Game Reviewby Richard Eisenbeis,
My Hero One's Justice
Battle your way through part of the second and third seasons of hit superhero anime My Hero Academia using a wide array of heroes and villains in this 3D arena fighting game.
With the current popularity of superheroes in popular culture, it's no surprise that superhero anime My Hero Academia is three seasons in and commands an ever-growing legion of loyal fans both inside and outside of Japan. This past month even saw the Japanese release of the franchise's first feature film--as well as the franchise's second video game, My Hero One's Justice.
My Hero One's Justice begins half way through the second season of the anime and follows Izuku and his classmates as they encounter the superhero serial killer, Stain. From there, the story continues through the first half of the third season, ending with one of the franchise's most climactic battles.
But the game doesn't end there. Instead, you play the game again--but this time you play the villains' side of the story as you lead them from one battle to the next. It's only after completing both the Hero and the Villain stories that you unlock a fun little prequel of sorts and play through the second season's tournament arc with all that hero versus hero action.
The main story is told through a series of fully voiced still frames from the anime, combined with original art for the game, that are laid out like a comic to book end each battle. There are also a scant few fully animated cutscenes spread throughout the story--usually at the most epic moment of each story arc.
However, what is most interesting are the “IF” battles. These “what if” stages highlight battles that might have happened to the supporting characters and villains while the story was focused on Izuku. These can be anything from training battles before the students' final exams to more in-depth looks at how each of the various villains joined Tomura's team. While not canon by any means, these stories are a fun addition that add a bit of novelty to the game.
On the gameplay side, My Hero One's Justice is a 3D fighting game akin to the Naruto Ultimate Ninja series of games. Each fight is a one-on-one battle (though you can also summon up to two assistant characters that can enter into the battle for a single attack at regular intervals) in which your character runs around a 3D environment. Many of these have obstacles that can block attacks or simply be destroyed by them.
The controls are at once simple and complex. On PlayStation, the square button is your normal physical attack while triangle and circle utilize your character's various superpower moves. However, pushing the movement thumbstick at the same time as an attack changes what the attack will be. For example, when doing this with a normal attack, your character uses an attack that is more powerful and cannot be interrupted by anything but a grab or a special attack. These are considered counter attacks--as they allow you to simply take damage upfront to assure you can combo your opponent a few moments later when your attack goes off.
This is the game's basic rock, paper, scissors, fighting system: normal attack beats grab; grab beats counter attack; counter attack beats normal attack. So while you can just go in button mashing and have more than a little success against the computer, knowing how to react to an opponent's incoming attacks is the key to victory against human opponents.
The game also has two control methods: the first, “manual,” is as described above. The other, “normal” is mainly different in that normal attacks lead into an automatic combo that utilizes many power/counter attacks/grabs from your character repertoire without you having to do anything but press the square button over and over.
If you're at all new to 3D fighters of this type, it's a nice gesture and one that allows you to get right into the game without having to master the controls first. This is even more vital given that you play a different character--complete with totally different movesets--in nearly every stage. However, with “normal” controls, you always have at least one combo to use--and one that shows you a nice sampling of the other moves your character can perform.
In terms of replayability, the story mode does a great job of rewarding you for continued playing in the form of unlockable costumes and accessories. Beating a stage for the first time gets you one of these. Beating the stage with an S rank gets you another. Each stage also has a secret condition for winning a third reward—a condition that often seems connected to how the fight unfolded in the anime.
There is also a mission mode. In this, you play across several different maps, with a fair amount of fights in each. To begin this mode, you choose three characters. You can choose among those three for your playable character on any given mission. However, their HP isn't replenished between missions. To counteract this handicap, you gain the ability to use items in between battles and, more importantly, level the characters up through fighting. The higher level they are, the more damage they do and the less they take. And like the story mode, you can unlock costume accessories and visual fair to customize your online player ID card.
As for online play, you select a character (which you can of course dress up using all the costumes and accessories you've unlocked in the other modes) along with two support characters before even searching for an opponent. Then, you select a quick match, ranked match, make a room, or search for a room and proceed to battle like normal.
In my time with the online mode, I encountered an unfortunate amount of lag. While not unplayable, several of the fights had noticeable half-second pauses at random intervals. (Note: Though there is no way to know what kind of connections my opponents had, I was playing on a 1 Gbps fiber-optic line and almost certainly in the same country as them--i.e., Japan.)
I noticed only one other problem with the game in general over the 15 hours I spent with the it: character balance. As a tie-in game to a popular anime, many will want to play this game for no other reason than to play as their favorite character. Ideally, in a game like this, you could choose anyone and have a reasonable chance at winning online. Unfortunately, some characters are drastically more powerful than others.
These tend to be the characters with numerous ranged attacks, making it incredibly hard to get close to them. Dabi, my online character of choice, can utterly waste opponents with his zone control powers--i.e., a heat seeking fireball that can change direction and speed on command and a wall of moving fire that bisects the stage and makes the ground untouchable for several seconds. Tsukuyomi can likewise start melee combos far outside the range of most characters thanks to Dark Shadow. On the other hand, Characters without much in the way of ranged attacks just have a tougher time overall--which can be disheartening if they rank among your favorites.
My Hero One's Justice is a game whose greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Everything in this game wants to be as true to My Hero Academia as possible while keeping the game fun to play. This means the characters feel like they're torn straight out of the anime--with the attacks and powers lining up almost perfectly with what you've come to expect. However, this also means that the story takes no risks and simply retreads the same familiar ground as the anime. And while the IF stages are a fun distraction, they do little to make the game feel like an original tale.
In the end, the game is really made for two specific types of people: one, those who love arena fighting games a'la Powerstone, and two, those who want to relive the story of My Hero Academia, only with themselves in the driver's seat. If either of those describe you, you'll have a blast with this game.
My Hero One's Justice was released in Japan for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on August 23, 2018. It will be released in North America for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, XBox One, and PC on October 26, 2018.
Overall : B
Graphics : B+
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : B-
Presentation : B
+ The “IF” stories that flesh out what happens when Izuku isn't around, hearing All Might say “Oh Shit!” every time he loses
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