by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
Anime inspired brawlers are something of a crowded market, with heavyweights including Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm, Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Guilty Gear and BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma hold pole position as the go-to games for stick and controller fighters the last decade. It’s vital for new genre entries to break away from competitors in noticeable ways, a hard task to accomplish in what’s already a packed arena.
My Hero One’s Justice 2 is the follow up to 2018’s first instalment in the brawler spin-off from the eponymous hit anime series My Hero Academia. The original was praised for its flashy and eye-popping renditions of the series, brought to life in the fighting genre but where critics found consensus was in its fairly cookie-cutter combat.
Having now played through some of the sequel’s campaign and online battles, there’s been a noticeable effort to improve gameplay mechanics but not enough to captivate a high-skill ceiling of play.
Combat still leans towards more common input combos to pull of long sequences, thinking along the lines of 2013’s Killer Instinct, where one or two inputs creates flashy combo animations. This could be a good way of on-boarding players less experienced with fighting game mechanics, but undercuts the satisfying payoffs players can receive when pulling together long combo chains and sequences. However, that’s a personal take on a widely contested issue, so take that statement with a pinch of salt.
This lustreless design isn’t helped by a bland campaign, recounting the narrative of Academia’s late season 2 and early season 3 through hard-to-follow still images of characters interacting and mid-action dialogue which is often lost amongst the throng of battle. To someone unfamiliar with My Hero Academia, I can imagine it being very bewildering. Characters are introduced with little to no exposition, already expecting a knowledge of the aforementioned predecessor or anime series.
Narratives for characters like protagonist Izuku Midoriya are never fully explained within the world of My Hero One’s Justice 2. Their convictions and motivations are never fleshed out, nor the overarching battle between heroes and villains and the constant strive for self-improvement. For a “story mode”, it does little more than provide an avenue to play with the majority of characters and to comprehend their abilities, not who they are.
Other modes of play are fairly serviceable with plenty of options for customising your battles between AI, couch-coop partners and online fights. ‘Missions’ is a mode which allows for run-throughs of multiple fights between groups of enemies, unlocking extra customisable options for participating characters. It does become rather tedious though on longer missions, requiring you to fight stronger enemies as your progress and reverting you back to the start of the mission if you fail.
What My Hero One’s Justice 2 does right in this context is creating a gloriously epic display of combat on-screen – invigorating gameplay with the same clamour and panache the anime series is known for. Fights erupt with the same sense of danger and intensity when on the small-screen, with individual characters hosting a bevy of unique animations to lay a good smack-down on their opponents. This brings me to another highlight of My Hero One’s Justice 2 – the roster. The cast on show is brimming with heroes and villains, big and small, appearing from the various seasons of Academia. Favourites of mine include Fumikage Tokoyami and his Dark Shadow abilities, engaging primarily through his shadowy amalgamation from range alongside Twice and his fun but janky aerial combat. With this large roster, players can be accompanied into combat with two sidekicks during certain modes of play to unleash special art attacks during the flow of battle. It provides good mix-up potential to characters’ fighting styles and also fits thematically into the larger scale battles from the series.
What’s in a name?
Finally, I have to mention, the name is just so terrible. If I wasn’t already familiar with the characters who feature on its promo art, I would have no reason to assume a connection between this game and the anime series. The conjunction between the written “One” and the numeral “2” makes for a jarring appearance. I may be nitpicking at this point but as said before, titles have to break away for their competitors in noticeably good ways and naming goes a long way in attracting or deterring a new player-base. After finding sparsely populated lobbies in the online space, it seems the latter is more likely the case.
Large & Customisable Roster, Great Visuals
Lacklustre Combat, Dull Campaign