Not quite 'plus ultra.'
My Hero Academia has been taking the world by storm as one of the most popular modern anime series. With the manga charting as a top-five best seller and a feature-length film opening at #4 in the Japanese box office, it was only a matter of time before the students of U.A. High School made their video game debut. My Hero One’s Justice follows in the footsteps of previous shonen series pitting popular characters from the series against each other in an arena fighter. It’s tough for a licensed anime fighting game to live up to the standard that Dragon Ball FighterZ set with its record-breaking debut at EVO 2018, but there’s still joy to be had in a fighter that prioritizes style over substance.
Battles in One’s Justice take place in an open arena, with each player being able to freely move in any direction. While typical fighting game abilities like grabs and super armor make up the majority of regular play, each character’s moveset is augmented by a unique superpower known as a Quirk. For example, Izuku Midoriya can channel strength through his body to create shockwaves, Katsuki Bakugo can create explosions in a small range around himself, and Shoto Todoroki can summon pillars of ice and fire. Each character’s Quirk smoothly brings their skillset into the game. Add in flashy visuals and the ability to take advantage of the aerial space around you and fans of the series will have a blast taking control of the the superpowers of the 20 characters featured in the base roster.
Sadly, actually fighting in One’s Justice isn’t nearly as fun as the wish fulfillment of playing out fights as characters from the anime. Combat tries to have some depth with the light rock-paper-scissors structure of guards, super armor, and unblockable attacks, but these elements aren’t balanced enough to feel like they counteract each other in any meaningful way. Super armor attacks are almost always safe, and unblockable attacks usually have so much windup that a careful opponent will avoid them every time. By putting time into learning how to play, I actually ended up having less fun as I realized how bland and repetitive the fighting really was. Even worse, just getting into a match can be a frustrating experience. When playing online you must select your character before joining a lobby, and you can’t switch characters without completely leaving the lobby. This would be bad enough on its own but is made significantly worse by incredibly long load times.
The story mode could have added more value, but it’s really only good as a glorified tutorial. The plot retells the events of the anime from Midoriya’s battle with the hero killer Stain through All Might’s climactic showdown with All For One. With very few exceptions, cutscenes are made up of still frames recreating scenes from the show—sometimes using screencaps directly from the anime—with dialogue and narration retelling each scene beat for beat. Fans of the series will be bored by the lack of any new content, and newcomers will be underwhelmed by the bland, boring cutscenes that lack any of the anime’s style or punch.
I had a lot of fun playing My Hero One’s Justice, but all of that fun came from the charm of seeing the characters I love on screen. I was already satisfied being able to take down opponents online with a Detroit Smash, but I probably would’ve been disappointed with it if I hadn’t spent my summer watching the the anime and eventually starting to catch up with the manga. My Hero One’s Justice is all about style over substance. If you aren’t already attached to the students of U.A., this game probably won’t be changing that any time soon.