Review by FFandMMfan

"This game puts an end to topics like Goku vs ___ and Naruto vs ____."

Over in Japan, land of the Rising Sun, Sushi, Manga, Anime, Videogames and Giant Robots, there is a magazine called Shonen Jump! Within this magazine are Manga, which are Japanese comic books. This magazine has been the original starting point for many famous series such as Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece - Not to mention all the other series that most Americans know nothing about. Now, imagine, if you will, that all of your favorite characters from over 40 Manga jumped straight out of their panels, and began kicking each other's asses.

This is the result of such a phenomenon. Jump Ultimate Stars is the sequel to the highly rated Jump Superstars for DS, which was one of the hottest import titles from Japan over the last year or so. While I've not personally played the first game, and therefore cannot give a comparison between the two, I will say that Jump Ultimate Stars has exceeded my expectations and is EASILY one of the best games currently on the Nintendo DS.

Gameplay - 10/10
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As a fighting game, Jump Ultimate Stars pits two or more characters against each other using various modes of attack, in order to deplete the opponent's life bar. However, unlike most fighting games (and like Super Smash Bros.) you have the ability to move around the stage. Up on platforms, below your opponent, avoiding stage hazards, etc. In the end, what you get is much like a fusion between Super Smash Bros, a standard fighter (such as Street Fighter or Guilty Gear) and a trading card game.

To explain the "trading card game" comment, you and your opponents must build "Decks" which, in actuality are Manga pages, created with "Koma" (panels) instead of Cards.

Each of the HUNDREDS of characters take up a certain amount of space on the page, and are of a specific shape. Some of them are Battle Characters, which are your actual "fighters". Some are Support Characters, which usually teleport on screen, perform an ability such as an attack or healing move, and then vanish. And some are Help Characters, which never appear in the battle screen, but add effects to your team such as increased Life bars, or resistance to certain types of attacks.

Once you've built a Deck, you can head into the fray. Battles take place on various manga themed maps (which are apparently improved upon from the last game) and pit you against up to 3 other opponents at once.

The touch screen displays your Manga page, and the top screen displays the action. If you touch the panels on the screen, the character displayed there will take action. If tap a Battle Character, it will tag out your current character, and bring in the one you just touched. If you tap a Support, it will activate their ability.

However, the real meat of the game is in the fighting itself. Each character performs differently. Luffy may have ranged attacks, but a character such as Sakura is faster, and Kinnikuman is slow, but strong. Plus, each character has two Special attacks, assigned to X and X+up and can range from a rapid offensive combo, to a huge single strike, to a healing or stat boosting ability.

However, beating down the opponent with your best attacks isn't always the best way to go about winning a match. Sometimes you'll have to break the walls of the stage, and ring-out your opponent to score a KO, or collect certain items before time runs out.

The main game will take you across various Manga themed stages, and as stated above, KOing the enemy is not always the way to win. Sometimes you'll be required to protect a character, or prevent yourself from being attacked at all. Sometimes you will be given a pre-selected deck to fight with. These Missions within the worlds add a lot of value to the game, though without a guide or knowledge of the Japanese language, it is unlikely that you will be reading any of the objectives. This can be a problem, because almost every single character is unlocked through these missions.

You also must evolve your characters through a simple system. Everyone but your first three characters (Naruto, Luffy and Goku) begin as Help characters. You collect various colored Gems from completing missions, and from playing Wi-Fi battles, which can be spent on a character's evolution line to make them stronger and function as Support and Battle characters.

Not everyone can become Support or Battle characters though. For example: Sven from Black Cat can only go as high as Support, and Bulma from Dragon Ball can only go up to Help. Those that cannot reach higher levels (and even some that can) sometimes have special spaces on their evolution lines which will unlock new Koma for other characters, unlock sound and video clips, unlock new worlds, or allow them to be displayed as your menu's Information guide.

Even still, the game features the ability to set up a battle any way you want to, and even allows Single Card Multiplayer (which isn't that great, but it's a good example of the real thing) as well as Multi-Card for a more complete version of fights, assuming you can get your buddies to get a copy. Last, but certainly not least, the game features a Wi-Fi mode, where you can battle people in random matches, or in Friends battles. Sadly, since the game's servers (and most of the players) are located in Japan, there tends to be a fair amount of lag. Thus, it is best to play against friends who live in a closer location to you.

Music - 8/10
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Nothing terribly memorable, but nothing bad either. Not much else needs to be said about it.

Graphics - 10/10
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Very nice. The characters are animated very well, and it just looks GOOD. Lots of nice special effects and some pretty crazy attack animations. Occasionally, there will be a bit of lag, but not too often to be a bother.

Closing Comments
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Well, the gameplay was the bulk of the review, wasn't it? Anyway, if you can't read a bit of Japanese (like myself) you will have a VERY hard time getting through the main game without an FAQ. Luckily for you (and for everyone) there's a wonderful FAQ on this site that explains everything you could possibly ask, and shows the descriptions for each and every mission.

It IS the best fighter currently on the DS, and if you've got the money to spend, and a guide handy, you really can't go wrong.

For kicks, here's a brief list of some of the series you will find within the game: Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece, Black Cat, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Death Note, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin, Shaman King, Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh! and D.Gray-Man, among many others.

Pros:
+ If you like manga/anime, you'll like this game.
+ The battles are very well done, and the missions are put together well.
+ Graphics are nice
+ Wi-Fi play
+ It puts an end to all the "Goku vs ___" topics.
+ Creative character building system for a fighting game.
+ Lots and lots of things to unlock, increasing the replay value.

Cons:
- Some lag, mostly during Wi-Fi.
- Future Trunks and Sven aren't Battle Characters.
- Very Japanese heavy, requires a guide if you can't read it.
- You might get owned by a 12 year old Japanese kid.
- You may not be familiar with many of the manga.

Great game, and if you like fighters and manga/anime, you'd be a fool to pass this up.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/13/06


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