A little bit more polish, and this game would ace its Licensing Exam.
My Hero Academia is one of the most popular Shonen titles as of late, and as is the tradition with all mainstream Shonen Jump franchises, it needs to become a fighting game of some sort. My Hero One’s Justice fills the role of the ever popular arena fighter, set with explosive characters, destructible environments, and tons of character customization.
It’s a fun brawler that expands upon the creative superpowers found throughout the early parts of the series to create some truly dynamic battles, thanks to its adaptive combat system that can take the fight to the skies as well as on walls.
My Hero One’s Justice looks great. The character models are all on point and have transitioned well from their 2D designs. Overall, the attention to detail is incredible. Characters move exactly how you’d imagine they would, with characters like Bakugo flying with his explosions as seen in the show. The special effects are amazing, with particle and environmental effects throughout all aspects of the game. Nothing is more appreciated than the large sound effects that pop out during battle. All this being said, character animations can be a little quirky at times, making it difficult to read when a proper time to counterattack might be.
Super moves are impressively choreographed and designed. Every character feels all-powerful, utilizing their quirk in new and interesting ways that might not have been expanded upon in the source material, which is a nice touch. There are three different tiers of Plus Ultra attacks, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Level 1s are of course basic super moves, but still have nice cutscenes and special effects. The Level 2s are the most visually intensive and climactic, dealing devastating damage. The Level 3s are actually just a combined assault of Level 1s from your entire team, which can take out nearly half a health bar. While not as visually impressive as the Level 2s, the damage output could make it worth saving your gauge — something that doesn’t build up quickly, however.
What is sure to disappoint a large number of fans of the anime is that there is no English dub available for the game. This decision is strange, considering the series’ large popularity in America and the strong support the dub has gotten through Funimation by performing a simultaneous launch of English episodes (for the most part) with the Japanese release. While the Japanese voices are certainly extraordinary — and some would prefer to play with them even if a dub was provided — this oversight seems to be incredibly inconsiderate of both the fans and the voice actors of the English release.
The user interface is incredibly well detailed, with different music, backgrounds, and icons that pop, and show there was a lot of care in making them. Every mode has a host character which is a nice touch, but without subtitles or English voice-overs, it doesn’t really add up to much. There are also no subtitles for the character’s introductions or super moves, leaving a lot of context out of the game for non-Japanese speakers. This should have been an easy feature to implement. Especially considering during certain battles in story mode, dialogue does indeed have subtitles.
My Hero One’s Justice is truly a lot of fun to play. The characters all have creative and unique abilities that fill matches with variety. Gameplay consists of regular attacks, quirk attacks, charge attacks, unblockable attacks, and moves with invincibility (characters flash green when charging, red when unblockable, and yellow when invincible). There are two different Quirk buttons that activate special moves when pressed on their own, and have other variations when performed with a direction press or in the air.
There are also two different ways to play the game with Normal and Manual settings. Normal mode chains attacks together for you, taking away some of the difficulty in creating combos. Manual mode puts the player in control of connecting the combos, allowing for more control and creativity. While the prospect of having two different play modes is a nice addition, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a game like this. Its the reverse aspect found in games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 which included a play mode that made combos easier to pull off for the more casual player. My Hero One’s Justice does the opposite, adding a more competitive aspect to a very casual game. Its a strange choice for a game that probably wouldn’t be getting too many new players because of the manual playstyle. But nitpicks aside, it adds more choice and that’s always a good thing.
The combo system can become easily exploitable thanks to lengthy combos, aerial attacks, and overly-helpful assists. I’ve seen multiple instances of players continuing the same combo over and over, and with the game having no mechanic to break free from infinite combos, the player becomes trapped, waiting for their health or the timer to go down to zero. You won’t see any high-ranking victory screens by playing this way, but in the grand scheme of things, it won’t make much a difference whenever they come out with the victory. All it takes is two or three well-timed combos and the match is over. Anticipating your opponent’s moves will cancel their tactics and show your skills are on top.
The game also tends to reward players who are on the defensive. Unlike most fighting games where a super move can clip through an enemy’s attack, taking advantage of their opening, you get punished in My Hero One’s Justice. Rushing into a fight won’t get you a victory unless you’re as gifted a fighter as Bakugo. Timing is everything and there are a lot of variables to take into account, like elemental attacks that cause burn damage, paralysis, and levitation.
The assist system feels a little strange, with some assists doing ludicrous damage and others doing next to nothing. Certain characters like Muscular do nearly the same amount as a super move as just an assist. The assist gauge itself is a little perplexing because not every character loads up at the same speed. This might be done for balancing’s sake, but the game isn’t very explicit for the reasoning.
On certain stages, players can knock each other into a wall and begin combat while alongside it. It looks like something you’d expect from Naruto unless I missed an episode where everyone learned how to stick to walls like a certain wall-crawling superhero. There’s also an insane amount of airtime during combos that make characters look like they can fly, which for almost everyone on the roster is not the case. Visual and canonical quirks aside, it is a ton of fun to actually utilize these mechanics. The destructible stages are sure to please, with small areas like Gran Torino’s apartment opening up to an open vertical playspace. Some areas also have ring out potential, so be sure to use your quirks tactically to get back on the stage unless you want an automatic loss.
There are a few neat mechanics I wasn’t aware of until they happened in-game, like a kind of quirk clash that occurs whenever two special moves make contact. The player who hits the designated button the most wins the clash and does a nice bit of damage. This immediately reminds me of the beam struggles found in the Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi series. It’s a pretty static exchange visually, but its a lot of fun to bring each player’s focus onto performing a single action faster than the other, and the nostalgia makes it even better.
My Hero One’s Justice‘s story mode is severely lackluster. The opening cutscene puts players in medias res of the climactic battle between All Might and All For One but without any of the gravitas seen in the anime. All Might appears to be in his regular powered-up state without any damage, while those familiar with the battle will know All Might was at the literal end of his rope. After the initial video, the gameplay starts midway through the second season of the anime where the series’ protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, begins his internship with the retired pro, Gran Torino. It’s a good introduction for learning the buttons but it skips much of the series’ high points that were early on.
The game assumes you are already familiar with the characters and their relationships with one another. Story beats are told through comic-style panels that are really just images cut and pasted in from the anime which is a shame for how good the character models look. Sure there are a couple of cutscenes but everything appears so static, like action figures flying through a well-detailed world with extravagant special effects.
Its impossible for me to discuss the story mode of My Hero One’s Justice without comparing it to the ones found in the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise, which remains as one of the best video game adaptations for an anime. The cutscenes found within Ninja Storm, while terribly lipsynced, (at least it had a dub) were choreographed and expanded upon in such a way that certain scenes, like the battle between Jiraiya and Pain, were done even better than they were in their anime counterparts.
This, unfortunately, is not the case with My Hero One’s Justice. The climactic battle between All Might and All For One should have evoked a similar emotion to the one found in Ninja Storm 2, a title that released in 2010 on last generation hardware. Its one of the most powerful sequences of recent Shonen anime, with the no longer all-powerful hero on his last leg (and arm) against a seemingly unbeatable villain. Instead of faithfully recreating this epic moment of despair and triumph, it feels lazy and uninspired like two action figures being smashed together. I will say I got chills whenever Izuku said the name of the game before the credits rolled, a very solid decision from the developers.
The story mode does succeed in certain areas, however. There are side missions that expand upon the plot side characters experience during the main action. You also unlock the villain’s storyline after completing the main quest, which is appreciated in giving an alternate perspective on the events of the main plot. There are also plenty of cosmetic items to unlock for those wanting to dress their superhero to the nines.
Oddly enough, the mindless enemies found in the earlier parts of the series, Nomu, are available to fight against in Story mode but are not available as a playable character. While there are already a couple of super strength-focused characters on the roster, it seemed a little silly not to put Nomu in the regular game since he was fully modeled and animated, without special moves of course. Also, All for One is practically a clone of All Might moveset wise, which is certain to disappoint those looking forward to seeing the quirk thief’s combined abilities expanded upon.
Arcade mode, which was added through a free day one update, is pretty standard but the character dialogue between battles is actually quite entertaining. Especially when playing as characters like All Might who don’t always have one-on-one moments with other characters aside from Izuku and Bakugo. Its a traditional experience but a pleasant addition, especially since it was available on day one.
My Hero One’s Justice makes an effort into the character customization, but in the end its only skin deep. Most options are only color swaps, at exorbitant prices, and are not exclusive to the character. Every character has a monochrome, hero (AKA All Might), and villain (AKA Purple) color palette which makes things less interesting than expected. The fourth color option is pretty awesome though, and mixes things up quite nicely, being unique to the chosen character. While its cool that players can make characters wear each other’s accessories, most of the time these options clash and don’t fit well when not used with their respective fighters. Some of the accessories are from characters that aren’t in the game, which on one hand is a nice touch to make reference to a character that wasn’t able to make the cut, and on the other hand a reminder of the disappointing variety of the kinds of characters on the roster (mostly heroes).
Mission mode is a nice challenge that tasks players with completing battles with specific effects, like taking additional damage, blocking being less effective and so forth. This is where you will unlock most of the customization items. You carry over your health from mission to mission, earning recovery items to help along the way, like a full heal or an item that starts the match with a full Plus Ultra gauge for those especially difficult matches. Mission mode offers a good level of difficulty not found within the title’s story mode and is different enough from arcade mode to keep players coming back for more. Players can also purchase additional mission maps based on additional DLC characters to unlock their clothing options for customization.
There’s also a player card section where you can unlock themes, icons, and quotes for your Hero’s License. This is just another way the developers to utilize the little things that make a nice impact. It’s not a huge aspect of the game, but it’s memorable to say the least.
If there’s one thing I can say about My Hero One’s Justice its that the online aspect is at least well-presented. I’ve had no issue finding matches on either ranked or casual settings. To be honest, its one of the best online experiences I’ve had in a fighting game for a while. Time and time again I found match after match with next to no lag.
Casual matches don’t hold any ranking to them, of course, and were honestly where I had the most trouble with people exploiting the combo system. Ranked matches were filled with more folks wanting to play the game “legitimately”. (One could argue it shouldn’t matter how you win as long as you win, but only villains do that!) Player’s have a separate rank that isn’t entirely based on their wins or losses. After each match, you can “Like” your opponent to boost a separate meter that makes them seem like favorable folks. It’s a nice feature to show your appreciation towards your opponent for giving you a fun match.
You can also create a room to play against the same folks over and over again. A nice addition for friends wanting to see who’s got the best handle on their quirks. Aside from that, there’s not much else to the online modes. No other game modes exist aside from standard Vs. modes. When its all said and done, the online works well and that’s all you can really ask for.
My Hero One’s Justice reminds me of the earlier days of the “anime game”. Back in the PS2 era where it was okay for a game to not be groundbreaking, balanced, or competitively focused. As long as you could play as your favorite characters and pull off over the top super moves, it was a great experience for you and your friends. My Hero One’s Justice establishes a strong foundation for its future (which it hopefully has with future installments) thanks to its solid gameplay, stellar presentation, and attention to the little details that make it all a worthy starting point for My Hero Academia.
My Hero One’s Justice is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC with three DLC characters, the free Shoot Style Deku, the pre-order bonus (which can be purchased separately) Endeavor, and the newest hero from Shiketsu High School, Inasa Yoarashi.
Bandai Namco Entertainment provided Shoryuken with a review copy of My Hero One’s Justice on PlayStation 4.