Review: ​J-Stars Victory VS+ (PS4/PS3)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: ​J-Stars Victory VS+
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (PS4 3.3 GB) (PS3 3.5 GB)
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Original MSRP: $59.99 (PS4) / $49.99 (PS3)
ESRB Rating: T
​J-Stars Victory VS+ is also available on PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 disc versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

J-Stars Victory VS+ is a massive arena-based fighting game featuring many of the most popular characters that are part of the Shōnen Jump manga magazine. The last two years have been a great time for quality Japanese Anime and Manga videogames being localized for the West. Just in this year alone, we’ve gotten Dragon Ball XV, a One Piece game, and several others that were released on other platforms. The release of J-Stars Victory VS+ marks the first western release for the series.

Gameplay:
J-Stars Victory VS+ is mainly a third-person three-on-three fighting game with a light storyline that packs a dozen popular manga series characters into a single game. It features a main single-player storyline mode called J-Adventure, an Arcade mode, a Victory Road mode, a Free Play mode, and an online/co-op multiplayer mode.

The mode that I spent most of my time in is the J-Adventure mode, which features four story arcs that focus on the same story each time, but allow you to play as four different groups of characters. The arcs are the Dynamic Arc, Hope Arc, Investigation Arc, and the Pursuit Arc.

It doesn’t seem to matter which arc you choose first or in which order you play them (if you play them all). I started with the Dynamic Arc, which features Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece, his brother Ace, and St. Seiya from the manga St. Seiya Knights of the Zodiac which also has an anime and several video games on the PS3.

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The other arcs don’t seem to add much to the story but you do seem to encounter some different side quests and the dialog is slightly changed. The main characters of the Hope, Investigative, and Pursuit arcs are Naruto (from Naruto: Shippuden), Toriko (from the Toriko manga), and Ichigo (from the Bleach manga), respectively.

As mentioned before, the plot of the J-Adventure is the same for all four arcs. The story of the J-Adventure is that your character somehow ends up in “Jump World” — a world where all of the Shōnen Jump characters have been collected and a mysterious thundering voice has summoned all of the top fighters to the Jump Tournament.

… his famous Gum Gum Gatling move …
Jump World is portrayed as a series of islands, some large and some very small, scattered throughout a small sea. Each island will feature anywhere from one to about five different villages or destinations that each represent one main location from a particular manga. For example, early in the game you are summoned to Korin Tower (from the Dragon Ball universe) to attend the Jump Tournament. When you reach one of the locations throughout the world you will be greeted by characters from their respective manga series.

In each J-Adventure, your main character is given his own small boat to travel to the different islands and in each story you will quickly encounter your two main battle characters that will join forces with you to get to the tournament. As the story progresses, you will get upgrades to your boat and the distance you can travel in the world expands.

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There’s a mini-map as you travel in your ship and your next destination is marked with a red star. In addition to the main destination, you will see glowing orange dots on the map that indicate that there is a subquest event that you can take. Each mainline quest and subquest usually involves your team fighting another group and if you complete the subquest you are usually rewarded with items, J-Points (JP), and sometimes the characters themselves will join your group.

The controls are pretty simple and involve combinations of Square and Triangle buttons. The Circle button is used to do a multiple-hit special attack and there are several combinations with the triggers that change how the Circle attack is performed and also how devastating the attack is to the enemy.

… a giant hardened cannonball fist …
Each playable character in the game has their own unique fighting style as well as their own special attack. For example, Luffy uses his extendable arms and legs to hit his enemies. When you hit the Circle button repeatedly with Luffy, he’ll do his famous Gum Gum Gatling move in which his hands turn into a scatter shot of flying fists. For Naruto on the other hand, the Circle button will send a copy of himself to do a multi-hit attack against the enemy.

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As you fight, you will build up your Voltage Gauge and once ready, each of your allies can trigger a Victory Burst mode. Once triggered, Victory Burst mode will allow you to hit the R3 button to trigger a massive Ultimate attack. The devastating special area attacks in Burst mode are also different for each character. Luffy, for example, uses his Third Gear attack where his fists become like iron cannonballs that will do massive damage to a wide area followed up by a giant hardened cannonball fist. If timed right, these attacks can KO an enemy in one shot. Depending on the length of time on your Victory Gauge, you can pull off anywhere from two to three of these all-out attacks.

… up to three main fighters and one support …
Each battle takes place in a fairly good-sized circular area with invisible boundaries and each is themed from locations that are featured in the various manga. These battle arenas have their own specific themes: a town with buildings, a Vegetable City at the top of a giant beanstalk, and a Japanese multilevel dojo, to name a few.

All of the battle arenas feature near-fully destructible environments. Large buildings will collapse if you’re slammed into them, huge vegetables will fall to pieces in slices, and walls will crumble when you’re thrown into them.

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Once you successfully complete a battle, you will be rewarded with JP and experience. To win a battle you must fill up the Victory Gauge by knocking out one opponent for each segment on the gauge. Most battles will have three segments on the Victory Gauge, so in these cases you must knock out an opponent on the other team three times.

There are also three small gauges that are upgraded along with your stats. These are the Friend, Triumph, and Effort gauges. When you go into a battle, you are sometimes allowed to choose which characters to bring with you. Each battle can have up to three main fighters and one support character. Most however will only have two battle characters and one support.

… no health replenishing items …
When you select a character, you can also select the technique they will use from the three types: Friendship, Effort, and Triumph. While playing the game, I did not really understand what these gauges do, but according to the online instruction manual (not included with the game), when you enter into the Victory Burst mode, Friendship type will decrease your stamina consumed, Effort type will increase your defense, and Victory type will increase your attack power.

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Your stamina gauge is filled up as you are still or if you charge it by holding down R1 and the Cross button. Generally, the stamina gauge will allow your character to guard attacks without breaking his or her guard. Certain characters, like Goku or Vegeta, can charge their stamina gauge fully then charge it a second time to go Super Saiyan. When your stamina is super charged, your attacks seem more fierce and you can take more of a beating.

There are no health replenishing items in the game, only things that can boost your stats. As you gain JP throughout the game, you will be able to buy bronze, silver, or gold coins that you can spend to purchase J-Stars cards. As you unlock content with your JP, you will gain access to up to five card decks. Each deck has up to ten card slots – eight regular card slots and two J-Adventure-specific J-Stars card. The special J-Adventure character cards are specific to your three main characters in each arc. Each of these cards will either boost the specific character’s health, defense, or a bit of both.

… a random card for each coin …
As for the other cards, each will have its own effect. Some will boost your Voltage Gauge. Some will add a boost to one of your Friendship, Effort, or Triumph gauges. Others will make you invincible when knocked down, increase your Stamina or health recovery rate, and many, many more. Each card is rated from one to four stars and the higher number of stars the card is, the more rare and powerful.

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When you get enough JP, you can go to the J-Point shop and purchase the tokens to buy cards. Cards that are one to two stars can be purchased with bronze coins, two to three stars with silver coins, and three to four stars with gold coins. The coins are put into special card machines that will spit out a random card for each coin.

On your first playthrough though, the store inventory will gradually increase to allow you to buy these coins since they’re not available to purchase right away. The good thing though, is that anything you unlock in one playthrough of one arc is available from the beginning on your subsequent playthrough of another arc.

… takes you through branching paths of battles …
Along with store inventory, JP, and cards, the characters that you leveled up in one playthrough will carry over into the next when you begin one of the four separate J-Adventure arcs. The store also contains main playable characters and support characters that you can pay to unlock for the other game modes.

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As complex and content-filled as the J-Adventure section of the game is, there are four other modes. While I can’t go into all of the other modes in detail, I’ll briefly summarize them. The Victory Road mode takes you through branching paths of battles with various pre-defined opponents. Once you clear all of the branches of a particular location, all paths will be opened up for you to play in any order. Along with these different points on each path, certain points will have specific challenges to perform such as Taunt one time or perform a jump attack. If you successfully complete a challenge in a level, you’ll get a reward of JP and maybe an item.

The Arcade mode allows you to take a team through a six-staged battle for a high score. As you play these battles, more are opened up and they become tougher. Each battle set has a difficulty from one to sixteen stars.

… he will throw a bowl of ramen at the screen …
The Free Battle mode allows you to choose from your unlocked characters and battle either the computer or a second player locally.

The great thing about this game for me was that I was completely unfamiliar with most of these characters and J-Stars is packed with several dozen different (and sometimes bizarre and hilarious) manga characters. The crazy characters included in this game had me literally laughing out loud. For example, one character Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, whose name alone sounds funny when pronounced as it is in the game, has a blonde afro and uses his art of fighting with his extendible black nose-hair (!) to whip his enemies.

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Another hilarious example of some of the wacky characters you’ll encounter is a one named Jaguar Junichi, who is a crazy thin guy who plays a recorder. I’ve played through two arcs of the J-Adventure portion of the game and unfortunately it does not seem that you can play as him. However, he is a support character, and he has a hilarious special attack which is to dump a bowl of hot ramen on his target.

… audio was intentionally disabled for both streams and video capture …
When fighting a group who has Jaguar on their team, if you are attacked by him he will throw a bowl of ramen at the screen, obscuring it with broth, noodles, meat, and vegetables for several seconds – similar to Mario Kart 8, where someone can attack you with squid ink. Also just as hilarious is when Jaguar is involved in a Victory Burst. He is shown furiously playing his recorder and making motions similar to those arm-flailing inflatable tube men that are usually placed outside of a business to get your attention.

The game isn’t perfect of course, so there are a couple of issues that I had that are worth mentioning. Probably one of the biggest annoyances is with the PS4 Share functionality for video. The game allows you to save video, but the audio is muted. So no music, no sound effects, and no voices. I did a bit of research on it and it seems that audio was intentionally disabled for both streams and video capture through the built-in video capture functionality on the PS4 due to copyright issues.

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I suppose this makes sense that in producing a game with so many IP rights involved, Bandai Namco might have had to make compromises in order to include these characters in the game. I’ve read however, that using a video capture device can circumvent the audio issue but I cannot confirm it for myself. I had some really great fights and unfortunately because of the audio problem, I’m unable to share them on this review as I intended.

Another issue with the Share functionality is when you’re trying to capture a screenshot. If you open the Share menu while inside a battle as opposed to doing an instant screenshot, the game does not pause. I was trying to share a screenshot and I ended up losing a battle because the game did not pause. You can mitigate the issue by holding the Share button to capture the screenshot instantly and then share it later after the battle.

… The amount of content packed in just seems huge …
Other issues that I had were some sluggishness in the menu system at times, but nothing really major. Another minor issue is that there are probably about a half dozen or so points on the map that don’t seem to be used at all. I don’t know if these mystery locations become unlocked at certain times by doing hidden things or if they’re just there for fans who may see the location and recognize it.

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Finally, the last issue I have is with the card matching bonuses. While it’s a great feature, certain combinations of cards in your Customizations deck will create bonuses that cancel out any negative effects that the cards have. Since all cards have a positive and negative effect to them, the only way to find out which cards have a bonus is through trial and error. You can earn a trophy for creating a six-card combo effect, but the only way to do this is to look online. It’s also not very clear why these cards create an effect. I tried to look at the plusses and minuses to see if they’re canceled out, but that doesn’t seem to be how it works.

Overall, I had an absolute blast with this game. The amount of content packed in just seems huge with so many different characters, all with different play styles. I really enjoyed the fact that there’s also a gallery included in the game that explains what each manga is about and features character information on who each character is, a small blurb about them, and several audio samples of each of their voices.

… less cel-shaded and more polygonal and textured …
Just to give a small selection of the manga featured in this game, it includes content from: Assassination Classroom, One Piece, Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach, Kuroko’s Basketball, This is Kameari Park Police Station, Katsushika Ward, Hell Teacher Nūbē, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and many more. Many of these manga I have never heard of, so it was pretty interesting to be able to read about the characters and play them in a videogame.

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Visuals:
Overall, the visuals of J-Stars are gorgeous. Although as anime-based games go, I would say that Dragon Ball XV is a much more beautiful game. The character models in the battle portion of the game are less cel-shaded and more polygonal and textured than Dragon Ball XV. One reason for this is most likely because the game was developed for the PS3 and PS Vita in addition to the PS4. The PS4 version is noticeably better looking though (as one would expect) but the PS3 version still looks great with a little less detail.

One small thing about the visuals that kind of jumped out at me though, no pun intended, is that the hand-drawn characters didn’t look quite like they do in other games or in images I’ve seen around the web. For example, Naruto doesn’t look like he’s drawn quite as well as I’ve seen him drawn in the anime or in the other Naruto games I’ve played. Also, the character model for Naruto in particular doesn’t look as good as the Naruto games that I’ve played.

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As far as performance goes, I don’t think I saw a single slow down while playing the single-player portion of the game. I did have some slowdown in the multiplayer but I believe this was due to a network issue. On the PS3 it ran pretty smooth as well, but did seem to hesitate a bit when a characters would do their special attack.

… it doesn’t seem to support a microphone …
Audio:
The audio features full surround and sounds great on my system. The music is excellent, especially the opening theme, it just gets you psyched to play the game. I had similar feelings with Dragon Ball XV when I booted it up for the first time.

The game’s audio is in Japanese only with subtitles. I’m not quite sure if the voice actors are the originals from the Japanese anime or not. I think Freeza’s voice sounds like I recall for Dragon Ball Z, but I’m not certain.

Overall, the audio performed well and the game makes great use of surround sound, which is very useful in a game like this where you have a fully three-dimensional playing field. The audio is a tad on the loud side, but you have in-game control over it in addition to turning down the volume on your TV or receiver. It’s not an issue, but something you might want to be aware of.

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Online/Multiplayer:
I didn’t spend too much time in this mode, but the game does feature two player local co-op multiplayer, as well as online ranked and unranked play.

As of the time of this writing it’s probably about three weeks since release and it was a little tough to get matched with someone online. I was able to play three matches and the first had some lag at just the very beginning, but became normal after it got started. I was beaten handily in the first match but was able to win my next two, so two out of three isn’t bad.

There’s actually a fairly robust title and icon system built into the online portion of the game which is quite surprising. I was able to rank up twice and unlock several profile icons and titles in the process.

One slight problem with the online multiplayer is that it doesn’t seem to support a microphone. There were small icons above the other players’ profile cards, but I am guessing that maybe it was referring to network speed rather than if their headset was connected or not.

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… a great one to add to your collection …
Conclusion:
Overall, J-Stars Victory VS+ is a fantastic game that’s a ton of fun to play and is chock full of content. It’s not as flashy and smooth as Dragon Ball XV which I only compare it to because it’s from the same publisher and is also an Anime-type fighter with very similar controls and combat, but it’s still great.

The controls are pretty solid and easy to master. There isn’t an over abundance of different battle arenas, but the game makes up for that in the amount of characters and play styles that are available. It also features Cross-Save, so if you own the PS3 or Vita versions of the game you can easily upload and download your game data, although some is not transferred, such as online leader stats.

It took me about twenty-eight hours to get through two playthroughs of the J-Adventure with Luffy and Naruto with maxed out stats and yet there’s so much more to complete if I wanted to. There are a lot more features included with the game that I couldn’t go into within this review, so we’re talking about a very full-featured game for a discounted price of fifty dollars for either the PS4 or PS3 version.

For gamers who like the kind of play style that’s present in games like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z, this game will be a great one to add to your collection. It’s wonderful how the game adds all these obscure characters into it and also has background info on them. After playing for almost sixty hours, it almost makes me want to watch some of these weird anime shows and manga now.

For people who don’t watch a lot of anime or read manga but enjoy kind of quirky Japanese games, this one is a must have for your collection. If you’re a hard core Shōnen Jump anime and manga fan, this game is a must have. As the back of the box says, it’s “the ultimate dream for every Anime and Manga fan,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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