The last game I played based on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was a 2D fighter made by Capcom back on the Dreamcast. Sixteen years later, and the incredibly long-running series (the manga debuted in 1986) comes to PS4 and Xbox One with CyberConnect2 serving up a very different kind of fighter in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven. A flamboyant, colorful, and absolutely bonkers brawler that does a damn fine job of bringing the batshit world of JoJo’s to life.
If you’re a fan of the series, you’re bound to get a kick out of it (and will be happy to know that series creator Hirohiko Araki has overseen the game’s narrative). However, if you’ve never seen or read any of the source material, like me, there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Though it may be a little harder to follow at times.
Set after the events of Stardust Crusaders (which the old Capcom game was based on), the action kicks off with main protagonist Jotaro Kujo defeating his family’s vampiric nemesis Dio. However, the victory is short-lived as Jotaro and his allies are suddenly attacked by friends and enemies who they believed were dead. They are then approached by a young Robert E.O. Speedwagon (Get it? REO Speedwagon), who gives Jotaro the Saint’s Corpse, a relic which gives its bearer the power to travel though space, time, and alternative dimensions in order to put a stop to whatever has taken possession of his former comrades and adversaries. Thus, Jotaro is sets off on another bizarre adventure in meeting his ancestors, his future children, and counterparts from alternate universes in a barmy quest that spans the first eight arcs of the manga (in one way or another, but is really is set up as an excuse to squeeze in as many playable characters as possible).
At its core, Eyes of Heaven’s arena based combat is a frantic 2v2 free-for-all in which players take on the role of one character while the computer controls your partner and, annoyingly, there is no local multiplayer at all, either cooperative or competitive. In a similar manner to the ultimate ninja series, your most basic combos are performed by stringing together a series of light and heavy attacks. Holding L1 and pressing a face button performs various specials and taunts. Pressing L1 and R1 unleashes a Dual Heat Attack, a suitably over the top tag-team effort in which both you and your partner rush an enemy with devastating results. Or at least it’s devastating when you can catch the buggers. At times, it’s quite hard to judge how far away you are from your opponent. The camera swings about quite a bit due to the frantic nature of the fighting, and if you don’t lock onto them it can be quite hard to successfully land a punch.
In between bouts, you’re dropped into small areas where you can chit-chat with other characters about various events to gain some extra snippets of info, or replay specific battles from the series. Outside of the story mode, you can engage in VS bouts against the computer, or face off against other players online–though, again, not locally, which is just mind-boggling. It’s a fighting game, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s missing one of the most basic features of the genre. Hopefully this can patched in later, because I can’t see any reasonable excuse for why they’ve decided to do this.
It’s even more annoying because there’s a large and distinct roster of characters to choose from in VS mode (about 50 in fact), and each plays fairly differently. This is particularly impressive, seeing as there are at least five versions of JoJo in various incarnations, though they are different characters in the series rather than simply the same character in a different costume. Being able to sit on the couch with three of your friends and beat the stuffing out of each other with different versions of the same character would have been a brilliant addition.
CyberConnect2 are the masters of Cel shading, and Eyes of Heaven is no exception. The detailed environments and character models make the game look like they’ve sprung right out of the pages of the manga. It’s bright and varied color palette make the visuals pop and stun in equal measure. Each character is distinct from one another, and their over-the-top attacks are superbly animated, all while the soundtrack’s offbeat blend of Jazz and Metal perfectly frames the mad battles on screen. My only minor niggle is that it only features the original Japanese dub with subtitles, but considering only the first arc of the anime has been dubbed in English, and the series isn’t all that big outside of its native Japan, it’s hardly surprising.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven is a frantic and incredibly fun fighter, with an absolutely batshit narrative full of lovably eccentric characters that, like the manga it’s based on, isn’t to be taken too seriously. However, while story mode is a lot of fun while it lasts, the lack of local multiplayer is a serious misstep in my view. Then again, if you don’t mind your MP being online only, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven is another superb anime brawler to add to your collection.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Eyes of Heaven was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.
Developer: CyberConnect2 | Publisher: Telltale Publishing | Genre: Survival Horror | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/T | Release Date: July 1, 2016