Jujutsu Kaisen, the critically acclaimed anime and manga series, is rife with fast-paced action and flashy techniques. As such, adapting it into a fighting game, like many other shounen properties before it, comes as a no-brainer. Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash is exactly that — a tag-team arena fighter that marks the franchise’s maiden voyage into console gaming (the honour of the actual first Jujutsu Kaisen video game goes to the mobile-exclusive Jujutsu Kaisen: Phantom Parade, released in 2023).
Jointly developed by Byking, the team behind the Gunslinger Stratos series, and Gemdrops Inc., known for their work on Star Ocean: The Second Story R, this collaboration plays fairly similarly to another of Byking’s manga/anime-based titles — My Hero One’s Justice.
Fighters wield the freedom to run, dash, and (double) jump in every conceivable direction, all while maintaining a lock-on on the opponent. When the combatants finally clash, the skirmishes unfold with flashy intensity. However, the expansive arenas, brimming with a multitude of on-screen elements, may pose a challenge in tracking the flurry of action. Some of them even suffer from poor design choices, such as placing players at the base of a building while others duke it out on the rooftop, resulting in a disorienting feeling that disrupts the flow of combat.
The 16 playable fighters span fan favourites like Satoru Gojo and Kento Nanami, to lesser characters like Hanami and the pair of Eso & Kechizu. They boast 3D cel-shaded models that are accurate to the source material, and many of them adapt pretty well to a fighting game. That said, while unleashing attacks is simple enough, many characters are challenging to master.
Basic brawlers like Yuji Itadori and Maki Zenin are easy to grasp but more focus needs to be placed on complex characters including Aoi Todo, who specialises in swapping positions around the battlefield, and Jogo, who combines sluggish movement and long-ranged volleys with setting traps around the stage.
The emphasis on tag-team synergy fails to coalesce in meaningful ways and often, you and your squadmate will just pair off against the opposing team for 1-v-1 battles, with occasional opportunities for joint attacks to deal more damage.
Furthermore, many moves feel floaty and have slow recovery time, which can sometimes result in scenarios where characters take turns to trade blows, instead of being able to execute long strings of combos. It’s certainly a different style of fighting game, with a learning curve that might deter casual gamers, making the game feel less accessible for those looking for a more straightforward experience.
Cursed Clash’s offerings and navigation feel disappointingly bare bones, hinting towards a lack of care, resources, and production value in the game. Some of the menu options are even misleading — for example, the Online Co-op, among three online modes from the main menu, allows offline play.
Free Battle, what one might imagine to be the game’s training grounds, falls short of being the ideal practice mode. The odd menu design, where characters remain unseen during selection, feels like an oversight that hampers the overall user experience. Lacking ample tips or tools for players to experiment and learn, Free Battle misses an opportunity to truly empower players in mastering the intricacies of Cursed Clash’s combat.
Meanwhile, entering the Story Mode feels like stepping into a slow-burn tutorial. Accompanied by screenshots straight from the anime, it covers the events from the first season as well as the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 film, interspersed with some filler original to the game. While this choice could appeal to fans of the series, it may leave others itching for a more engaging narrative and a quicker plunge into the action.
These various shortcomings demonstrate a lack of polish and finesse expected from a Bandai Namco-published title, and it’s hard not to draw comparisons with its release of Tekken 8 earlier this year — a title that came from legacy and still set a high bar for fighting games. The contrasting quality between the two releases raises questions about the allocation of resources and attention to detail within the Bandai Namco portfolio.
Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash struggles to bring the magic of the series into the console gaming world. As players grapple with the complex characters and navigate the game’s various design flaws, it becomes evident that Cursed Clash falls short of reaching the excellence set by its anime counterpart and other standout titles in the genre.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
While Jujutsu Kaisen: Cursed Clash showcases potential, it contends with design quirks that leave players yearning for a more refined and polished rendition of the franchise’s captivating universe.
Gameplay - 4/10
Story - 5/10
Presentation - 4/10
Value - 4/10