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Game Review

Super Smash Bros. meets anime and manga in J-Stars Victory VS+. It packs in 39 playable characters and 13 support characters from the cartoon universe of Japan's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.

Never heard of it? It's an action manga publication originally created for teen boys that's been around since the days when you could only find cartoon magazines printed on actual paper. Now I'll admit that the name meant very little to me either when we first picked up this game. (You pretty much have to have grown up in Japan or be a fervent manga fan to get everything that's going on here.) But I did recognize at least a few of the franchises in the gaming mix—including names such as Dragonball Z, Naruto and Bleach.

Anyway, with this game, fans of those various Jump worlds and characters can pit their favorites against one another in over-the-top arena battles that feature slam-bam moves ranging from thousand-flying-fist pummels to atomic bomb-like crack-the-Earth super smacks.

Thrusts and Parries, Blasts and Batterings

There are a number of different "modes" of play here, including an Arcade mode that sets single-player battlers in winner-take-all short contests, Victory Road mode where players work to achieve specific tasks through a series of battles, and Free Battle mode that offers up local or online multiplayer mosh pits full of fury. But the fact is, most of your early playtime will be spent in Adventure mode where you'll be working to unlock all the different characters.

You choose one of four cartoony fighters at the adventure's beginning and then set off on a sailing journey around the three dimensional map of a place called Jump World. There you'll meet lots of allies and foes, fulfill quests, collect special cards to buff up your heroes and, along the way, build a team that you can hopefully use to win the J-Battle Festival—a king-of-the-world kind of beat-'em-up brawl that attracts the strongest competitors from all the anime realms.

The game's flip-from-a-rooftop-and-leap-like-a-superhero combat is a fast, frantic ballet of thrusts and parries, lunges and blocks, blasts and batterings. And the key is to mix and match the right team and abilities to ably fend off any strategy the opposing squad throws at you. The cat-and-mouse battles take place in fairly sizable, twisting and turning arenas filled with lots of destructible scenery—including concrete buildings you can be tossed through, vehicles that explode and landmasses that crumble with a solidly landed blow. And get this, gigantic fruits and vegetables can even be sliced and diced into brunch-worthy side dishes with the right flurry of attack moves.

Scream Like a Manga Man, Pound Like an Anime Girl

The game is T-rated and, thankfully, there's nothing gory splashing about. But there is a fruit bowl full of flashing, smashing, bashing pummeling. Some fighters shoot blazing beams of energy, throw mental bombs or spew funnels of flame. Others sport magical fists as big as a Fiat, or swing razor-sharp katana swords at the speed of light. Opponents can get shell-shocked with devastating, otherworldly blasts that pack the force of at least a hundred volcanoes or so.

Then there are the characters themselves.

The anime lineup ranges from a drooling child-like fella in leopard-skin briefs to a demonic child sidekick to heavily muscled fullback-sized beefers to an alien octopus to a guy who fights by swinging his extremely long nose hairs to gals with a devil tail. And note that some of the ladies in this mix wear skimpy tops over their abundantly fleshy and bouncy busts.

And that pretty much sums up J-Stars to a T: strange, sensual, explosive, frenetic … and manga through and through.

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