Stands also take damage. When a Stand is defeated, the player is unable to call it until the Stand gauge is recovered even slightly.
Whilst the story isn’t much to talk about in this title, the real interest lies in the gameplay mechanics. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure features a simple four face button setup for light, medium and heavy attacks, as well as to toggle the player character’s Stand on or off. When a Stand is switched off, the player is unable to chain their attacks; however, they are able to make use of an evasion ability which, when timed well, can allow the player to completely avoid attack and get behind their enemy. This is particularly effective when fighting without a Stand, but against a Stand — being able to slip between the Stand and player character to get in an easy attack. In contrast, Stands enable the player to chain strings together to create their own combos; however, whilst the Stand can block, the player character is left defenceless, having to rely on their Stand as a shield.
This simple four button style becomes a complex system that nourishes a broad range of skill in the competitive fighting scene through the integration of Stands, allowing two different approaches to combat based on whether the Stand is on or off. Furthermore, the player is able to make full utilization of the Stand’s own unique abilities despite being toggled off.
Players are able to take advantage of special attacks even without a Stand, calling the spirit to attack the enemy whilst the player has full control over their own character. This opens up the possibility to catch an opposing player off guard, attacking them from both sides with player character and Stand. As an added bonus, players are also able to ‘program’ Stand attacks using the Tandem attack system.
As the result of the title being an HD remake of a videogame launched before online multiplayer took the console market by storm, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure supports local multiplayer, allowing players to get out that second controller and fight with their friends. As expected, however, the title features an online matchmaking system. It is with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD Ver that Capcom introduces their new lobby system. Players are able to join a shared lobby in which two individuals are matched together as the others spectate. Capturing the authentic feeling of a game from the pre-online console days, the lobby system allows the ‘winner plays on’ set up.
Capcom promised not to touch the balancing of the title when re-releasing it. This was subject to debate as to whether this was a good or a bad thing, with players not so fondly remembering the notorious Petshop character — a hawk with its own Stand. Exceptionally skilled players could loop Petshop’s various strings into an ‘infinite’, locking opposing players into a never ending combo. Despite this fact, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a well balanced title that simply rewards players with skill. A good experienced player is capable of taking even a lower tiered character to victory against another player using a universally regarded ‘better character’. Even Petshop’s infinite combo requires exceptional skill to pull of.
Of course, the main feature of an HD remake, as suggested by the term in itself, is the graphical enhancements. The new character sprites look really smooth, and have a unique visual style that serves to make the title that little bit more memorable. For the player’s who prefer the old look, an option exists to revert it back to its original state.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure may have gone under-appreciated when it first launched in the west, but that doesn’t detract from it still being a brilliant fighting game, even compared to other titles in the genre today. Sure, its campaign is a bit dated, but the game still continues to Stand against the testament of time. And yes, that was a ‘The World‘ joke.