Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash review
Jujutsu Kaisen Cursed Clash is a fighting game aimed squarely at two demographics. The first is fans of the wildly popular manga/anime that premiered in 2018. The second demographic is fans of arena fighting games. I’m afraid both groups will be at least slightly disappointed. And anyone outside the target audience should just keep moving.
Over 90 Million Sold
Jujutsu Kaisen began as a serialized manga by Gege Akutami in 2018. As of this year, the manga has been collected into 25 volumes and sold over 90 million copies. Two seasons of the anime series, overseen by Gege Akutami, have been released so far. But that’s not all. Jujutsu Kaisen has spawned novels, theme park attractions, video games, and — this might just be a first — stage plays. Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash’s story mode parallels the events of the anime’s first season. It even uses frames directly pulled from the anime to tell its story.
Fans of the series will know the outlines of the plot. For everyone else, the story focuses on Yuji Itadori, a high school student and Jujutsu Sorcerer. These Sorcerers are specially trained fighters whose task is to help rid the world of Curses, supernatural beings, and monsters generated from people’s uncontrolled negative emotions. Through a series of unfortunate events, Yuji becomes the host of a particularly strong Curse called Sukuna. Yuji must defeat a series of Curses and swallow 20 of Sukuna’s Rotten Finger talisman in order to rid himself and the world of Sukuna.
It’s a good thing that gamers can watch the anime to catch more of the narrative because Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash does an absolutely terrible job of easing newcomers into the fiction. Told via a static visual novel format, with voice actors from the anime, the game’s story is immediately opaque and it took very little time before I checked out and focused on the gameplay. It doesn’t help that the game’s audio is so poorly mixed that the musical score covers the voices most of the time. Once into combat, the voices repeat the same lines and responses ad nauseam. The original Japanese version isn’t supported by English subtitles.
Fight or Flight
We know from the manga and anime that there’s an engaging narrative, even if doesn’t come through in the game. That leaves combat, which is clearly the focus. Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash is an area fighter, meaning that, in both the story mode and 2v2 matches (there are, inexplicably, no 1v1 fights outside of the story) players will be brawling through one of ten large areas constrained by invisible walls.
The combat itself is a mixed bag, occasionally fun and chaotic, but limited, too. There are 16 playable characters to unlock, each with the same control scheme but slightly different moves and abilities. In addition to the usual combination of flying kicks, strikes, and jumps, characters have Cursed Energy techniques and a few have unblockable attacks called Supreme Arts. Cursed Clash is at its best in 2v2 mode, when characters on the same team synergize their attacks and specials. Unfortunately, AI partners invariably underperform. Playing with and against other humans is a better choice.
Despite the promise of enjoyable combat, Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash undercuts itself with a few frustrating elements. First, it’s far too easy to get stun-locked, forcing players to try and block or fight defensively to avoid being hit. Unfortunately, the block mechanic is finicky and relies primarily on sidesteps. There’s an invincibility frames mechanic that allows both players and enemies to recover, just when you want to deliver the winning strike. Instead of rounds, matches are on a timer and have a unique scoring system. Fights almost always run into the borders of the arena or scenery, inhibiting the camera.
Ripped from the Pages
It’s disappointing that, aside from a few chapter-ending scenes, the story isn’t animated. Still, Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash does a pretty good job of translating the anime into a game world. Fans of the series will recognize their favorite characters. There isn’t a whole lot of detail in any of the game’s environments. From the menus to the action, Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash’s production values feel a bit half-hearted. Devotees of the anime should note that the game’s music is original and not from the series.
If all you’re looking for is fan service, I guess Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash provides it, though it adds almost nothing to the established lore or characters. If you’re primarily interested in Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash as an anime-inspired fighting game, look elsewhere. A very short story mode, no 1v1 matches, poor design choices, and an overall lack of polish more often than not overshadow some occasionally fun combat.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***
- Combat can be fun
- Captures the anime feel
- Familiar characters
- Poorly told story
- Way overpriced
- Shallow combat
- Terrible sound design
- No 1v1
- Matches with AI are frustrating