My Hero Academia, perhaps today’s hottest anime and manga property, almost feels like a bad fit for a video game. While the story is about a world in which superpowers are a mundane occurrence and superheroism is a government-subsidized industry, My Hero Academia spends far more time on interpersonal relationships, emotional growth, and thinking through difficult situations over high-octane action. And when there is action, it’s often over as quickly as it starts. So while my dream scenario for a My Hero Academia video game sits firmly in the RPG space, developer Byking takes the series and turns it into a more than respectable 3D arena fighter in My Hero One’s Justice that has more in common with the likes of Power Stone than J-Stars or Gundam Versus.
My Hero One’s Justice doesn’t seem to be much at first, opting to go straight from logos to the title screen without the sort of hype beast opening movie you’d normally expect from an anime game. However, that initial low budget presentation leads to a densely populated menu screen, eye-popping UI graphics and music that lets you know you’re about to be smashing some buttons. While the key drama of My Hero Academia is hardly present here, My Hero One’s Justice knows you love these characters and wants to make sure you have fun clacking them together like action figures.
The core gameplay here is fast and clumsy, not unlike the students of UA’s class 1-A, trying to learn in spite of their collective hotheadedness and awkward teenage growing pains. While many anime fighters as of late have been heavy on lock-on systems, multiple fighters, and deliberate input mechanisms, My Hero One’s Justice is a hot mess on purpose, with characters literally scrambling towards each other with such furious desperation they forego traction, and filling the screen with colorful explosions. It’s a 1v1 slugfest that’s more interested in being fast and flashy than it is in being tight, measured, or hardcore.
Controls are simple with one normal attack button, then two buttons to use your character’s “Quirk,” or superpower. At most, there are four actions you can take with your Quirk, one with just the button press and the other with input in any direction with the stick. Meanwhile, normal attacks can be modified slightly to either an unblockable attack (which turns the character red) or a counterattack (yellow). What this leads to is reminiscent of rock-paper-scissors, with one type of normal attack capable of getting through another, which is generally how you’ll be creating openings for combos. Of course, each character also has two supers, which are, due to the game’s scoring mechanisms, encouraged to be used for flashy finishes as much as possible (although they’re great in a pinch mid-match if you need to get that win).
If you want to start building combos, the key is dashing. While the dash button gives you a slippery, temporary way to close a gap between you and your opponent, the more important use case is “dash-canceling” your way out of one move into another. This way you can extend your combos from the basic button-mashing, into more complicated and sometimes airborne strings that can lead to big damage. Of course, you can also get things like wall-bounces to extend your combos and a pretty hilarious state in which your opponent (or you) get smashed into the ground Looney Tunes style, with only a pair of legs haplessly protruding from the side of a building. Not only is that hilarious every time it happens, but it’s the most satisfying reward for playing to your surroundings and knocking your opponent into things. Some light environmental destruction in each stage also enhances that feeling.
Once you get the mechanics down in training mode (as you should), My Hero One’s Justice truly succeeds in giving you plenty of play options. Of course, there’s online ranked and free matches, an arcade mode, and a story mode that recreates the My Hero Academia story up to the confrontation with All for One. But there’s also a mission mode, which is a series of boards comprising various challenging levels, that dispenses rewards based on how well you do. It’s almost like the old challenge modes in Soulcalibur II, which alter the rules of the game to give players additional challenges, such as tweaked damage parameters, restricted assists, and more. Because mission mode not only helps you get better but also provides rewards, it’s a great way to extend the life of the game.
The rewards system works because not only do you unlock ways to dress up your online profile, you can also earn money to buy customization items, and of course unlock items straight-up. You can then go into the customization menu and set up custom presets for each character. Not only does each character have a few alternate costumes and color schemes unique to them, but you can also apply a big variety of accessories to mark each character with your own sense of humor or style.
What this all boils down to is that My Hero One’s Justice is an anime fan’s fighter. It’s not like Dragon Ball FighterZ in that you’ll either need to know how to play “real” fighting games or rely on the auto-combo pampering in order to enjoy it. Instead, you can learn the ropes through several single-player-friendly game modes, have fun with the fast and loose mechanics, then goof around online if you want to. It’s a low risk, high energy fighter that may not care about balance at all times, but it doesn’t want or need to because that’s not what it’s here for. It’s here so you can land big, smashing punches as Deku, fill the arena with flames as Endeavor, sling your tongue around as Froppy, and of course, do All Might things as All Might. Win or lose, it’s about the spectacle of it all. And in that, My Hero One’s Justice is a big success.
If you're interested in this game, check out the My Hero Academia manga!
by Lucas White
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