Growing up in arcades in the 1990’s, 2D fighting games were plentiful. Every week there seemed to be a new machine showing up. From Street Fighter, DarkStalkers to King of the Fighters there was always something to play, and I played them all – at least I thought I did. I must have missed JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure which is a 2D fighter that arrived in the arcades in 1998 developed by the same crew that made the underappreciated Street Fighter III. What is cool is that the original author, Hirohiko Araki, was hired as a consultant for the game, and some of his artwork is used as splash screens in the game. JoJo was released again for the Dreamcast and the original PlayStation later in 1999. This “HD” re-release is based on the Dreamcast version.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD offers a few modes of play, but there is nothing too out of the ordinary. There is the standard story mode, which plays out differently for each character. The cut-scenes are shown in a mix of in-game sprites and a comic style, with “slightly off” dialog, likely due to the poor translation which is normal for this age of a game. Then again, I’m not sure the story would have made much sense even if the dialog was perfect. I played JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD with several different characters in story mode but I found it very confusing sometimes to figure out what was being told to me. Don’t get me wrong, I was amused, but still felt lost.
There is also a “Training” mode offered, but it doesn’t really train you other than letting you practice moves on your own with a dummy opponent. It just doesn’t teach you anything. Similar games feature missions and an in-depth training mode that actually teaches you the mechanics of the game, so its absence here is notable. Arcade mode is also provided for the purists, and if you think you are good enough, you can try your hand at the online multiplayer aspect of the game. You also get “Survival Mode”, where you can select a character and see how far you can make it in the game with just one life bar. The bar does however refill a little bit after each match depending on how many points you racked up. I made it pretty far with one character but this was mainly because I knew how to use one of his cheap moves to make sure the opponent never got close to me.
As far as characters are concerned, there are 16 characters to choose from and 6 hidden. All characters have similar controls, but of course they all have their own unique moves as well. What I liked about this game is that some characters possess a “Stand” ability. Along with the usual light, medium and heavy attack buttons, there is a “Stand” button which activates a sort of secondary character attached to your main character. When this is activated you control the character for a short time who can fill your special attack bar quicker and deal out damage faster. However, doing so can leave your main character open for attack as he remains standing where you left them. You have a “Stand” bar just under your health bar at the top of the screen that lets you know how long you can use your “Stand”, and is filled by doing normal and special attacks with your main character.
Like many fighting games from this era, you are going to experience a lot of cheap shots and end bosses that will kick your butt repeatedly with unfair, over-the-top special moves. Yes, I know that some fighting games still have this, but rarely like in this game. You will even come across stages in the game where you are not even fighting, such as a scene where it turns into a clunky side-scroller, forcing you to face virtually unavoidable obstacles and traps. At this point the game almost had me throwing my controller down in frustration.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has not aged well either. Even with the “HD” treatment, things still seem bland and the backgrounds lifeless. Back in the late 90’s there was better looking fighters around. Why couldn’t Capcom do the same graphic adjustments like they did in Marvel Vs Capcom 2?. It is nice to see some of the original artwork from the manga included in the game, but I wish there was more than just quick splash screens. I would like to have seen a gallery or something similar, so I could flip through artwork from the game design stages, and see input from the author. The characters are animated well enough, but sometimes I noticed the anatomy of them would go very weird in certain poses during the game. Arms and legs would be twisted unnaturally and it just looked really painful.
The audio in the game is a mixed bag. The overall theme music is nice and so is the stage background music but the voiceovers for the characters sounded horrible. Did they really sound this bad originally? I couldn’t tell at times if they were speaking English or Japanese. Sound effects are your standard fighting sounds that you’ve heard a million times before in other fighting games from this era.
When you take into consideration the somewhat hefty price for the game, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD isn’t really worth the price of admission. For $19.99 there are just far better options available on the PlayStation Network. The lack of modes, special features, and other frustrating aspects of game really pulled the experience down a few notches for me. Not to mention the HD treatment doesn’t really enhance the game at all. Simply put, I would just pass on this and invest your hard-earned money somewhere else.