Deja Review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD

We're of the firm opinion that your time is too precious, too valuable to be spent reading a full review for a game that was already reviewed many, many years ago. What's the point of applying a score to a game that's old enough to be enrolled in the sixth grade? That's why we invented Deja Review: A quick look at the new features and relative agelessness of remade, revived and re-released games.

Deja Review Jojo's Bizarre Adventure HD

Let's put my history with fighting games into "weird relationship" terms. If Guilty Gear XX: #Reload was my first girlfriend, and Soul Calibur 2 my first true love, then JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was my first kiss. I was 12 when the game was originally ported to the PlayStation in 1999, and while I'd flirted with various Mortal Kombats and Street Fighters, never had I been so enthralled by a fighting game.

Its oddball cast, absurdly supernatural narrative and artistic, surreal presentation made it different from not just the rest of Capcom's catalogue, but also every other 2D fighter on the market. It was unique, for better or for worse, with overflowing coffers of goofy, brilliant single-player content that made it so much more than a simple arcade port.

Unfortunately, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD for PSN and XBLA is so much less.%Gallery-160443%

What's new this time around? JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD's biggest addition is its networked versus play, which wasn't exactly feasible back in 1999. Adventure HD's online implementation is decidedly bare-bones, offering the standard Capcom assortment of ranked matches and player lobbies and not much else beyond the ability to save replays and view their hitbox data, which is actually an unprecedented move for Capcom.

While not exactly laggy, per se, online play does feel a bit bogged down when compared to offline modes. That being said, it's a consistent kind of bog, so each online game feels roughly the same match to match, despite not being perfectly congruous with the offline game. In fact, the netcode in Adventure HD performs more consistently than GGPO-powered titles like Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition or Skullgirls.

There's also a "Challenge Mode" (read: survival mode) that wasn't included in the original, which gives the player a choice between more health or more super meter at the end of each match. Throw in Adventure HD's unfortunate graphical filters – which I'll get to in a minute – and that's pretty much everything new this time around. There's quite a lot that's different, though.

Deja Review Jojo's Bizarre Adventure HD

How's it hold up? The crux of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure on the PlayStation was its "Super Story Mode," which put players in control of various characters over the course of the narrative, similar to 2011's Mortal Kombat. The story was strung together through sprite-based cutscenes, actual fights and a series of mini-games that ran the genre gauntlet from poker to side-scrolling shmup. Every part of it was exceedingly well crafted and detailed, and each specific game "type" could later be accessed again once Book Mode had been unlocked.

In Adventure HD, nearly all of this content has been removed – save for the cutscenes and the least interesting of all the original mini-games. What's leftover is a decidedly un-super Story Mode, which has been reduced from hours of engaging and varied content to a glorified, no-frills Arcade Mode. By extension, Book Mode is also nonexistent, as are the mini-games and beautifully detailed menus it once contained. This brings the game to parity with the feature-challenged Dreamcast version also released in 1999, which was technically sufficient as a port but lacked the content that majorly defined the PlayStation version.

In fact, all of the colorful, imaginative UI design and loading screen artwork found in the PlayStation version has been replaced by drab, uninteresting backgrounds and fonts. Since this is a game based on a manga series with amazing illustrations and coloring, the loss of these assets directly correlates to a loss of charm, atmosphere and heart. What's left is functional, and nothing else.

Deja Review Jojo's Bizarre Adventure HD

Adding insult to injury is the game's graphical filter, which looks less like an HD upscale and more like a rushed pile of Photoshop softening and edge-finding filters. Thankfully this effect can be disabled, leaving behind the original sprites, but playing with ye olde graphics further emphasized a thought that permeated every moment of my experience: "There wasn't much effort put into this."

At its very core, however, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD's fighting engine feels identical to the original, and that counts for something. Developed by the team responsible for Street Fighter III: Third Strike, the original JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was a complex mash of hyper-technical one-frame-link combos and flashy, ridiculous supers, and in that regard the HD port is a faithful representation of its source material.

Unfortunately, getting only that and nothing else right isn't enough. Considering that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure wasn't a well-known game to begin with, and that the only people who'll be buying the remake in the first place are fighting-game nostalgia hounds like myself, things like Super Story Mode and the original artwork are just as (if not more) important than the fighting. Its $20 price tag is a lot to ask for a game that is nearly 14 years old to begin with, especially when you're only receiving a third of the content contained in the best version.

As it stands, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD is the gaming equivalent of a zombie. The things that gave the game heart and soul and made it an undeniably special gem have been lost, and all that's left is the shambling, reanimated, online-enabled visage of its former self.

Update: As some have pointed out, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure HD appears to be based on the Dreamcast version of the original, for all intents and purposes. This article has been updated to better reflect that fact and to correct an error regarding the game's Challenge Mode, but the overall opinion has not been altered. This is not the definitive version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure that it could have been. Without the inclusion of Super Story Mode, Book Mode or the artwork gallery found in the PlayStation version, some of JoJo's most valuable content remains locked away in the past.

This Deja Review is based on a PlayStation 3 download of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure HD, provided by Capcom.