A Great Import.
Jump Ultimate Stars succeeds in transcending any and all cultural barriers as a purely fun and addictive game that absolutely deserves a world-wide release. However, until that happens, you should just import this game as soon as possible.
This is a fighting game that blends a sort of Super Smash Bros. character orgy and ring-out KOs with the depth of familiar Japanese fighting games such as Street Fighter or Guilty Gear while possessing its own identity and accessibility. The game features 305 different characters total from 41 different manga with 56 of them being playable.
This game requires a bit of homework for people who do not read Japanese. There are a ton of menus and so much information that you need to know, that you can't just dive in blindly. This may turn you off completely or serve to bolster your anticipation. I'm hoping that for you, as it was for me, that it will be the former. You're greeted with a brief intro video that won't tell you a lot if you're not familiar with the various characters and franchises of Shonen Jump. The main menu features a scrolling galaxy and engaging music and your lineup of menus. Let's hope you've got your FAQ handy by now.
The initial tutorials guide you through basic movement and attacks. The top screen is where the action takes place and the bottom screen is where your current "deck" is displayed. Allow me a brief explanation. Your "deck" is the official name for your selection of characters, power-ups, and summons.
How it Works:
Your HUD consists of a standard health bar and special gauge with varying levels to indicate how many special attacks or summons you can execute and also a kanji that indicates the "nature" of your character (more on that later).
You lay out koma, which is the Japanese word for the panel of a comic book, on a 5 X 4 grid. Koma are available in 3 types: Help, Support, and Battle.
Help Koma are 1-tile koma. These little squares usually have the face of a character on them and add abilities to your fighters. They can do anything from granting immunity to poison to giving you a triple jump to giving you additional special gauge.
Support Koma are 2 to 3-tile koma that basically act as summons. They teleport in, do their thing, and leave. They can attack or defend in a variety of ways, buff you, inflict status effects on your enemies, and more.
Battle Koma can be anywhere from 4 to 8-tile koma that act as your fighters. Generally the higher tile-count, the more powerful the fighter.
You need one of each type of koma in your deck for it to be considered valid.
Also in place is a sort of rock-paper-scissors style attribute system. The "natures" are laughter, knowledge, and power.
The face buttons serve as your jump button, light attack, heavy attack, special attack and the shoulder buttons are your 2 hot-keys.
The game features meticulously detailed and fluidly animated character sprites and they are the real star of the show. Each world you visit is identifiable due to clever reference of each series icons. Each stage is different and also maintains a good sense The different attacks and flourish effects are very well done but when the action gets heavy, expect some lag. One of the very few problems with this game, but it does occur.
The music is fitting and some of the tunes are quite catchy. There is no character dialogue here, but that may not be a negative as a chatty fighting game can get annoying fast. It has your standard energy blast and battle effects noises with the occasional boing and gling. All in all pretty standard but good overall.
The controls are tight. Combos are simple thanks to a 1-direction D-pad modifier; i.e. Right on the D-Pad and B. There aren't any complex commands to issue for combos and specials and the game is better for it. Double-tapping left and right executes a dash amd down on the D-pad guards. The L and R are reserved for whatever you assign them to do. You can use them to swap characters on the fly, or to rapidly switch between characters, initiating a Super Tag attack. They can also be assigned to summon your support characters. This is a very user-friendly and intuitive game to play.
As in most fighting games, the story here is really non-essential. It takes a definite backseat to the action. And in this case, especially if you don't read the language, that's ok. If you need further justification just take into account the fact that you can read all these different series, they're out there. I know I definitely got curious enough to want some back-story and am even reading some of these series as a result of playing this game.
I have never imported a game until I found out about Jump Ultimate Stars. It makes a compelling case for import games. It is the absolute best DS game I have ever played and I think anyone with a DS should own a copy.