Review by ShadowGuardian9

"Yup, it's Ultimate."

What is Shonen Jump? Shonen Jump is a collection of many manga that is published in Japan. These many, many manga grew so popular that a crazy fighting game featuring them was created. The game was Jump Superstars. The game was a smash hit in Japan, and now the game's sequel has been released. So the new question is, what is Jump! Ultimate Stars?

On the whole, Jump! Ultimate Stars is when you take frantic fighters like Smash Bros., take a whole bunch of manga licenses and mix it in, and top it off with a ton of customizable options and online play. Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, don't worry. Jump! Ultimate Stars is an amazing game, and isn't scared to show off each and all of its strengths, which are tremendously plentiful.

Jump! Ultimate Stars doesn't hold back when it comes to its roster as a fighting game, with a humongous cast of more than 300 characters from more than 40 manga in Shonen Jump magazines. Many of these will be familiar to anime fans who watch Cartoon Network. Naruto, One Piece, YuYu Hakusho, Dragonball, Bleach, Prince of Tennis, Shaman King, among many others make appearances. Also, manga like GinTama, Dr. Slump, Kinnikuman, and Bobobo-Bo-Bo-Bobo make appearances. Along with some familiar faces, the game has quite a few manga that may be difficult to recognize to your casual fan, as newer manga like KochiKame make appearances. Regardless, there's a tremendous fighting roster in Jump! Ultimate Stars.

The battlefield is a 2-D plane with the characters on the top screen and both the Health and Special Gauge in the top-left corner. The D-Pad is used to run, A to jump, B for weak attack, Y for stronger attack. Special attacks are used with the X button, with energy being spent from the Special gauge. Guard by pressing down on the D-Pad. L and R can be used as shortcut keys, to execute a support attack quickly or to swap out a specific character. Also, tapping the characters on the bottom screen lets you swap out your Battle Characters or use Support Character actions. Battle characters are controlled on-screen, while Support characters are like special attacks. Help characters boost stats or show special abilities. All of this sounds confusing, but it all comes together once you understand Koma.

One of the most important, though at the same time most fun parts of Jump! Ultimate Stars is the Koma system. In Japan, a panel in a comic is called a Koma. Being a game with so many manga licenses, the game uses Koma quite a bit. The Koma system is where the player can design their “deck” of characters, stats, and attacks. You're shown a panel built up of smaller panels, smaller Komas. To build a Koma, you take the smaller Koma featuring all the characters and fitting them together. Stronger Koma take up more space, but can attack more. Some possess different shapes, or encourage specific types. The Koma system offers plenty of chances to experiment with how you design your deck, but doesn't slow it down, and with plenty of characters and surprises (like increased skill between two Koma) the Koma system is one of the most fun parts of the game. And the fact that you can store more than one Koma deck doesn't hurt either.

Jump! Ultimate Stars has a great deal of modes. The J Space mode lets you battle amongst the many manga to earn new characters and Gems. The Ranking mode lets you play single VS matches, or climb the ranks to earn Gems to spend. Koma lets you design decks or examine new Koma. The Evolution Mode lets you spend already earned Gems to strengthen already existing Koma and earn new ones. The game also has a solid multiplayer, with download play, local battles, and Wi-Fi. Much of the game is in Japanese, and this may make the game hard to figure out, but different button combinations shown and such makes the game easier to play.

Some people may roll their eyes at the uses of sprites in the game, but the use of such toned-down technology offers plenty of over-the-top effects. You won't find messy polygons or sloppy 3-D in Jump! Ultimate Stars; instead you'll find bright animations with extremely little lag. Simple attacks capture the manga essence of each character, from Monkey D. Luffy's Gum-Gum punches or Naruto's throwing of shuriken. The stronger attacks are over-the-top and a thrill to watch, like Bobobo's Fist of the Nosehair attack or Anna Kyoyama's Shikigami summoning. The game really takes the sprite animations to the wall and the overall appearance keeps the manga influence. The still-pictures on the bottom screen look quite good and keep their stunning appearances as they showed in their manga series. The audio isn't too groundbreaking, but the upbeat tunes, strong fighting effects, and stage sounds do show off some character. They may not be amazing graphics, but Jump! Ultimate Stars doesn't exert its influence, and lets each character show their skills well.

Pros
+ Frantic and fun gameplay
+ Tons of customizable options
+ Wireless local and Wi-Fi gameplay
+ Download play
+ Tons of manga characters and stages
+ Purely one of the best DS games yet

Cons
- Unless you know a lot of Japanese, this may be a con

Jump! Ultimate Stars is easily one of the best DS games yet. Its chaotic gameplay is mindfully-reminiscent of Smash Bros., but using the plentiful manga worlds and characters creates a new dimension to the gameplay. The Koma system allows a tremendous amount of ways to play, and with the many manga licenses, it's not difficult to enjoy. The graphics and sound are full of character, and the use of sprites allows for the animations to look good without pushing the DS too far. A solid and plentiful multiplayer mode offers multiplayer fun online and offline, excellent for a game that focuses much of its gameplay on frenetic multiplayer gameplay. While many games for the DS focus upon 3-D, polygonal looks, Jump! Ultimate Stars is a grand example of showing fun gameplay in its purest form. There's not much to the game: get a bunch of manga series, get the characters to fight each other, show some multiplayer modes. It's not Smash Bros., but it's close enough to be one of the best DS games yet. Jump! Ultimate Stars is well-worth importing for gamers or anime fans alike and is a tremendous step for the Nintendo DS.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/09/07


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