Nine years ago, while Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure was a pop-culture phenomenon in Japan, it was mostly a cult-classic manga to most of the rest of the world. When the original version of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R came out around that time, the lack of hype around the series outside of Japan came across in how the game was handled – it took nearly a year to come out in America and Europe after launching in Japan, and it did so with a quiet and barely advertised digital-only release. In the years since, though, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has hit the mainstream globally. The ongoing anime adaptation is one of the most popular anime out there, and the excitement for Jojo is palpable. You can tell Bandai Namco knows just how much of a big deal the series is this time around – with a full physical release, a simultaneous worldwide release, and months of hype, the remastered red carpet has been rolled out for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R.
If you aren’t familiar with Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, this game isn’t going to help fill you in. Rather than a Naruto Ninja Storm-style recap of the greatest hits of the series, All-Star Battle R is a general celebration of Jojo as a whole, in the form of a flashy 3D fighting game with over 50 playable characters. The roster is made up of heroes, villains, and supporting characters from nearly 40 years of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – with all 8 story arcs of the series represented. Some of the more iconic arcs have a beefier amount of representation, though – there are 10 playable characters each from Part 3 and Part 4, yet only 4 each from Part 1 and Part 7. Still, the love for the series goes beyond the playable roster – every inch of the game is full of loving references to the manga, the anime, decades-long fan jokes and more. If you’re a diehard Jojo fan, you’ll drool just from staring at the main menu.
This modern era re-release of the PlayStation 3 fighter balances out the roster somewhat, though, by adding 10 new playable characters, and they aren’t just lazy roster fluff. A lot of them feature staggeringly unique gameplay mechanics and systems that you can tell had lots of love put into them – Mariah from Part 3 has a special meter dedicated to her magnetism abilities, while Diego Brando from Part 7 can fight in 3 different modes depending on his meter and Style selection. The new characters pair well with the major improvements made to the gameplay – the original All-Star Battle, while charming, was sluggish and repetitive. This new version adds lots of minor components that improve the feel of combat, like hit-stop effects, dashes, and rebalanced attacks that create new combo opportunities.
The biggest change, though, is the addition of Assist abilities – you now select two characters to play as, with the 2nd character acting as a support attack that can be unleashed a certain number of times each battle. Assists add some much needed spice to the game, giving you dozens upon dozens of new avenues for combos, defensive plays, and general combat variety. Some Assist characters have ranged attacks, while others have up-close ones or Trap-style attacks. Simply changing the Assist character you select can really change up the way you play your main, and I’m excited to see how these tools translate to high-end competitive play.
When it comes to competitive play, though, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R flounders a bit. The game has all the makings to be an addictive online fighter with a healthy competitive scene, yet the online implementation is incredibly barebones. Despite having a King of Fighters style 3-versus-3 mode and even a Tournament mode that slots players into competitive brackets, neither of these are accessible online. You can only make a 2-person Public Match room, or queue up for Ranked matches. On top of this, Bandai Namco has planted their foot firmly on the decision to stick with delay-based netcode for the game. A few of my matches ran smooth as butter. Others had half-seconds of input delay that made me feel like I was being attacked by Made In Heaven.
Still, despite rocky Online capabilities, the game is plenty of fun to play by yourself or with some local Jojo fans. All-Star Battle R smartly shakes up the single-player offerings from the original release – gone is the rushed recap of all 8 parts for story mode or the stamina-fueled challenge battle mode that every cosmetic was locked behind. This time around, your main avenue for single-player fun is All-Star Battle mode – in this, you’re presented with 100+ manga panels spread across all 8 Jojo parts. Each panel represents a battle – some are canon fights from each Part, while others are non-canon battles between unlikely pairs like Yukako from Part 4 and Bucciarati from Part 5. Each panel rewards you with coins, but also contain secret missions like landing specific attacks or finishing the battle in a certain way.
These secret missions reward you with anything from costumes and colors to gallery items, taunt-customisations, and new banner-quotes for your online Player Card. I loved trying my best to decipher each secret mission, but in a pinch, I also appreciated being able to spend coins to reveal secret mission requirements or even buy thematic in-battle upgrades based on super random items from the series like the Cloud Suits from Part 6 or Caesar’s final ripple. All-in-all, you’ve got hundreds of different unlockables to go for in All-Star Battle mode – I would have loved to see the costume and color unlockables expanded a bit, though. Some characters get 5 costumes, others get none, yet nobody seems to have more than 4 or 5 alternate color options. In a world where games like Granblue Fantasy Versus give you over a dozen color options and Melty Blood lets you make your own, it’s a shame to see the options be so limited here.
For years, all I’ve wanted was a way to experience Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle that didn’t require plugging my PlayStation 3 back in or suffering through the sluggish framerate of the original game. The fact that this re-release is so much more than that, with the new roster additions, expanded gameplay, and revamped single-player modes, blows me away. It hurts that the online offerings weren’t given nearly as much of a facelift, but despite all that, I would still glowingly recommend this game to any Jojo fan. Even if it isn’t a high-end online esports contender, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is a museum of Jojo references and call-backs, and even the most casual of gamers could boot this up and spend hours digging through all the references to their favorite anime and manga series.