Who would win in a fight: Goku or Naruto? Goku obviously, and in explosive fashion too. These and other anime-related questions can be answered with J-Stars Victory VS+, a game that tries to be the greatest fan-service ever created for anime fans.
J-Stars lets you form your dream team of anime characters, and releases you into an arena to duke it out against the opposition. This is exactly what Shōnen Jump fans wish for whenever a genie shows up. Drawing on more than 30 years of Shōnen Jump history, J-Stars features 39 playable characters from manga and anime series such as Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Fist of the North Star, Hunter x Hunter, and many more. There are also 13 supporting characters, and the cast is clearly the game’s strongest drawcard.
Its storylines are told via J-Adventure mode, wherein your chosen character (Ichigo, Naruto, Luffy or Toriko) explores the world and competes in the J-Tournament, adding characters to your party as you go. The story can mostly be written off, and there is a lot of time-wasting filler added to pad the length. However, there are some moments which deliver clever, amusing writing.
Gameplay-wise, J-Stars is a fighting game with an emphasis on spectacle. Matches take place in 3D arenas based on locations from the represented anime, and each arena is populated by fully-destructible buildings. There’s a great thrill to be had in charging across the map and punching your opponent through walls, and it feels true to the source materials.
The fights are usually team-based, often 2v2, with an additional support character per team. In single-player you can issue orders to your teammate, but for the most part you’ll be dealing with moronic AI that has yet to master the double-jump. Swapping the AI for a friend is far more fun, and the game can be played entirely in split-screen, including the J-Adventure mode. Each of the playable characters has been painstakingly recreated, with unique attacks, voice-overs, and subtle references that fans will pick up on.
That said, the fighting in J-Stars is bad. There are no grabs, no counters, no cancelling out of combos, and attacks often miss your locked-on target. There’s no scope for tactical play, and the fighting often devolves into a slug-fest with some special attacks thrown in. Besides the poor fighting, J-Stars is plagued by several other issues. Character selection is clunky and awkward, the audio and graphics are underwhelming, and the stages are quite small. Lastly, the roster feels incomplete with only three playable female characters – one of which is an android. Considering how many incredible women star in these anime, it feels shortsighted.