My Hero Academia is an anime and manga franchise that’s been gaining a lot of popularity over the last few years. Westerners love the series’ iconic look and the story ain’t half bad for a shounen franchise. My Hero One’s Justice recently exploded onto the scene as an arena brawler with story elements and thus fans will surely love it right? Well, the answer to this question is rather nuanced.
Bandai Namco’s My Hero One’s Justice, developed by Byking is a bit of a hit and miss affair. The game fails to go Plus Ultra and instead will leave fans wanting in areas where it matters most. The combat and story. The game follows a very similar formula put in place by Bandai Namco and Cyberconnect 2 when the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games were created but unfortunately lacks the depth that those games had.
Each character in My Hero One’s Justice has their own special ability or Quirk as described by the My Hero Academia franchise anime and manga. This makes for some awesome potential fighting game action thanks to the huge variety of abilities, fighting styles and skills on offer. However, the combat is extremely one dimensional and suffers from a handicap that was never present in the Naruto Storm games.
Players will be able to pick between a “normal” mode and “manual” mode for fighting before entering a battle. “Normal” mode means you can essentially, button bash one attack button repeatedly and pull off spectacular combos with ease. “Manual” mode means that you have far more control over what combos you can string together but the added difficulty may put you off somewhat when the “normal” mode does everything for you so well.
Each character has access to their special quirk abilities and these can be triggered when your plus ultra gauge is filled enough times. Each character has 2 special plus ultra quirk skills which can be triggered by a simple button combo. A weaker quirk skill requires 1 bar of plus ultra energy while a more powerful one requires 2. If you have 3 bars of plus ultra energy, a special EX PLUS ULTRA quirk skill can be triggered which uses your playable character and the 2 sidekick characters you often have in battles for one massive quirk combo. This is extremely similar to how the Naruto Storm games work except for one major flaw. In My Hero One’s Justice, you simply cannot charge your Plus Ultra gauge without either hitting the enemy or being hit by the enemy. What this means is that more often than not, you’ll either defeat an enemy without being able to charge your Plus Ultra gauge to full or you’ll charge it enough, fire off a quirk special attack only to have it miss the enemy and you’ll be left with sheer and utter disappointment. Both in yourself and at the game for this glaringly obvious shortcoming.
The combat is extremely fun. Don’t get me wrong here. The character animations are gorgeous and watching your selected hero or villain pummel the enemy into submission is breathtaking. Especially when combos often throw enemies into the air or into walls. However the severe lack of being able to unleash quirk specials at will is a handicap that cannot be overlooked. It’s downright criminal to have these gorgeous quirk special attacks available but not being to use them more than once or twice in a battle.
Another shortcoming that definitely needs mentioning is how small the battle arenas are. The Naruto Storm games all featured rather large battle arenas where as My Hero One’s Justice features these small, rather square combat arenas. Throw in the “Ring out” feature and it’s quite lackluster fighting in such a cramped space. Whether this was done due to the game featuring on Nintendo Switch or not is a mystery but I highly suspect that this may have been the case due that device’s limited hardware performance. The battle UI also tends to obscure a lot of the on-screen action and this should have been addressed in production but I digress.
The story mode in My Hero One’s Justice is presented in a unique comic-book-esque style. Cinematic cutscenes are interspersed in between battles that take place in the franchise’s 2nd and 3rd season. However, instead of delving deep into the story like how the Naruto Storm games did, My Hero One’s Justice opts for an extremely watered down story retelling. Fans of the franchise may be put off by this if they expected a true to manga/anime retelling. If you are a newcomer to the series, this isn’t going to fill you in on everything and it’s quite sad considering that this is the first major console and PC My Hero Academia game to release in the West. A wasted opportunity to grow the franchise if there ever was any.
The story mode is also split into 2 major segments. One which follows the heroes and one which follows the villains. This does however mean that there’s a lot of repetition of battles but overall, it was still enjoyable to play through this thanks to the way in which the story was presented. The story mode also makes use of a ranking system where players can be awarded a score with S being the highest. This introduces a level of challenge since often you’ll want to replay a story battle to try get an S rank and unlock the hidden cosmetics locked away behind fulfilling specific battle conditions. A mission mode, versus mode, online battle mode and arcade mode is also available should the story mode begin to annoy you, and this completes the fighting game package.
The soundtrack in My Hero One’s Justice is excellent with background music tracks that are iconic and definitely stand out. Bandai Namco and Byking exceeded my expectations of including a great soundtrack in this game. A place where they faltered once again though is the lack of English voice acting in the game. Once again, this is the first major console release featuring My Hero Academia in the West and shockingly, English voice acting is missing from the game. Not only that but English subtitles are missing from the end of battle victory pose segments where a character says something and strikes a pose declaring victory. While it is possible to understand what they are saying if you know some basic Japanese, not everyone does, and this is slightly annoying since almost everything else is subtitled except for quirk specials in which characters say something and the aforementioned victory poses.
Graphically, My Hero One’s Justice is visually stunning in all aspects. The animation quality is top notch, the special effects are excellent and the character designs are lifted straight from the anime and look absolutely amazing. The visual aesthetic has been nailed down to a T. Characters can also be customized with an immense amount of cosmetic items that are unlocked and this was a really nice touch from the developers since it allows for some form of customization which you can make use of both offline and online when fighting battles, making characters unique to your liking.
My Hero One’s Justice is a conundrum. The game has some great, fun, fast paced gameplay even though it’s rather one dimensional with button bashing. It has an excellent cast of characters and fans of the anime and manga franchise will love it. However, there’s just too much that’s gone wrong with a formula that worked so well for Bandai Namco’s other major shounen game series. Severely handicapping a player’s attack options is not a good choice. And limiting the size of battle arenas isn’t great either. Watering down an excellent shounen story rounds of the trifecta of extremely baffling game design decisions yet the game is still worth playing. Apart from these problems, My Hero One’s Justice is a fun game if not flawed. Hopefully, Bandai Namco can improve on this in the franchise’s next iteration and rectify these blatantly obvious mistakes.