I know what you're probably thinking – what the devil is J-Stars Victory Vs+?
Bandai Namco's fighting title gathers characters from the long-running and hugely popular Japanese manga comic anthology Shonen Jump to celebrate the publication's 45th anniversary.
Think Super Smash Bros, but featuring a roster of Japanese comic book characters.
J-Stars Victory Vs came out in Japan last year, and its Western debut – Vs+ – is an enhanced version of that title.
For anyone unfamiliar with the game, J-Stars Victory Vs+ brings together 32 licences to create a huge roster of 52 characters from series such as the well known and loved Dragon Ball Z to others that the UK might not have come across, like Rurouni Kenshin,” Bandai Namco product manager Karla Pett explains.
This is the game's first outing in the West, but the Japanese release was very positively received and performed well when it was released out there
Some of the 52-strong roster of playable fighters are better known than others.
Present are characters from Dragon Ball, including leading man Goku, and the protaganist from ninja anime series, Naruto. And it's these characters that Bandai Namco is focusing on to sell the game, to start with anyway.
Initially, we'll be focusing on the better-known characters like Goku,” Pett explains.
But we're hoping these characters will act as a gate to introduce people to new series that maybe they haven't heard of before. When they take a closer look they'll see characters they recognise but haven't seen in a while, and so hopefully they'll get even more out of the game than they initially thought.”
She continues: We're focusing on communicating the game to the fans of these series and the fighting community. There are so many wonderful characters from varied backgrounds and with such different fighting styles that it really is a dream come true for anime and manga fans. It also gives people the chance to play as some of those lesser known characters that maybe won't get their own games.
We're making sure that this title gets the attention it deserves. It's a love letter of sorts to anime and manga fans and we want them to play and enjoy it above all else.”
As mentioned earlier, this is a special game, to celebrate Shonen Jump's birthday. But if the title is a hit, could we see regular entries in the series?
Making this into an annual franchise would lose a little of the magic,” Pett explains. Will it return in the future? At this time we don't know in all honesty."
"You may not see it in the mainstream
press, but anime and manga fandoms
are alive and well."
Karla Pett, Bandai Namco
J-Stars is going to speak to a very niche segment of the UK population. Anime and manga has a core, cult following, but just how big is the scene in the UK?
The anime and manga market's visibility in UK consciousness fluctuates,” Pett explains. But, as we've seen from shows like MCM Expo and Hyper Japan, there is a considerable audience out there and they're not going anywhere.
You may not see it in mainstream press but the anime and manga fandoms are alive and well, and with streaming services like Daisuki.net (which is fairly new to the UK), CrunchyRoll, Netflix and Viewster increasing the access audiences have to Japanese shows – and the increasing public comfort with ‘geek culture' – the market will only continue to grow.”
And in spite of its recent Western success with the likes of Project CARS and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – two titles that helped Bandai Namco achieve its first monthly UK publisher No.1 – the publisher isn't going to abandon its roots.
We're a Japanese company and our anime and manga titles are some fan' favourites,” Pett says. Plus, with the success of Dragon Ball Xenoverse, and franchises like the Tales Of series and Naruto, we definitely won't be neglecting our Japanese heritage.”
Competitive gaming and eSports are booming at the moment, and fighting titles like Super Smash Bros are often played for huge prize pots. Is this something that Bandai Namco would like to see happen for J-Stars Victory Vs+?
While we don't have any plans at the moment to make J-Stars Victory Vs+ a competitive title, if the interest is there and the players want to, and they drive that, we'll support them,” Bandai Namco product manager Karla Pett says. We've been doing a number of streams on Twitch for J-Stars Victory Vs+ and hope to do more.”
LIFE IN THE VITA
J-Stars Victory Vs+ is coming to all current PlayStation platforms, including the Vita.
This shouldn't come as a huge surprise – Sony's handheld has a very niche user base. But Bandai Namco says there are other factors at play.
The PlayStation Vita is a substantial piece of kit,” product manager Karla Pett insists. Sony invested a lot into making a powerful, high spec handheld console and they have created a great piece of hardware that we're proud to support. Plus, J-Stars Victory Vs+ is the perfect game to jump in and out of, especially with the new arcade mode, and what better way to do that than on the move?”