Bright visuals and heaps of fan service mask an otherwise fairly shallow fighter.
Oftentimes, fighting games and anime franchises can go hand in hand. Just look at the various fighting games based off Dragon Ball for an example of that. And what anime should go better with the genre than My Hero Academia, a franchise all about super-powered fighters in the first place? If that sounds like something right up your alley, then you’re in luck; this is the game for you. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t, then you might want to give this one a pass. There’s little here on offer for the rest of you.
A quick summary of My Hero Academia, for those who, like me, came at this uninitiated; the series takes place in a version of our world where superpowers are common place, and are regularly used in both the commitment and prevention of crime. People can train professionally at schools to become Heroes, people trained to use and master their powers, called Quirks, to stop villains.
Now, this game assumes you know all of that, and a lot more in fact, going in. That’s both the game’s biggest strength and most glaring flaw; it is designed, almost exclusively, with fans of the My Hero Academia franchise in mind. Very little attempt is made to introduce new players to the lore of the world, or to the characters; the game jumps right in, throwing about names, terms, and characters with little to no explanation. If you’re coming into the game with little or no prior knowledge of the franchise, things can get confusing, fast.
"My Hero One’s Justice 2 is designed, almost exclusively, with fans of the My Hero Academia franchise in mind."
Luckily, little of that confusion translates into the actual fighting mechanics, which are fluid if unremarkable. The gist of the gameplay is your fairly typical 3D fighting game. You take control of a primary character in one-on-one fights. You’ve got three basic move types; a basic attack, a ranged attack, and a third, usually more powerful, strike. Each of these have a variation that can be triggered by hitting them and a direction on the left stick at the same time. Chain various moves together to create a combo. There’s a meter, called your Plus Ultra, that allows you to trigger three different tiers of power attacks.
That’s largely it for the gameplay mechanics; the only other major feature is the sidekick system, where you choose two other fighters to round out your team. Pressing the triggers allow you to summon one of them at a time to make a quick strike against your target (it’s best used as a combo breaker). There’s little variation in technique, combos or execution between characters, and the mechanics themselves are very simple to get down. On the one hand, this makes the game very accessible. It’s easy to pick up the game and learn the fighting to a functional level very quickly, making it a great casual game with friends, or a great first game to use to introduce someone to the fighting game genre. On the downside, the simplistic mechanics mean the game lacks any real depth, and once you’ve mastered one character, you’ve mastered them all, resulting in fighting that gets stale quickly once the novelty wears off.
There’s plenty of novelty, at least. The combat, while shallow, is flashy and exciting to look at. Bright colors bring the characters and environments to life, and fluid animations keep the combat interesting to watch. The character designs are as unique as ever, and they’re well rendered here. The stages have a decent amount of visual variety, and are loaded full of plenty of destructible objects to keep things more interesting. Meanwhile, ample voice acting (in Japanese only) and energetic music help keep things exciting from an audio standpoint.
"The combat, while shallow, is flashy and exciting to look at. Bright colors bring the characters and environments to life, and fluid animations keep the combat interesting to watch."
The game is divided into four primary modes; a story mode, a quick match mode, an arcade mode, and a mission mode. The story mode takes the player through an abbreviated look at the My Hero Academia storyline. It’s a mixed bag. The fights themselves are fun enough, and the game has an interesting mechanic where some missions can be played from multiple perspectives, providing different characters to play and fight with, and different narrative moments. I genuinely think that’s a clever concept, but it’s pulled down by how rushed the story mode can feel. Most of the actual plot is heavily condensed, and is delivered through still images which modeled to look like manga panels. It’s a novel visual style, but the brief, condensed version of events you experience here gives precious little in the way of true context to the fights. You always know what’s happening, but unless you come at the game with prior knowledge, you rarely actually know why it’s happening, resulting in fights that often feel like they come out of some kind of narrative void.
The other modes fare better. Quick Match is exactly what you’d expect, allowing you to pick characters from the game’s reasonably large roster and face off against CPU or other players in local multiplayer. The Arcade mode, meanwhile, allows you to assemble a team and run through a series of curated challenges against different team matchups, with small bits of dialog punctuating the fights. This is cool, as it allows characters who otherwise rarely interact with each other to do so between fights, something that is sure to please fans of the franchise.
Then there’s the mission mode, certainly the most ambitious of the bunch. In mission mode, you create your own Hero Agency, assembling a team and fighting through a series of missions. To start out with, you only have one hero, Izuku: Shoot Style, and you have to recruit other members to your agency. These can then be combined into your three-person party, and taken out on missions, where you clear out nodes against various enemy fighters and teams. Each time you move along the map, your enemies all get to act as well, so you have to plan your actions and take on your foes in the manner you think is smartest. Your team can also level up after successfully beating opponents, and different characters will interact differently, with some getting along better than others. It’s an interesting mode, and certainly the one I enjoyed the longest. Still, it suffers from the shallow, same-y feeling of combat that the rest of the modes do, and the levelling aspect requires you to grind fights multiple times, which only makes things feel more repetitive.
"The simplistic mechanics mean the game lacks any real depth, and once you’ve mastered one character, you’ve mastered them all, resulting in fighting that gets stale quickly once the novelty wears off."
The game also offers up online fighting matches, as well as a customization option, where you can unlock different gear and outfits for the characters, as well as different badges, backgrounds and emblems for your online multiplayer nametag. It’s not the deepest system in the world, but a steady stream of unlocks comes throughout the game, and is definitely the most compelling reason to keep playing.
My Hero One’s Justice 2, ultimately, is a game with exactly one kind of person in mind: the My Hero Academia fan. With plenty of fan service, a large roster of characters, and a story mode that serves as a narrative highlight reel, there’s plenty here on offer to keep fans of the franchise entertained. Unfortunately, the game does very little to entertain the rest of us. The fighting is simple, and while that does make it easy to pick up and play, it also makes it shallow, and results in a game that feels repetitive quickly. Combined with a story mode that makes no attempts to explain things to the uninitiated, and you have a game that, if you aren’t already a fan, feels shallow at best and nonsensical at worst. If you’re a fan of MHA, pick this one up. You’ll almost certainly enjoy it. For the rest of you, approach with caution. If you’re looking for a decent first fighting game, this one has some merit. But otherwise, there isn’t much on offer here that you can’t get better elsewhere.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Bright visuals and fluid animation help the game feel lively; Simple to learn mechanics make the game easy to pick up and play.
Simple mechanics also mean the game lacks depth; Will likely only appeal to those who are already fans of My Hero Academia.
My Hero One’s Justice is a solid enough fighter, with plenty to offer for fans of the franchise. But those looking for a deep fighting game, as well as those who aren’t already fans, should look elsewhere; there’s little for them here.