My Hero One’s Justice 2 Review – A super heroic second entry
Platforms: Nintendo Switch [reviewed], PlayStation 4 , Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: March 13, 2020
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Anime games have been in a weird spot for a while now. Whenever a game drops based on a popular anime license, it more often than not tends to be a middling affair that doesn’t elevate the genre or license it is based on. Instead it is usually just satisfied with toeing the line of mediocrity. This problem is evident nowhere else more than with Bandai Namco. Owner of some of the most popular anime video game licenses including Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, and One Punch Man, outside of Dragon Ball FighterZ (which was developed by Arc System Works, not Bandai Namco), Bandai has been just short of creating something memorable for a very long time.
2018’s My Hero One’s Justice was the first game released for the mega-popular new king of the anime block, My Hero Academia. The game, while lacking mechanically, was a solid first entry into the series of what would almost assuredly become a long line of video game tie ins. A rough first try isn’t a big deal when it comes to anime games, after all it took Dragon Ball Z forever to finally get a legitimately good game with the first entry in the Budokai series. A humble first attempt brought hope that the next time My Hero Academia would get a game, it would be a much better and more refined experience. My Hero One’s Justice 2 does basically that and is one of the best anime games in recent memory, even with its small share of problems.
First off, and most importantly, the combat in My Hero One’s Justice 2 is extremely enjoyable. Players pick a team of one to three characters and do battle in a 3D environment. There is a high degree of mobility available with both ground and air dashes for all characters, and opponents can be knocked into the side of skyscrapers and around the environment and become stuck to be followed up for extra damage. It really sets the scope of a large scale over the top anime battle, as seen often in My Hero Academia. Each character has a one button combo string, and several special attacks that can be performed with simple Smash Bros. style notations. The depth comes in when you incorporate invincible attacks that every character has access to by holding a directional button and the normal attack button which can go through attacks, but not blocks. Which of course leads you to the guard break attacks available to each character. Add to this a dash cancel mechanic that lets you cancel an attack mid animation to follow up for more damage and you have a very interesting and rewarding rock, paper, scissors, dynamic that encourages smart and careful play and punishes rush decisions and careless button mashing. Something all too common in the anime fighter sub-genre.
Your partner characters, known as sidekicks, also play an important role in battle. They can be called in to extend combos, similar to Marvel vs. Capcom, and can also be used as combo breakers to stop an opponent’s extended assault. On offense, you must carefully manage your super gauge, which is used for dash cancels and super moves (affectionately referred to as “Plus Ultra!” attacks), as well as keep an eye on your opponent’s partner gauge to predict, or even bait, an assist based combo breaker. Pressing the partner button twice will let your sidekick come in for their assist and perform their own super afterward, which can create some incredible offensive pressure for the opponent or even turn the match around for a defender with their back against the wall. Meter is also not easy to gain, and the partner meters fill up fairly slowly, making each decision on whether or not to use a super, dash cancel, or an assist for either offense or defense all the more important. If you do manage to fill the meter to the maximum of 3 you can perform your ultimate move where all 3 characters team up for a spectacle filled finisher. Depending on what characters are on your team, you can even get special interactions for the super. Which is something I love when fighting games do (see also Captain America and Winter Soldier in Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite) and I wish they would do more of it.
My Hero One’s Justice 2 comes with the basics you would expect from a game of this type. A Story Mode covers the fourth season of the anime from the aftermath of All Might’s fight vs. All for One and ending with Deku vs. Chisaki. So if you are not caught up with the anime, it is highly recommended you do so before playing the game. The story mode has two different paths, one for the heroes and one for the villains. On each path, you rotate through the entire cast of characters and you can unlock customization items and other rewards by completing the mission under certain parameters. Some missions even have alternate paths where you can play the same fight from under a different character’s perspective, or at a different location from the main battle, which is pretty fun. The final battle of the Hero side of story mode entails a giant boss battle between Deku and Chisaki that completely flips the gameplay seen so far on its head and is an absolute blast to play. Unfortunately, the villain side ends on a standard 1v1 battle, which was a little disappointing after playing through the Hero side’s bombastic finale.
There is also an Arcade Mode where you can play against waves of CPU characters and a Mission Mode. Acting like a Hero Management sim, you recruit characters from the cast to join your agency and send them on missions that take place on a board game style playing field where you move your team around and battle against other characters. Your teammates can level up, and if you lose too much and bring your agency points to 0, a character will actually leave your agency. This is a fun side mode that I didn’t really expect and adds some much needed extra value to the game’s single-player content.
The online mode is pretty standard and lets you create rooms to play against friends, as well as compete in casual and ranked matches. I was extremely pleased to find that the netcode performed surprisingly well. Characters generally move a bit slower and purposefully in this game than in other anime-based brawlers, and this helps the gameplay act much smoother online. The matchmaking does leave something to be desired, however. During my first match online, I was pitted against an opponent with points in the THOUSANDS while I was still at 0. My next match however was much more balanced as I faced an opponent with only a few hundred points.
One very cool feature that has been brought back from the original My Hero One’s Justice is character customization. Playing through the game whether, in Story, Arcade, Online, or Mission mode will net you customization items that you can add to your character of choice. The level of freedom in the character creation isn’t on par with something like Soul Calibur of course, but the level at which you can completely change a character’s look is almost unprecedented in a game like this. Usually license holders are hesitant to give players the option to make completely absurd or goofy versions of their characters, but My Hero One’s Justice 2 lets you do just that. Characters are still recognizable but two different players can make the same character look wildly different. One time I fought against a Deku that was stacked to look like a Japanese Oni that came straight from the Nioh series, and then against one that looked like it was scrawled in the corner of an edgelord’s high school notebook complete with a black and red color palette, a long ninja scarf, and the works. All these custom characters are able to be brought online to fight against other opponents and it lets you have a sense of ownership of YOUR version of a character that other similar games just don’t have.
This speaks to My Hero One’s Justice 2’s biggest strength, its style. Everything from the main menu to the tutorials are crammed with the same charm and aesthetic that made the series so popular in the first place. You will never confuse this game with something from another anime property. It is My Hero through and through. Most anime games are content to just appeal to the surface level of its most ardent fans, and not try for anything else. This ironically comes at the cost of its own identity, being inseparable from the dozens of other anime games that release in any given year. What the team behind My Hero One’s Justice 2 does to remedy this is to cram every single inch of the game with the personality and charm the series is known for, and this elevates My Hero One’s Justice 2 from being “just another anime game” to a very fun and enjoyable “My Hero Academia game”. It is a small distinction that is very easy for a lot of developers to lose sight of, but it is something very important that can make a game like this stand out from its peers.
This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.