I’m almost certain that if one were able to look up “weird Japanese shit” in a dictionary, there would be a picture from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, most likely iconic main protagonist Jotaro Kujo in a super wide stance, leaning backwards and pointing forwards at some unknown, most definitely evil quarry.
Though I’m not as familiar with Hirohiko Araki’s colorfully insane source material as I’d like to be, I’ve always been a fan of the video game adaptations over the years, or at least the ones we were lucky to see released in America, Licensors tend to be scared away by Araki’s tendency to name his characters after musical icons, from Gang Starr to Ronnie James Dio.
2013 PS3 fighter JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle was a 2.5D affair, bringing Araki’s off the wall designs kicking and screaming into 3D but with gameplay highly reverent of Capcom’s classic 1998’s JoJo’s brawler Heritage for the Future. Now Bandai Namco and developer CyberConnect 2 return with PS4 arena fighter Eyes of Heaven, bringing all new substance and losing none of the franchise’s trademark flash.
Gameplay wise EOH throws everything that I dug about ASB out the window, something I found initially very off putting, but after about an hour or so with EOH I fell prey to its Power Stone by way of Pokken Tournament charms and found myself pretty addicted to its 2 on 2 supernatural free-for-alls.
Graphics don’t seem appreciably any better than ASB (a PS3 version of this title exists and looks largely identical) but they didn’t really need to, CyberConnect 2 initially nailing the look of Araki’s eye gouging-ly neon universe and not wasting time fixing what wasn’t broke.
Matches can be played locally or online both with and against human players, or the CPU (and there’s a shop with a seemingly endless amount of unlockables that you’re constantly earning points towards in each mode) but the main draw here is the story mode, which takes the characters from the manga/anime’s “Stardust Crusaders” arc (AKA the ones that most people know because they were in the Capcom game) on a time traveling adventure to team up with the less well known (and popular) JoJos (seriously, most of the heroes’ names are some permutation of “JoJo”) to face resurrected SC main villain Dio and rescue the ancillary characters that he’s brainwashed into joining his nefarious cause.
“Oh what’s becoming of me?”
If that premise sounds stupid, you’re right, it absolutely is, but the franchise’s typically glib and tongue in cheek attitude to its overall ridiculousness transfers over beautifully here, and makes the increasingly absurd goings on highly entertaining. Jotaro essentially saunters from scene to scene with his coolguy hands in his pockets, flat out refusing to explain what’s going on to his co-stars, all while they do nothing but comment about how awesome and tough his is in the most Poochie-est manner possible. If that doesn’t sound funny to you then I don’t think we can be friends.
Plus if that starts to get on your nerves (it can be repetitive if you choose tackle more than one chapter at a time) the exhibition mode boasts 50 plus characters to explore the weird ass ins and outs of. One complaint about the story mode is the light RPG elements that force you to buy your character’s moves feel kinda tacked on, whereas in exhibition you’re able to unleash each fighter’s fully absurd potential.
Fans of Capcom’s classic Heritage for the Future will also be happy to see several characters from that game, who didn’t make the cut in All Star Battle, like Avdol and Vanilla Ice (Or Cool Ice in this translation, hahaha) included here. Or maybe I’m just happy about it because I’m a raging Capcom fanboy, and if it’s this bad now imagine how much worse it was in the Dreamcast era when they were actually good.
Can I fully recommend Eyes of Heaven? That’s not an easy call. At the regular $60.00 price point I’m not quite as sold on this as I was on All Star Battle’s more traditional 2D fighting fare. I managed to score the game for half price over this past Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend (AKA Christmas: Episode Zero) and had a ton of fun with it over the past few days. If you’re a fighting game and/or anime fan you could do a lot worse, and if you’re a JoJo’s neophyte looking for a great new franchise to get into, you can’t really do much better.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is the type of fantastically strange intellectual property that I’m genuinely thankful still prominently exists in this increasingly boring and staid era of mainstream blandness, and Eyes of Heaven does a fantastic job of keeping said IP surprisingly alive in an official capacity on American game consoles.