JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. That's right, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. Not JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Version or the much more concise JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD. Instead Capcom had to go the extra step and add "Ver." for no reason. As it turns out, trying to make sense of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is like training your cat to write the great American novel. It's never going to happen.
When originally released on the PlayStation and Dreamcast, JoJo was met with yawns in America. It had a lot working against it, starting with a weird art style and an off-putting sense of humor. The fact that it was based on an obscure Japanese Manga series didn't help its chances in the English speaking parts of the world. To make matters worse, this 2D throwback was released at a time when everybody was preoccupied with 3D fighting games. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was doomed from the start.
After more than a dozen years of waiting, fans of rare Capcom games finally have something to get excited about. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. is a collection of both arcade games, giving players the most comprehensive JoJo game ever released on a home console. This package comes with all 22 unique characters, an impressive list of backgrounds, bizarre cinemas and an adequate online multiplayer mode. But as nice as it is to see an old friend, this overpriced compilation isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Imagine a fighting game with nothing but novelty characters. Usually you only get one or two interesting fighters, like Street Fighter's Dhalsim or Yoshimitsu in Tekken. But that's not the case in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, because every single character has something strange going on. Here you'll find seemingly normal looking fighters with dark secrets. You'll find a cowboy with a laser gun. There's a dog named Iggy and a bird known as Petshop. There is a shadow fighter, who floats along the floor attacking from below. And just this is just scratching the tip of how weird the game is.
Many of the combatants are able to summon mysterious Stand characters to fight on their behalf. Here Capcom toys with some tag team techniques, but JoJo never quite veers into Marvel vs. Capcom territory. Sometimes a Stand will be added to the play field, while other times you'll simply turn into a different character. In the case of Iggy the dog, a larger animal towers over him for protection. Some characters only bring out these summoned characters during special moves, others are always on screen and there are a few fighters with none at all. There's a lot to keep straight while playing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
Perhaps all this makes more sense if you're a fan of the source material, but I found this list of fighters to be incomprehensible. It's definitely intriguing, but still incomprehensible. It's never clear why some characters turn into aliens, while others are able to summon mythological bird creatures. Sure every fighter is given a story, but that only makes things more confusing. If you're willing to invest the time to get to know this cast of characters, you'll be rewarded with ideas and moves never before seen in a Capcom fighting game.
The gameplay has been simplified from Street Fighter's six-button set-up. For the most part, you only use three buttons to attack -- light, medium and heavy hits. There's also a Stand button, which brings your summoned character (or alter ego, etc.) out for a brief time. Outside of that, the usual Capcom-style special moves are in full effect, with a power gauge that, when fully maxed out, will cause a full-screen assault unlike anything you've seen before. The core gameplay isn't bad, but feels simplistic next to Street Fighter, Darkstalkers and other Capcom fighters.
Outside of the wacky collection of pugilists, the real star is the Manga-influenced art style. Each of the 22 characters looks like they're hand-drawn, often with the distinct lines you only get in a comic book. The effect resembles A-Ha's Take Me On music video, creating a unique look that benefits the game. By using the same hardware that powered Street Fighter III, Capcom was able to make JoJo's Bizarre Adventure one of the most visually arresting 2D fighting games of all time.
Unfortunately, great visuals can only get you so far. While I couldn't get enough of the outrageous special moves and cool Stand abilities, I quickly tired of the simplistic gameplay. Many of the characters are strange to the point of being off-putting. This is made worse when you discover that there are very few "normal" characters. That's not to say I want a cast of Ryu and Ken wannabes, but it's difficult to get your bearing straight when everybody is so radically different from what you're used to.
Equally frustrating is the price tag, which is substantially higher than what Capcom normally charges. For twenty dollars you get a mostly barebones package; a game designed exclusively for the three or four people who remember this franchise. You don't get the single-player goals or the exciting dream matches that made Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition so memorable. Instead you get a challenge mode, which can easily be finished in only a few minutes.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. also features an online mode, though it too is as basic as it comes. I was generally pleased with the performance, and for the first time I didn't feel grossly overpowered by players who know the mechanics inside and out. But even with a dozen wins, I quickly grew bored with the core gameplay. It's fun to look at, but too many rounds end up playing out the same way.
I like the idea of Capcom mining some of their lesser known games for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN releases. Sadly, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure hasn't aged well. The characters are interesting to look at and the action will draw your attention, but the core fundamentals are too simple to keep you playing for long. It's also grossly overpriced, especially considering what is in the package. It's great to see JoJo again, but not at the price Capcom is asking.