Zid’s Retro Review – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future

Hello. My name is John, but some of you know me as Zidiane. I've been given the opportunity here to write about the history of one of my favorite genres: fighting games. Hopefully, this will broaden my own understanding, as well as bring some history to others who might have missed out on it.

As a relatively recent tournament player, starting with Skullgirls two years ago, I thought it would be enlightening to delve into the genre's roots. Recently, I decided to sit down with the classic fighting game title JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. This title is almost 20 years old, having released in Japan in 1998, and has had several ports & updates over the years. The initial version was JoJo's Venture. It spawned the "Heritage for the Future" update that followed in 1999, a Dreamcast & Playstation port of the 1999 version and a HD update released for PSN & XBLA in 2012.

Seeds of the future are often buried in the past.

This game was well received for an anime adaption during a time where anime games tended to be either clunky, ill-received or scarce. Spending even a few moments with the game, it's easy to see why it is still getting traffic to this day. A lot of care was put into making sure this title was a joy for fans of the series and fighting games alike.

As far as an anime game goes, this is an exceptionally faithful and loving adaption. Capcom actually worked with Hirohiki Araki, the creator of JoJo, through the entire development process of this game to ensure accuracy. The developers tried to avoid adding attacks that never made an appearance in the series, instead trying for creative uses of what a character did in the manga whenever possible. The game also features panels ripped straight from the manga, sewn together for the intro or to accent super attacks. There are also a few special interactions with key fighters. Case in point, having Midler face off against Joseph treats the user to this amusing intro.

There's a "heavy lifting" joke somewhere in this pic... I'm sure of it!

Despite just how faithful the game can be, it wasn't afraid to introduce new elements and flesh out characters that honestly didn't get much of a chance to shine in the manga. The biggest example being Midler (pictured above), who wasn't shown for more than one panel in the series, was completely redesigned into a fully fleshed out character. Another big example of liberties taken with the source materials would be the inclusion of Young Joseph in the cast. Story wise, Alessi has the power to turn others into children, but ends up reverting Old Man Joseph to his prime. This results in the Young Joseph character who reuses Old Joseph's sprites but sports a completely different moveset.

In addition to the detail put into making a good adaption of the series, a lot of detail and effort was put into the sprite work. This game has some of the best looking sprites around. I would say the only other fighting games of its time that I'd put over it would be Street Fighter 3 and the Marvel VS series.

Like Trucky said: "Who did it and ran!"

I could sit here & talk about the numerous little nuances that make this a fantastic homage to the series, but the main reason I picked up this title was because I had been curious how it played as a fighting game. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I don't regret taking him up on his recommendation in the least. I had so much fun playing the game! The only other game I had as much fun with was Skullgirls, to be honest. There's something about current fighting titles have almost forgotten or left behind what made this title so fun. As far as the gameplay, it was described to me as a mix between Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Guilty Gear. I feel like that's a pretty accurate description. The game is deep, but not complicated. There are four attack buttons, three normal attack buttons of ascending strength and a "Stand" button. There's more to the Stand button than just another attack, though. It actually is the source of the unique mechanic that separates Heritage for the Future from every other fighter of its time. Stands are essentially a separate spirit that can fight with the character, augmenting a fighters abilities at the cost of the "Stand Bar" underneath the health bar. That bar acts similar to Guard meters in other games and once it's depleted, a character is "Stand Crushed" leaving them open to attack.

This game took the concept of 2-on-2 to a whole new level.

Fighters can either leave their Stand off or turn their Stand on. Characters that turn their Stand on gain access to even more powerful normal, special, and super moves, but at the cost for being less safe when attacking, as well as more committed to special and super moves than before. Your Stand also makes you bigger, so you'll end up getting hit or having to block more often. With your stand out you do not take chip damage, but instead take damage to your Stand Bar. In addition to your Stand being vulnerable on block, it can be hit by your opponent. Getting knocked down or thrown will force you into Stand off mode, but you can also manually deactivate your stand by hitting the Stand button again. It is important to remember to put your Stand into off mode when it's taken too much damage. Stands are more powerful on, but characters tend to have more utility with them off. Stands can be called to assist the player while the player is free to move, block, or attack in any way they choose, letting them get in or away from their enemies. In this way, they are similar to assist characters in other games like the Marvel VS titles. Characters with their Stand off also for the most part have combo options that heavily rely on tight links, like Street Fighter and King of Fighters. On the other hand, while the Stand is on, characters do more damage and are generally more aggressive, generally gaining access to more powerful normals and easier "Magic Series" chains, like many of the Marvel VS games, letting you combo into your moves much easier than otherwise.

If seeing this picture makes you think of a certain song, don't worry... that's to be expected.

There are characters with Passive Stands as well as characters with Weapon Stands, so spirit assists aren't the only form of Stand. Passive Stand users have no Stand bar, so they can't be Stand Crushed, but they don't have access to the higher damage output of Active Stands. They also tend to have more unique methods of fighting, like magnetizing their opponent. Weapon Stand users are like a blend of the two, with a Stand Bar and more powerful moves but a lack of utility that other Stand users have in Stand Off mode. While it sounds like characters with stands have all the power, there is certainly a diverse cast of 22 characters with Stand Users in no way being overpowered compared to Passive or Weapon Stand users. The game lets you do a lot offensively, so the developers made sure to include a lot of movement and defensive options for players, as well. Super Jumps, hops, and Super hops are included in this game, giving you choices to avoid, pressure, and rushdown your opponent. Your other movement option is an invincible roll, though it can be grabbed, but it can let you get around predictable attacks or corners. There are also a few defensive tools to use on block. You can pushblock to get more room to breathe and get back in the game, where Alpha Counter is similar in purpose but opposite in utility. Guard Cancel action negates any blockstun and counter attack right away, using the button you pressed to try and turn the game in your favor.

"Respect the hair, my friend... or suffer the consequences!"

As far as playing the game goes, there is definitely an emphasis on certain play styles. Playing footsies, the concept of spacing your attacks just right, is heavily promoted in this game. It's required to keep your Stand safe while punishing your opponent, and to know when you can call your Stand and when you need to put it away. The overall mechanics in the game give the impression that the developers wanted to make a game where the attacker felt powerful without the defender feeling helpless, as long as the players think through their options.

I don't want to get super in-depth, that's what guides are for, but I just want to take a nice long moment to appreciate all the thought the developers put into this game. They wanted to make sure that this was a fast paced, fluid experience, something that was fun for both players at all times. They tried and succeeded at making sure that Stands felt unique, natural, and desirable, without making them overpowered or flawless. There are a few developmental hiccups -- like Pet Shop who cannot be hit low (!!) on top of his amazing moveset (he's banned at tournaments) -- but for the most part, this game was just made for the player to enjoy themselves, and enjoy playing with others. It sounds simple, but not every game can do both of those things correctly at the same time.

I'm sure there's a sense of familiarity in this picture for anyone who rocks with Big Band...

As a fighting game fan in general, I actually feel like I have a better understanding of fighting games just by playing this title. The way the mechanics were put together to make me focus on defending my Stand, spacing and learning how to position myself on defense has actually improved how I play other games by a noticeable amount in a short time. Not that everyone should play it for this reason, but there's definitely a little extra something that I was able to take from this experience.

So after all this, I have to say that, despite its age, I very much enjoyed playing this title. From its attentive adaption of the source series, to the care put into the combat system, to the actual beautiful & fluid sprite work, every bit of this game was a pleasure to run through. I highly recommend that anyone who hasn't already played it to do so at the first opportunity, as either a fighting game fan or a JoJo fan, or both. The game was taken off of PSN and XBLA, but it can be commonly found and played through FightCade. You can use the information found on this site to connect with other players.

This is the first time you'll be hearing from me, but I doubt it'll be the last. Remember... play what you love and love what you play.

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