The first thing I did after I found to the Jump Force booth was ask the Bandai Namco liaison next to me what the "Kamehameha" button was. Just so you know: Hold the right trigger, press X. And so, for five glorious minutes, I threw an endless barrage of cataclysmic blue-beam world-enders into the face of Naruto, permanently expressing the superiority of my preferred anime canon. I'm not sure if that's what Namco was envisioning when they brought the Greater Multiverse of Manga to a team brawler, but it was certainly my kind of wish fulfillment.
Goku can beat Naruto, and if they somehow worked Superman into this game, it'd put an end to two decades of GameFAQs forum arguments in one fell swoop.
If you missed Microsoft's press conference, Jump Force was that game in the middle of the presentation where angular, uncanny-valley anime dudes beat the shit out of each other in a burning Times Square. We saw Goku and Frieza from Dragon Ball, Monkey D Luffy from One Piece, the dreaded Naruto, and Light Yagami from Death Note. The reductive comparison would be Super Smash Bros., which increases its roster every game with fresh deep-cuts from the Nintendo canon, but functionally, Jump Force reminds me a bit of Pokken Tournament or even those old DBZ Budokai games.
You pick a squad of three characters, you land in a wide-open, fully 3D arena that's significantly larger and more vertical than the traditional Street Fighter 2D plane (though fairly sparse), and you blow each other up with pure anime excess.
Jump Force does the Dragon Ball: FighterZ thing where every button is linked to an auto-combo, which means you can immediately start feeling like Goku with a few taps of the X button. The special moves are also thematically and aesthetically appropriate; in my second round I was using Frieza, and I just started peppering Naruto with those ridiculous sniper-shot death beams while he laid face-down on the ground about 30 yards away from me. Again, sorry-not-sorry for making Jump Force my own personal anime torture device.
Will Jump Force have the strategic depth that will attract a hardcore Evo contingent? It's too early to tell, but clearly it doesn't have to be played that way, which is a boon for a plebe like me.
You might be wondering how the rights work for all this. I mean, all of these characters are owned by different publishers, right? Dmitri Khlynin, a community guy at Bandai Namco, cleared that up quickly for me. "The weekly Shonen Jump manga features a conglomerate of all those characters," he says. "The story is that the characters from the weekly Shonen Jump are converging into our world." So, by basing the game on the manga itself, Namco doesn't have to worry about poaching any individual licensing fees.
The jury is out on whether or not Jump Force will reveal itself to be more than a trifling bit of fan service, but it's a hell of a way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shonen Jump. For a proper anniversary celebration, it'd be great to see some classic series represented, too, like Yu Yu Hakusho, Fist of the North Star, Cobra, Rurouni Kenshin… hey, let's have one of the kids from Slam Dunk smash Naruto in the face with a basketball, while we're at it?
Jump Force is out in 2019.