Shonen Jump’s signature series are in a moment of clear transition. Looking at the box for Jump Force’s Deluxe Edition communicates the best of what has now gone by, as Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball Z have firmly cemented themselves in the pop culture lexicon for another decade, but the versions of Monkey D. Luffy, Naruto Uzumaki, and Son Goku that you meet in the Nintendo Switch version of this game feel like an afterimage of themselves. There are still Kamehameha blasts and Shadow Clones, but the presentation feels like a significant step down from their PC, Xbox, and PlayStation counterparts. Jump Force on the Switch would have been nothing short of a miracle years ago, but in the present moment, it doesn’t feel nearly as spritely.
Jump Force is a fighting game that takes a view over the shoulder of your chosen fighter. You link together attacks and charge energy blasts just like your favorite anime. Though, unlike some of that iconic animation, the game isn't exactly visually striking. Some of these issues are due to where the Switch is in its lifespan. 2017 might have only been three years ago, but a lot can change in that small amount of time. For those used to other console experiences, visual standards for games have increased for good and bad. There’s still a sort of bewilderment for older gamers at getting a console version of a game that can be taken on the go and getting in a quick 3v3 match on public transport or a flight still feels a little like magic.
However, compromises have to be made to fit this game into its portable form. For some players, there is no wish you could make that would excuse some of the slowdown and graphical fidelity when the fists start flying. For this reviewer, I cannot shake how revelatory this would have been a few years ago as someone who still gets a little sad anyone mentions Asuma Sarutobi or that heartfelt coda after the (maligned by most of the fan base) Dragon Ball GT.
Underneath some of the models and particle effects, there’s still the workable fighting mechanics that these games have been refining since J-Stars Victory VS and Dragon Ball Budokai Tenkaichi before that. It’s fast, furious, and highlights all the anime absurdity that fans are in this for. In a weird way, the melodrama at the heart of the genre comes through in a real way when sifting through all the characters in various series, feeling like Pro Wrestling writ large and made to feel even bigger when the stakes are raised to the planet’s extinction.
Even with the beloved characters and charming interactions, as with most Shonen Jump crossover games, how much you get out of it will largely depend on how much you love these stories. For fans who only have access to a Switch, the journey will be worth it for you to experience this game, especially as the holidays loom and sales come through, but for anime fans looking for the best version of the game, you might want to get out that Dragon Radar and look at the offerings on PS4 and Xbox One.
Rating: 3 out 5
Jump Force Deluxe Edition is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.