I’m pretty sure we were all surprised by what Microsoft revealed at their Xbox E3 Briefing, with news that Bandai Namco was in the process of developing a new fighting game. Back in 2008, or was it 2009, I spent a ton of hours on a Nintendo DS title called Jump! Ultimate Stars. Jump! Ultimate Stars brought my favorite anime characters onto a 2D fighter, and utilized a unique card-like mechanic on the touch screen. Characters were arranged into a rectangle; the bigger the card, the bigger the requirement. I remembered a lot of fun times arranging those cards around.

A good way to describe this fighting game is that it’s the Smash equivalent for anime characters. While several more Jump! games came out ever since I played Jump! Ultimate Stars, none have really caught my attention. Cue Jump Force.

At E3, I was allowed an opportunity to play the game behind closed doors at the Bandai Namco booth, having been offered an appointment to try the game out. The demo, while limited in its characters, did give me enough to play with to see how the game felt. I was allowed to choose between Goku, Frieza, Luffy, Zoro, Naruto, and Sasuke. You make a three-man team, and fight it out. There’s light and heavy attacks, and the extra flashy special finishing moves.

On the surface, Jump Force is an extremely easy game to get into. You can button mash and feel productive, relishing as you see your favorite characters in high definition duke it out on realistic looking battlegrounds. I’ll admit, the initial reveal trailer had me excited to see Luffy and Goku mashing it out on the streets of New York City. While button mashing may feel cool, the real benefits that I started to see in this game after some playtime were in the level of strategy. Playing against a fellow journalist, I realized there was a lot more to learn as the assists started becoming key to actually getting the upper hand. Playing against AI was a means to get the rules understood; adding a human mind to this, and a good mind at that, showed me that there was a lot more to this game. There isn’t anything more soul-crushing than having someone “awaken” fairly early into a match and then trounce you shortly after.

I liked Jump Force a lot. From the striking visuals to the potential characters the game could introduce, there’s a lot to love and look forward to when this game comes out. This game is simple and complex at the same time, with fast matches that sometimes feel a little too fast. Based on a ton of great anime that have been in the works from Shonen Jump, compared to the last Jump fighter I played, the future’s looking bright with a fantastic return to form.