Note: Originally uploaded on Kick-Punch-Block. Post has been slightly altered from original upload.
Recently, I decided to sit down with the classic fighting game title JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This title is almost 20 years old, having released in Japan in 1998, and has had several ports & updates over the years. The initial version was JoJo’s Venture. It spawned the “Heritage for the Future” update that followed in 1999, a Dreamcast & Playstation port of the 1999 version and a HD update released for PSN & XBLA in 2012.
Spending even a few moments with the game, it’s easy to see why it is still getting traffic to this day. A lot of care was put into making sure this title was a joy for fans of the series and fighting games alike.
As far as a game based on an existing anime goes, this is an exceptionally faithful and loving adaption. Capcom actually worked with Hirohiki Araki, the creator of JoJo, through the entire development process of this game to ensure accuracy. The developers tried to avoid adding attacks that never made an appearance in the series, instead trying for creative uses of what a character did in the manga whenever possible. The game also features panels ripped straight from the manga, sewn together for the intro or to accent super attacks. There are also a few special interactions with key fighters. Case in point, having Midler face off against Joseph treats the user to this amusing intro.
Despite just how faithful the game can be, it wasn’t afraid to introduce new elements and flesh out characters that honestly didn’t get much of a chance to shine in the manga. The biggest example being Midler (pictured above), who wasn’t shown for more than one panel in the series. Another big example of liberties taken with the source material would be the inclusion of Young Joseph in the cast, who canonically shouldn’t be present.
In addition to the detail put into making a good adaption of the series, a lot of detail and effort was put into the sprite work. This game has some of the best looking sprites for its time, rivaled only by the Street Fighter 3 and the Marvel VS titles of its day.
I could sit here & talk about the numerous little nuances that make this a fantastic homage to the series, but the main reason I picked up this title was because I had been curious how it played as a fighting game. I had so much fun playing the game! There’s something about current fighting titles have almost forgotten or left behind what made this title so fun. As far as the gameplay, it was a mix between Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Guilty Gear.
The game is deep, but not complicated. There are four attack buttons, three normal attack buttons of ascending strength and a “Stand” button. There’s more to the Stand button than just another attack, though. It actually is the source of the unique mechanic that separates Heritage for the Future from every other fighter of its time. Stands are essentially a separate spirit that can fight with the character, augmenting a fighters abilities at the cost of the “Stand Bar” underneath the health bar. That bar acts similar to Guard meters in other games and once it’s depleted, a character is “Stand Crushed” leaving them open to attack.
Fighters can either leave their Stand off or turn their Stand on. “Stand On” characters gain access to even more powerful normal, special, and super moves, but at the cost for being less safe when attacking. Your Stand also makes you bigger, so you end up getting hit or having to block more often with it active. With your stand out you do not take chip damage, but instead take damage to your Stand Bar. In addition to your Stand being vulnerable on block, it can be hit by your opponent. Getting knocked down or thrown will force you into “Stand Off” mode, but you can also manually deactivate your stand by hitting the Stand button again.
It is important to remember to put your Stand into off mode when it’s taken too much damage. Stands are more powerful on, but characters tend to have more utility with them off. Stands can be called to assist the player while the player is free to move, block, or attack in any way they choose, letting them get in or away from their enemies. In this way, they are similar to assist characters in other games like the Marvel VS titles and Skullgirls. Characters with their Stand off also for the most part have combo options that heavily rely on tight links, like Street Fighter and King of Fighters. On the other hand, while the Stand is on, characters do more damage and are generally more aggressive, generally gaining access to more powerful normals and easier “Magic Series” chains, like many of the Marvel VS games, letting you combo into your moves much easier than otherwise.
While calling out a Stand to fight is this game’s primary feature, those aren’t the only types of Stands in this game. Some characters have Passive or Weapon Stands, which work differently than Active Stands. Passive Stand users have no Stand bar, so they can’t be Stand Crushed, but they don’t have access to the higher damage outputs. They also tend to have more unique methods of fighting, like magnetizing their opponent. Weapon Stand users are like a blend of the two, with a Stand Bar and more powerful moves but a lack of utility that other Stand users have in Stand Off mode. These Stand types are balanced well against one another, which makes for a diverse cast of 22 characters.
The game lets you do a lot offensively, so the developers made sure to include a lot of movement and defensive options for players. Super Jumps, Hops, and Super Hops are included in this game, giving you choices to avoid, pressure, or rushdown your opponent. Your other movement option is an invincible roll, which helps getting around predictable attacks. There are also a few defensive tools to use on block. You can Pushblock, which is a tactic that on block showves the opponent away to get more room to breathe and get back in the game. There is also a Guard Cancel, which is used when blocking. Guard Cancel is similar in purpose to Pushblock but opposite in utility, in that instead of pushing the opponent away you attempt a counter attack.
As far as playing the game goes, there is definitely an emphasis on certain play styles. The concept of spacing your attacks just right is heavily promoted in this game, which is required to keep your Stand safe. Knowing when you can call your Stand and when you need to put it away make a huge impact on the flow of a match.
The overall mechanics in the game give the impression that the developers wanted to make a game where the attacker felt powerful without the defender feeling helpless, as long as the players think through their options. The game feels like the developers wanted to make sure that this was a fast paced, fluid experience, something that was fun for both players at all times. They tried and succeeded at making sure that Stands felt unique, natural, and desirable, without making them overpowered or flawless.
There are a few developmental hiccups — like Pet Shop who cannot be hit low, on top of his overly powerful and abusable moveset — but for the most part, this game was just made for the player to enjoy themselves, and enjoy playing with others. It sounds simple, but not every game can do both of those things correctly at the same time.
As a fighting game fan in general, I actually feel like I have a better understanding of fighting games just by playing this title. The way the mechanics were put together to make me focus on defending my Stand, spacing and learning how to position myself on defense has actually improved how I play other games by a noticeable amount in a short time.
So after all this, I have to say that, despite its age, I very much enjoyed playing this title. From its attentive adaption of the source series, to the care put into the combat system, to the actual beautiful & fluid sprite work, every bit of this game was a pleasure to run through. I highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t already played it to do so at the first opportunity, as either a fighting game fan or a JoJo fan, or both.