After a string of hit 2D fighting games on the CPS-2 system (namely the Street Fighter, Alpha and Darkstalkers games), Capcom introduced its next (and final) generation of 2D arcade hardware in 1998. This would be known as the CPS-3 system.
The CPS-3 opened with Red Earth (Warzard). While Red Earth showcased impressive technology, boasting stunning visuals that far surpassed previous Capcom arcade games, it would only be a mild success, just like the board itself. In fact, the series that the CPS-3 board has become known for among its six total games are the Street Fighter III series which culminated in the critically acclaimed Street Fighter III: Third Strike. However, this article is about two little known unique fighting games for the CPS-3, JoJo's Venture & JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
Four years prior, in August 1992, Hirohiko Araki would finish the third part of his phenomenal hit manga JoJo's Bizzare Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. It would star Jotaro Kujo and his grandfather Joseph Joester along with a group of comrades in their quest to defeat the evil Dio. Dio has been the arch-nemesis of the Joester's for over 100 years. (This is covered in full in the first two parts of the manga.) The characters in JJBA:SC do battle using so-called Stands: spirits or powerful visions created by the users life energy. It is these stands and this arc of the manga on which the CPS-3 fighting games are based.
The game series had a star-studded development team, including notable Capcom staff such as Obata Shinichiro as planner (who would later work on Marvel Vs Capcom 2) and Noritaka Funamizu (of Street Fighter fame). JoJo author Hirohiko Araki also served as a consultant for the game. The series was developed by the team responsible for the Street Fighter 3 series.
So, with the team in place, the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure series was ready to begin. Before even playing any of the games in the series, just by looking at them, the vibrant and unique art style of Araki's work is instantly visible. Characters are big, bold, and colourful, their designs bursting with variety. Unconventional most certainly, but it makes for a more interesting cast than the generic martial artists of other fighting games at the time. No character looks ordinary and predictable; the fighters' different Stands also ensure that every character is unique and instantly recognizable. There are no shotoclones here.
Just glancing at the character select screen, you have a fighting dog, an ass-kicking old man, a belly dancer, and a serial killer whose weapon of choice is a talking dummy. With such a cast, JoJo instantly sets itself apart from the rogues' galleries of other fighting games of the time. Something must also be said for the accuracy and authenticity with which Capcom brings Araki's characters into the game with an effect of them leaping off the page in a style identical to the manga.
The series also has fantastically smooth animations. Even when the characters are just standing, they ooze personality. The smallest physical changes bring the characters to life as they control their Stands. For example, Kakyoin has his flashy and flamboyant posture in contrast with Jotaro's gruffer, intimidating manner. The animations of the Stands themselves are also incredibly well done, with smooth and uninterrupted movements.
The soundtrack of the series is also notable, as it is one of the more underrated ones in Capcom's history. The heroes' themes are fitting, and, well... heroic. Polnareff's sounds like a Mega Man X or VS game soundtrack with quite an upbeat tempo. The real strength of the soundtrack, however, lies in the themes for the villains. There is a perfect blend of atmospheric and ambient music. Few of the themes are as fast-paced as that of typical fighting games, with Dio, Chaka and Midler's themes sounding far more relaxed, yet dark and mysterious. The other key compositions in the series are the raw intensity of Vanilla Ice's (Iced) theme (which is perfect boss music) and the strange and unsettling themes of Devo (or D'Bo), Alessi and Death 13. These fit perfectly not only in terms of characterization, but the supernatural and suspenseful elements of the series.
Being a Capcom fighting game, anyone who is familiar with Street Fighter or Darkstalkers will know exactly what to expect when going into the JoJo series. The gameplay is fast paced, relying on speedy quarter back circle motions. There are the usual light, medium and heavy attacks, as well as a super meter which allows for - you guessed it - super moves.
JoJo does have some innovation in its mechanics, however, which comes with the Stand button. Along with your health meter you are presented with a Stand meter, which operates similarly to a guard meter. Every time a Stand is attacked the meter goes down until it is gone. The stand is then "Stand crushed", which renders them inactive for a short time. You can however restore this meter by deactivating your Stand.
The reason this is the key to combat in JoJo is twofold: Not only do the Stands take less damage than their users, but they also enhance the range of special moves and deal out far more damage. In some cases they can even be separated from the user and are allowed to move on their own as a separate character. This creates an interesting balance between attacking and defending with both your character and the Stand, making for a slightly unconventional twist on the ordinary fighting game formula. JoJo also has a few smaller innovations such as a roll button, attack clashes, guard cancels, custom combos, and button mashing sequences (when equal attacks meet) to differentiate itself from the traditional fighting game.
The second key mechanic JoJo introduces is the tandem attack, of which there are two types: The first is the Program Attack, where the individual Stand performs the super move input by the player. The second is the Real Time Attack where, much like the custom combos of Street Fighter Alpha 2, the player taps a series of buttons and the attacks pushed are linked into a combo. So while JoJo is not the deepest fighter around, there is a variety of techniques to provide some depth for the hardcore fighter fan.
JoJo works so well because all its parts fall into place perfectly, where it takes the firmly established mechanics of Capcom's previous games like super bars, the button layout and motions, and then adds little twists in the form of the Stand, clashes and custom combos to distance it from the everyday fighter. On top of that, it is one of the few fighting games where style and substance both excel equally. Characters are visually unique and have stronger narratives and backgrounds than the typical fighting game heroes. But JoJo is a competent fighting game in its own right, regardless of license or developer reputation.
The JoJo games are fun, stylish and fast paced fighters. They are also vastly underrated in comparison to their genre contemporaries. The series is also significant in that the 2nd game is the last game produced on CPS-3 hardware (and by extension Capcom proprietary hardware before they moved onto Taito boards). JoJo also has characters that are brimming with personality and charm, from the valiant Polnareff to the utterly repulsive Dio.
Even on its own, JoJo is significant because it gave Capcom a chance to refine all it had perfected with its previous fighting games. It also allowed Capcom to take a license just quirky enough for them to put an unconventional twist on the genre. It also manages to be a fantastic fighting game in its own right.
The main character of both JoJo games (and the third part of the manga), Jotaro is the tough protagonist who doesn't say much unless it will make him look cool. Throughout the games, he is on a quest to kill Dio before Dio's Stand ends up killing Jotaro's mother Holly.
Jean Pierre Polnareff
A chivalrous and gallant Frenchman, Polnareff joins Jotaro and the rest of the Stardust Crusaders to find the man who killed his sister. He comes complete with a Vanilla Ice haircut, and was also the inspiration for the SNK King of Fighters character Benimaru.
The lead of the second part of the manga, Joseph Joestar is Jotaro's grandfather and aids him on his quest to save his daughter. He has some hilarious lines of dialogue and an artificial hand.
A servant of Dio, taken in by his charms. She is sent to Kill Jotaro with her Stand, High Priestess, which assimilates metal objects to attack the enemy.
Mohammed Abdul (Avdol)
A fortune teller and close friend of Joeseph Joestar. Along with Joseph Joester, Abdul educates Jotaro about his Stand powers. His Stand is Magicians Red, who attacks with fire.
Alessi is a bizarre and creepy Stand wielder whom Dio hires to kill Jotaro & company. His Stand is Sethan which turns his opponent into a child. He will only face opponents who are weaker than him as he gets a sick enjoyment out of toying with them and knowing he cannot lose.
The main villain of both the games and the first and third parts of the manga, Dio's life goal is to be the most powerful being in existence. After putting on the stone mask in the first part of the manga, Dio turned into a vampire only for his plans of world domination to be thwarted by the original JoJo, Jonathan. Now, after 100 years Dio returns to once again try to take over the world. But first he must exact his revenge on the Joestars.
The gatekeeper of Dio's castle, Petshop is a giant and savage bird who enjoys hunting prey of all kinds. His Stand is Horus which attacks with sharp ice.
A sneaky womanizing cowboy, Hol Horse is hired by Dio along with his partner J Geil to kill Jotaro & gang. His Stand, The Emperor, is a gun with which he can control the direction of the bullet it fires.
Dio's incredibly loyal second-in-command, Vanilla Ice will stop at nothing to help Dio. Whenever his master is besmirched or insulted he goes into a blind rage. He is even willing to cut his head off for Dio. He is also turned into a vampire. His stand is Cream, which turns itself into a black void to consume space & time.
The first JoJo game is an impressive debut, introducing the gorgeous visual style and animation that the series would be known for. Capcom did a great job of capturing the source material perfectly. From the very start with the voice acting of Jotaro (provided by Kiyoyuki Yanada) and the character select screen depicted as a manga panel, the game reeks of authenticity towards the source material.
The story introductions for the characters in arcade mode are likewise accompanied with redrawn and coloured panels from the manga, a very distinct presentational choice. (The translation for the English version is slightly censored.) It would however have been preferable to have speech to go along with the text. This would then complete the transformation from the manga into a full-blown video game adaptation. With voice being present throughout the rest of the game, you would think this would be a natural conclusion.
The roster may be a little on the small side with only twelve characters total (two of which are unlockable but not all that different), but there is a variety in play style between most of the selectable core characters. Some may find the secret characters disappointing, as both of them are based on already playable characters just with some slight alterations.
One key character of note is the character of Midler. She is shown in the manga as a body with no visible face for a grand total of two panels. Per Capcom's request, Arak then developed the character design fully. Fast forward to the game and Midler has turned into a belly dancer with an all new character design specifically for this game.
In fact, the level of fan service within the game is outstanding. A variety of easter eggs for long time fans of the series fill the game at every opportunity. Beyond the individual characters all having story modes, Capcom placed little individual touches, like Joseph Joester's infamous "OH MY GOD" line. The references also get more obscure and hardcore throughout the game. For example, Alessi's technique turns opponents into virtually unknown side characters, showing just how much Capcom pulled from the source material. This level of fan service also carries over to the presentation of the game, with Japanese graphical "sound effects" ripped directly from the manga during special attacks, tarot cards for each Stand during story mode and D'arby sealing souls into poker chips on the continue screen.
Something must also be said for the authenticity of the characters in the game. Rather than Capcom making up their own moves and techniques (as is common with many anime and other licensed games), every attack, every taunt is lifted directly from the manga, creating a faithful and legitimate JoJo experience.
There are a few issues with the game. First, some may find the arcade mode a little easy as the regular cast are not that difficult to dispose of. The sub-boss Vanilla Ice (Iced in the English version), however, is very cheap towards newcomers, because of his strong attacks which come out of nowhere and leave him virtually invulnerable. Once you get the hang of the attack patterns, though, he is relatively easy to defeat.
The cut scenes, while well animated, do not have much in the way of action or movement. They just narrate events pre and post fight, leaving the vast majority of them to be filled with conversation. This means that while they are presented well, they can be slightly wooden and uninteresting.
Overall, JoJo's Venture is a solid 2D fighter based on the classic Capcom Street Fighter gameplay, which makes it very playable even 10 years later. On top of that, its characterization is strong and distinct from most other fighters, making for a very unique fighting game.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future / JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken Mirai he no Isan (ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 未来への遺産) - Arcade (1999)
In typical Capcom fashion, a sequel titled JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future was released less than a year after the original. Like so many Capcom fighter updates, it doesn't really constitute a full sequel to the first game. Nothing here is that different or revolutionary from JoJo's Venture. Though not a full blown sequel, it still serves as a significant revision to the original game. It is also the last game released for the CPS-3 arcade hardware.
The entire cast from JoJo's Venture returns, along with four instantly selectable brand new characters. They are also accompanied by playable versions of the boss characters from JoJo's Venture, Vanilla Ice and Dio. The two unlockable characters from JoJo's Venture are included, as well as four new secret characters that appear later in the third part of the manga. This makes for a total roster of 22 playable characters.
The gameplay has not changed significantly from JoJo's Venture, but now there are some characters without a Stand meter. Rather than having them always on screen to attack and absorb damage, these character's Stands will appear to attack and then disappear instantly. This means that from both offensive and defensive perspectives, players will have to be far more knowledgeable about the character they are playing. Some old characters also have new added special and super moves.
Aside from the roster, though, little has actually been added. The backgrounds and music are recycled (although there are a few new tracks to account for the bigger roster). Also, among the new characters only the instantly selectable four (Mariah, Petshop, Vanilla Ice, and Hol Horse) actually play differently from the old roster. The unlockables all play the same as characters which are already available on the main roster. It is good to have a larger roster but Kakyoin, New Kakyoin and Rubber Soul are all basically the same character, for example, only with different range for their attacks.
The four new characters, however, do add interesting game play elements, with Hol Horse and Petshop allowing for fighting from a distance and Mariah's magnetism forces. To be fair, even the secret unlockables are fun to play as, although they are not all that unique. Playing the game, however, one gets the feeling that more could have been done with them to make them stand out more.
The new characters lack dialogue with other characters in their story modes, and only have an opening and ending narration. There is also no A.I. programmed for the new characters, so a single player is unable to face them in story or challenge mode. Frankly, a few small changes here would have rounded the game off much better as a complete sequel rather than an incremental upgrade.
In terms of game modes, the only new introduction is the Challenge mode, which works similar to a traditional survival mode. Life and super meters carry over from fight to fight and can be restored with each opponent beaten. It also intersperses a scoring system where the less health you lose and more supers you hit the more points you get. The player is then graded by Joseph Joestar with a sarcastic comment.
The difficulty of the opponents (especially in challenge mode) has been increased, and the boss form of Vanilla Ice has one of his attacks removed and has been made slightly easier. This all makes for a balance in difficulty which leads the gameplay to be less frustrating overall.
While the game does feel incomplete, being more in line with an upgrade than a true sequel, it is still the most complete JoJo experience around. It maintains the fast gameplay and style that made the first game so great. It just feels like it could have used more development time to extend it into a full sequel. It is, however, a great game and new players may want to skip JoJo's Venture and go straight to the sequel which has all the content of the original.
A great many Capcom fighting games were ported to the original PlayStation, and JoJo was no exception. Like many of the CPS-2 games ported to PlayStation, JoJo isn't a very good port. It is based off of JoJo's Venture although it contains the cast from the second game, so it is more like a "JoJo 1.5".
Upon starting the game, the first thing players are greeted with is an (admittedly colourful) loading screen. The loading times are not horrendous, but they are slightly annoying even with the vibrant artwork. Once you actually get in a battle, the differences become strikingly apparent. All the sprites have shrunk down and are now pixelated and blurry. (This is especially noticeable on the Stands.) Frames of animation have been cut quite liberally to fit the hardware. In result, the once smooth animation is now not only less detailed, but also looks choppy. Some techniques have animation removed altogether.
Blood, including its edited substitute, has also been completely removed from the PlayStation version, along with several small details. Jotaro's cigarette and several win poses are just some of many animations that have vanished into thin air. In spite of all this, it does manage to transition the fast gameplay over fairly unscathed, just on a smaller, rougher scale.
Knowing that the game would be slightly lacking on Sony's home console, Capcom did include some bonus exclusive modes. One of these, exclusive to the Japanese version, is PocketStation functionality. But the most important one is the "SP" or Super Story mode. Rather than just playing as one character you switch around between the cast, fighting each battle as it appears in the manga. It also allows you to face enemies who are not in any of the other versions of the game. For example, Kakyoin can now fight the Tower of Gray Stand in a one-on-one battle. Stands that were no outright fighters in the manga, like Strength and Judgement, are now opponents in a variety of mini games. Most of these are just simple quick time events where you have to hit a corresponding flashing direction, but some others are more fleshed out. There is a fun little R-Type-esque shoot-em' up game with Kakyoin and Polnareff to defeat Yellow Temperance, and a simple game of poker.
The Super Story mode is far more thorough than the story mode in both the Arcade and Dreamcast versions. Due to the technical sacrifices on the PlayStation version, however, it is only really worth a playthrough for fans of the Jojo manga. It is a shame that there exists no version of the game that combines this mode with the arcade accuracy of the Dreamcast port. While the Super Story mode is interesting for long time fans, the cut frames of animation and loss of detail are hard to ignore.
JoJo on the PlayStation also has the obligatory gallery of character art, as well as a menu which holds all sorts of bizarre bonus features. They are also mostly just mini games, but it is a nice effort. This menu is fashioned after a certain book one of the villains carries around. Nothing mind blowing, but it makes for a few nice cosmetic touches.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure / JoJo no Kimyō na Bōken Mirai e no Isan (ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 未来への遺産) - Dreamcast (1999)
Like most CPS-3 games, both JoJo's Venture & JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future were ported to the Dreamcast, placed on a single disc simply titled JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. The ports are pretty much arcade perfect, with graphics, gameplay and content being the same as the arcade originals, save for some additional play modes. JoJo's Venture now has versus, training, and survival modes in addition to the standard arcade mode. The characters that require button combinations to unlock each time in the arcades can now also be saved to VMU.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure loses the survival mode, as it would have been redundant with the existing challenge mode. It does get the Alessi mode, however, where players can customize a set of rules based around the kid forms of the characters which Alessi turns them into. For example, players can play as the kid counterparts for the whole round or set the rules so characters turn into children during a Stand crush. This mode is a nice bonus, but playing as the kids can mean that matches go on for a very long time.
The Dreamcast version also introduces an Easy mode for each character, which maps the characters' special moves to a single button. This is a good way to make the game approachable for players who are not familiar with the input motions of fighting games and just want to beat somebody up.
A Japanese exclusive Dreamcast edition was also released entitled JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future for Matching Service which is the same Dreamcast port, although it had nationwide online play in Japan. With the Dreamcast servers long gone, this feature no longer works, of course.
Actually, there isn't really that much difference between the Dreamcast and arcade versions of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, which is what makes them so good, being 99% perfect arcade ports. Nothing is lost or mangled in transition. The Dreamcast version is the port to get for anyone who wants to play JoJo.
The English versions of JoJo have a very "interesting" translation. To begin with, the JoJo series is known for naming characters after musical references. JoJo, for instance, comes from the Beatles song "Get back". However, most of the names were not going to fly with our western copyright laws so several names had to be changed. Devo became D'Bo, Vanilla Ice became Iced, Abdul was changed to Avdol, Steely Dan/Rubber Soul became Robber Soul, and Boingo became Voingo. Names are also switched from Japanese to English naming order. Language is also generally toned down, with "destroy" being used instead of "kill". The translation is very much a product of its time. Although it is mostly accurate, it just has some quirky lines.
There are, however, some graphical edits to the games. All the Japanese manga "sound effects" and onomatopoeia during attacks (expect for Vanilla Ice's battle) have been removed with no replacement, and Jotaro's smoking taunt is edited to remove the smoke, so he appears to just be turning around. All blood is either removed or painted white, and when Abdul is killed, his arms are no longer left behind. Dio's death has also been edited from a bloody slicing and dicing to an off screen poke. These changes are consistent with the English arcade and Dreamcast versions, while the Japanese versions are uncensored. (The PlayStation version has no blood at all, regardless of region.)
While the JoJo manga spans over more than 90 volumes, in the interest of both relevancy and sanity this article will just briefly introduce the third part of the series, which has been translated into English by Viz across 16 volumes, under the catch-all title JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. This corresponds to volumes 12-28 of the original Japanese manga.
There are two OVA series based around the third part of the manga. The original series (produced in 1993) was six episodes long and chronicles the second half of the third part of the manga from meeting Iggy though to the final confrontation with Dio. The second series is a 7-episode prequel and starts from the beginning of part 3, explaining the background of the characters.
The OVAs remained relatively faithful to the source material, although due to their short length they omit some portions of the manga. Also, due to the length of time between releases, the two series have different animation styles. Both OVAs also have different voice actors from the games.