I’m a pretty big JoJo fan, so I’m coming at JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Eyes of Heaven very much from the perspective of a fan. Eyes of Heaven features an original story, yes, but it’d be hard to enjoy the plethora of references, or plow through the plot spoilers, if you’re not a JoJo fan already. For a fan, though, it’s pretty marvellous.
Whether it’s the original manga or video games, JoJo has always had a bit of a hard time in being brought over to the west. For a lot of people their first taste of JoJo may have been the above average Dreamcast port of the Capcom Arcade fighting game JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Thankfully the ongoing 2012 anime version of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has proven quite successful. CyberConnect2’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle was very well received (earning a perfect score from Famitsu), so it was great to see them working on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Eyes of Heaven.
Even though CyberConnect2 are revisiting JoJo, Eyes of Heaven is a far cry and then some away from All Star Battle. It’d be easy to simply update All Star Battle, add in some new modes, new characters, a little bit of new story from Part 8 (the current run of JoJo), and call it a day. Eyes of Heaven is just a completely different beast.
Fights in Eyes of Heaven usually take place in 3D stages, the arenas packed with details and obstacles to make them unique and very different from one another. The Cairo rooftops from Stardust Crusaders have a lot of roofs of varying heights, and a lot of places where you can fall. The memorable Air Supplena Island from Battle Tendency also makes an appearance, with the large spike pit in the middle doing damage over time, and steps inside the tower leading to a balcony. The gravity shifted Cape Canaveral from Stone Ocean is another dangerous one, with an endless plummet always a danger. In Diamond is Unbreakable‘s Morioh you can even sometimes stop for a cup of tea. Stages are also littered with power ups, and special areas where you can pull off dramatic finishes.
Eyes of Heaven is an arena fighter then, a 3D brawler packed full of exciting dynamic locations from the series, and rammed with a tonne of characters spanning all 8 parts of JoJo. My only real complaint is that there isn’t more characters, which seems a little bit unreasonable considering how many there are. However, with Parts 5-8 especially the selection is lacking some of the “deep cuts” of the selection of earlier parts, offering the basic characters you’d come to expect and not much more.
It’s easy to see why they’d do this when the anime is so popular right now, and is currently adapting Part 4. With that said every character in the game plays very uniquely. There’s a loving touch to the way all of the characters have been created, with their own quirks that will remind you of the series. Character selection doesn’t just influence the pre-fight dialogue, but can also unlock unique Dual Heat Attacks, the ultimate moves of the game.
Mechanically the fighting system can initially seem a bit complicated, but it’s another case of each button having fairly unique purposes. With Square you have your basic attacks, Triangle is a unique and often stronger attack, which can be comboed into. Holding L1 gives you a selection of special attacks tied to the face buttons and triggers, including some EX variants — these can also be comboed into. R1, without holding L1, will give you access to the character’s special unique ability.
These special attacks have a cooldown that varies from move to move, rather than any kind of shared meter. For instance, Jotaro will be able to slam out ORA ORAs like nobody’s business, but the cooldown on his Stop Time ability takes quite a while to come back around. You’ve also got jumped with the X Button, evades with Circle, a lock-on, a guard, and even some flash cancels and flash breaks to interrupt your own and your opponent’s combos.
Even though fights are two on two you only select one main character to play as, the second one being your “partner”. There is a casual online fighting mode that does allow 2 vs 2 teams of human opponents, though. It’s also a bit of a shame there is no local multiplayer. If one opponent is knocked out the remaining opponent gets powered up through a “soul succession”, boosting their powers and health temporarily. Unfortunately when you’re knocked out it’s just game over, even if your AI partner is fine. This can make some harder fights feel a bit lop-sided, even when they shouldn’t.
Things can get quite frantic, but when you get used to how to use a character you’re generally know what you’re meant to be doing. This can lead to some lack of variety, as once you’ve sussed a character out it’s quite easy to just overwhelm the AI opponents, even if they’re a fair bit stronger than you (the story mode has a level up system). Thankfully almost every fight in the story mode allows you to select another couple of characters to take into the fight rather than the ones it automatically suggests — the roster gradually increasing as you make your way through the story fights.
The story itself is fairly simplistic. The JoJo story as we know it is being altered by someone outside of the realm of the “canonical” reality. This person is also using their reality altering powers to brainwash some of the beloved characters through JoJo history into fighting for them — both ones that are alive and ones that should be dead. Only by fighting them and healing them with the Holy Corpse (from Part 7), can you restore them (and add them to your party).
As far as being a fighting game goes it is lacking in some depth. Once you’ve grasped what you’re meant to be doing and the best way to do it, you can end up just going through the motions. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven doesn’t boast the technical proficiency of the Capcom fighter, but what is here is sure to delight any JoJo fan. It’s packed with little details and flourishes to delight fans, and the story plays off of just about every JoJo story in existence.
There’s enough single player content to entertain a fan a long time — my play-time currently clocks in at around 30 hours in the story mode alone. But there’s really not much here that will encourage someone new to the series to stick with it anywhere near that long — the story isn’t approachable or very dynamic, nor the gameplay that compelling for someone without a love of JoJo to be expected to stick with it.