Jump Superstars plays like no other 2D fighter ever created. It feels like a hybrid of Smash Brothers and Mario Brothers with fighting mechanics Street Fighter would be envious of. From the first fight you can feel the influence Nintendo had on the development of Jump Superstars as the arenas and sound effects are reminiscent of the original Super Mario Brothers. So did Nintendo of Japan and Jump Magazine do the Jump Manga world a great service by creating this 2D fighter? Let’s dive in and find out.
The first step on the way to becoming the ultimate Manga fighter champion is to select one of the starting Koma compilations. Koma are spaces occupied by a series of characters that a player can use once engaged in battle. When in battle, Koma will appear on the DS touch screen. This Koma screen consists of a 4 x 5 grid which can hold up to twenty Koma. These Koma are distributed to create either a battle character, a support character, or a help character.
* 1 Koma is a help character * 2-3 Koma are a support character * 4-6 Koma are battle characters
Battle characters are what the player controls in battle. If more than one battle character is available, the player can swap between them while fighting. A support character is one that when activated comes out for a short period of time to unleash a special attack on the other players. This type of Koma requires that the player has at least one special attack meter filled up. The special attack meter can be filled by collecting the Mario Brothers like coins throughout the battle. A help character is one that heals, fills the special attack meter, or boosts a battle character. This type of Koma also requires at least one special attack meter to be full.
With an initial Koma selected the single player game awaits. Once entered, the single player game consists of a world map where players move between different challenges. The challenges alternate between straight up battles and missions. Missions require that some sort of goal is met like destroying all the walls in the arena or not getting hit by the other player.
So with a battle or mission selected the real meat of the game begins. Jumping or double jumping around the platforms gets you moving and in position to unleash an attack. Two buttons are used for normal attacks, one is used for the battle characters’ special attack, and the touch screen is used to unleash support/help/battle character attacks. Along with these basic attacks, many combos are available where the battle characters join forces to unleash major damage.
After beating the snot out of the opponents, they’ll eventually turn a light gray color which means they’re almost done for. With a few more hits they’ll be KO’d. KO is what Jump Superstars uses to determine the winner. If you KO someone else you get a point, if you get KO’d you lose a point. The total is tallied up at the end of the battle and the KO point leader wins if playing a straight up battle.
After each battle or mission the results are displayed along with a list of all the sub goals that were completed. That’s right there are sub goals within each battle. Each time you get a certain number of sub goals completed you unlock more Koma but that’s not the only way to unlock Koma. There are also times where a silhouette of a character and a saying appear. If you drag the correct Manga character onto the silhouette you unlock the Koma which are called Serif Koma. The last way to unlock Koma is by far the most inventive. The player has to buy or download a copy of Jump Magazine for the month of August 2005. In this magazine there is a page with patterns that are to be placed over the DS touch screen and traced. If traced correctly the Koma is unlocked. How’s that for a serious marketing tie in? All these Koma, once unlocked, come to a grand total of over 150 and let me tell you it takes a very long time to unlock all of them.
After a battle or mission it’s back to the world map to move along to the next challenge. Each challenge takes place in a world. There are four worlds in the Jump Superstars universe to conquer and the first time fighting through these worlds doesn’t take all that long. That’s if you ignore sub goals and side missions and just plow on through to the end. I think all in all each world took about an hour to two hours or a little more to complete the first time through. But then if you want all the Koma it will take six or seven times that to go back and complete every sub goal.
All in all the game is absolutely packed with content that looks and feels like the inside of a Manga. The graphics of Jump Superstars are very clean and well animated and most of the time, look like a smoother version of a Gameboy Advance game. When the special attacks and combos get going on the screen it becomes a true DS game as the GBA would never be able to handle it. All of the menus, world map, arenas, and characters are standard 2D sprites and are for the most part very visually appealing.
The sounds of Jump Superstars are much like the sights, low key but well implemented. The really impressive part for the DS is when four players butt heads with huge combos which result in a huge amount of sounds being mixed together at the same time. It really shows off what the DS sound system is capable of. Along with the technical feats there are fun nostalgia inducing sounds as well. This is best illustrated by the coin sound effect which is identical to the Super Mario coin sound effect that we’ve all been hearing for years. Another well executed feature of Jump Superstars is the use of the Touch Screen. This is the first case I can think of where the stylus just won’t cut it as character selection on the Touch Screen is best executed by using your thumbs. This gives the feel of having an extra controller embedded in the DS. It’s like having one more D-Pad that is easily accessible and useable right at your thumb tips. I have to admit that at first I was trying to use the regular stylus quite awkwardly but once I discovered the thumb configuration there was no going back.
When the single player game has become tiresome there’s still much more to do. The best of which is the multiplayer. This alone could have been a stand alone game that would have sold through the roof. AI bots are one thing but playing against a real human is a whole other deal. While playing multiplayer it’s possible to share one game between up to four players, but if you do that you’ll have to use the Koma of whoever is hosting the game. Otherwise if you have your own game cartridge you can use your own Koma and even swap Koma between your friends. This is definitely a case of DS WiFi at its best. The multiplayer replay value alone is worth the cost of the cartridge. Let’s just hope that for Jump Superstars 2, which must already be in development, the WiFi multiplayer gameplay goes online.
So if you like the gameplay you’ll have a ton of replay value here. The problem is that this replay value feels and is extremely reliant on repetition. Many of the missions are nearly identical and all the battles are very similar. This fact alone is why I think most 2D fighters’ single player game is always short. But as I said, if you’re really into the battles or want a game you can come back to time and time again without completing it, then this might be a smart buy just for longevity and multiplayer.
As with most fighting games, the Japanese text plays a small role in the actual gameplay. With that said, all of Jump Superstars can be enjoyed without understanding one bit of Japanese. The only problems you might encounter are not understanding what the goals of a particular mission are. Thankfully this is an extremely popular import and there are many FAQs available which I will reference at the end of this review.
Worldwide Release So will you be seeing this on store shelves in your part of the world? Not a chance. IGN sums it up best by saying, “Given the licensing complexities, it’d be virtually impossible to release this title outside Japan. For example, the US license of Dragon Ball is exclusively held by Atari, while One Piece is handled by Bandai.” So import this one as it’ll never reach your neck of the woods.
* All your favorite Jump Manga characters * Deep battle system * Huge amount of replay value * Japanese doesn’t hinder gameplay
* Repetitive Single Player
Overall Score 9.0