“So the next game we’ve got lined up for you is called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD?”
“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD?”
“Yeah, it’s an HD remake of a late nineties arcade beat-em-up, based loosely on a popular Japanese manga series...”
“...and it’s called JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure...?”
“...umm... yeah. Each character within it has a special ability which allows them to focus their bodily energy into a semi-physical manifestation called ‘stands’ that greatly increases their strengths and abilities...”
“...and it’s called JoJo’s...?”
“...Well apparently, every part of the main characters’ names can be made from putting together the letters ‘J’ and ‘O’ from their first and last names...”
“...look, just do it.”
My hands are throbbing, my wrists are weary and my fingers are in agony. I’ve been playing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD for thirty minutes. It is a game dragged back from a bygone era of stand-up-arcades, mashable buttons and constantly broken joysticks. Here is an initial word of warning before we even begin. Playing this game without an arcade stick may result in permanent disabilities. Right, now we have that out of the way, let us move on.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a classic 2D-side-scrolling arcade beat ‘em up, created in a time when everyone had decided that beat-em-ups were the pinnacle of gaming and that cloning the style was necessary for commercial success. It has everything one might expect from such a game, mega-combos, impossible joystick rotations and sweaty button hammering.
Its one unique offering is an ability that most, but not all, characters can create called a ‘Stand’. Slapping the X button summons a projected physical manifestation which the player takes control of to obliterate their opponent. The Stands have their own health bar (though some damage seems to be transferred through to the player), and disappear when defeated. However they can regenerate at an incredible rate so the more cunning plan is to dodge past the Stand and smash the frozen player behind which quickly dissipates the Stand as well. It is an interesting extra element to the tired genre, but beyond this there is very little to drag players away from the classics.
The HD element of this remake can be called sloppy at best. There has been little to no extra effort put into tidying up the lurid and scrappily drawn animations or the shockingly recorded audio from the original. There seems to be no elements to it that have been refreshed or refurbished, which when compared to the recent Sega Vintage Collection remakes comes across as being lazy and frustrating. Some elements, such as fighters disappearing off the side of the character selection screen with only strange numbers to alert the player of their existence, seem downright broken. Controls, which were originally designed for the upright arcade, have been rigidly kept. This means that most of the moves, including dodging and the major special moves, require half turns of the stick and hitting three face buttons at the same time, a movement that is wrist breaking on a standard controller.
JoJo’s one saving grace lies in the characters taken from the titular manga series. While we are used to seeing crazy and downright insane monsters fighting each other in beat-em-ups, JoJo seems to have taken a slightly more amusing approach. There is a small pekingese that summons a scary giant metallic bulldog to fight. There is something sordidly entertaining about smashing through this fierce creature to kick the puny mongrel in the face. Another fighter is a hawk creature, which has plenty of entertaining aerial moves swooping in the air above its enemy before diving down to attack.
Most of the twenty-six available characters feel slightly unique, some with ranged attacks, often making up for the fact that they cannot summon a Stand, others use speed to overcome the same disadvantage Yet, with only three main attack buttons and identical special move combos, the similar styled fighters feel slightly homogenous. The result is a very disappointing lack of variation in style and strategy between opponents.
There is also a noticeable lack of content with only two modes: The traditional story mode where players fight every opponent until they climb the ladder to the top and multiplayer. The story mode begins with a hastily put together introductory scene that makes absolutely no sense to anyone unfamiliar with the Manga series and after the first scene never evolves any further. It is as if it makes a tiny nod towards a plot and then gives up caring. The multiplayer is exactly what you would expect, find a friend willing to break their hand for you, pick two characters. Fight! There is also an online matchmaking system but currently you can hear the wind whistling through the empty rooms as you wait for a fight.
Unless you happen to be a fan of this fairly obscure Japanese Manga series or have fond memories of playing the original down at the arcade over a decade ago, I can see very little reason to even consider looking at JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD. Making very little effort to stand out from the completely oversubscribed world of 2D beat-em-ups, it is unclear what this cheap HD remake is trying to achieve. If you have the urgent desire to virtually clobber your friends then the latest Street Fighter (or any of the variations) stands head, shoulders, waist and legs above this, or if you want something a little more original, Deadliest Warrior provides some short-lived gruesome entertainment. The only thing that I will remember about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in a few months will be those memories of slapping a tiny pekingese dog across the face and laughing. Perhaps this game made me realise that I am cruel person.