Hirohiko Araki's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has been running in the pages of Shueisha's various Jump magazines for 35 years, and in that time fans have seen nine different generations of its main characters in their own stories, multiple anime adaptations, and plenty of video game entries to boot. A select few have actually released outside of Japan (even more so in recent years as the franchise grows in worldwide popularity), but thankfully they have been the cream of the crop so far. In fact, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is celebrating its massive 35th Anniversary by taking on one of the better ones in a new way.
Developed by favored video game studio CyberConnect 2 (which has handled successful anime game entries such as the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise) and originally released back in 2013, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle was the fullest experience to that point as it reached across the then eight different parts for playable characters, stages, and aesthetics. Now JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R can finally take its place with a much meatier version of this experience that fans of the series definitely should jump into. It just might not have enough of a draw for everyone else.
There are some majorly notable differences between the two releases. All-Star Battle R not only has the expected visual fidelity improvements that come with remastering a title but with ten brand-new characters not seen in the original release. These new additions have had their material carried over from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven (also developed by CyberConnect2), but you'd be hard-pressed to point out the key differences in these characters from the others originally in the title.
There are also some new stages included to reflect these new additions (such as F.F. bringing the "Everglades" stage from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, for example), but the biggest draw in terms of new material are the tweaks that have been made under the hood. There have been many changes to how the actual game plays with easier-to-launch moves (such as simplifying the combos with an Easy Beat option to chain button presses into a cool new move simply enough), and although there are over 50 characters it's pretty easy to pick any of your favorites and just jump right in without a lot of trouble.
It's the best way to play the original title and is certainly a must-have for fans of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's manga or anime, but it's likely not going to have that same level of pull for curious onlookers. While many of the changes are welcome from the older release, one of the new shifts has been to condense the story and challenge mode from All-Star Battle into the new "All-Star Battle" mode in All-Star Battle R. This takes the matches from those original modes and places them on a grid organized into each part.
These matches then offer either important fights in the story such as Jotaro vs. Dio in Stardust Crusaders, but also fun what-if matches like Bruno Bucciarati vs. Funny Valentine (who's originally from Part 7, Steel Ball Run) taking place during Golden Wind. Unfortunately, there's no real additional context or setup for any of these particular matches (compared to how it was in the original game's story mode). That means while it's neat to see it all visually organized through manga-like panels, the mode will really only ultimately appeal to the fans who have the needed context to enjoy the non-canonical match ups much less the bigger ones in the actual story.
That's the biggest downfall of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R, ultimately. For as much as it becomes a fun celebration for the franchise oozing with the kinds of visual and audio personality that fans have come to love from the original series, there's not enough there to draw in those already interested. There's a lack of depth to the single-player options, much of which many JoJo's Bizarre Adventure fans will jump into first. While the fighting system feels smoother overall, there's no real way to learn it with a training mode that lacks some of the deeper features that more current fighters have such as allowing the player to set a pattern for the opponent (though a second controller can be tapped in for it).
Together with the lack of context in the All-Star Battle mode (and thus a lack of a "story" mode progression), the rest of the package starts to stick out more. Exploring other options such as online fights doesn't really amount to much either as the fights I've tested out since the game's release are bogged down with terrible slowdown and virtually unplayable in some of the worst cases. So even if everything looks cool, and super moves are full of personality, it's hard to find the drive to keep going as a single player.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is a great experience for fans already familiar with the original series and those that are jumping into the fighter as a result. There is a lot to love in that regard as the personality from the original manga is in full force, but there's much less of that "bizarre adventure" that is also at the core of Araki's series. The fighting has been improved, and there are plenty of characters to mess around with, but more fighting does not always equal more fun in this case.
Rating: 3 out of 5
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is now available on the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC platforms. A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and was reviewed on PlayStation 5.