Last year I played an absolutely stellar game that you haven’t heard of – what’s more, it turned out to be my favourite game of the entire year. Imagine Super Smash Bros, on a handheld console. Now imagine deeper fighting mechanics, and a tactics system stronger than Pokemon. (Though that’s not saying much.) And finally, imagine that it had licensed characters you recognised – and not just one series, but from 41 series. Forty-one series. This game simply doesn’t sound possible, in this day and age.
Turns out, it’s real! The game is called Jump: Ultimate Stars, and it is simply jaw-droppingly good. It is the best Nintendo DS game. And it has never been released outside of Japan, of course.
It manages to license so many series because it is the game of the manga, Shonen Jump – the manga that launched most of the series on offer. There is something oddly satisfying about using Luffy to beat down Naruto, though I hasten to add I am no particular fan of any series on offer. (Since, alas, Cowboy Bebop was not serialised in Jump). This game is just good, in so many ways.
It requires a little patience when playing without knowing the language, but, on the plus side, complete translations are available through that amazing thing called the internet. Frankly, knowing what ‘Deathmatch’ is in Japanese may be hugely useful in your life, should you ever find yourself taken captive and put in Japanese gladiator matches. But I digress: playing this game in a language I don’t speak was still tons of fun, because good game design is universal.
Allow me to post the first picture on the internet where, in official media, Vegeta punches Rukia in the face:
Multi-series violent fanfic now has official material to work from!
The game’s strength is how it takes the simplistic-yet-addictive mechanics of Smash Bros-style multiplayer combat and adds depth through rock-paper-scissors strengths and weaknesses, and a completely customisable ‘deck’ that is brought into battle on the lower touch screen, for easy character changes, heavy attacks, and bonuses. (Triple jump was my personal favourite, as victory often comes in speedy entries and exits.)
In essence, this game works because it is the only game in the Smash Bros style that focuses on competitive play, where the better player always wins. If you die, it is always your fault, and nothing compares to that feeling.
The game never made it outside Japan because of the immense licensing issues – how would one go about licensing 41 series? (For that matter, that is probably why the magazine the game is based on, Shonen Jump, is not published outside Japan.)
I got it for the startling price of $5.20, though I would recommend it even if it costs ten times that. This is the best game on the DS.
(Also, don’t emulate – this game is for playing with your thumbs!)