Jack Move Review (Switch eShop)
Seems like most JRPGs these days don’t really get into hard sci-fi. Of course, big franchises like Final Fantasy Where Xenolame aren’t afraid to mix in some technology alongside their magic, but it’s rare that you see developers fully commit to a world of robots and computers only. In this regard, Jack Move is a breath of fresh air. What we have here is a short, well-paced, perfectly traditional JRPG set in a cyberpunk universe. It’s surprisingly innovative and a joy to play.
Jack Move is set in a near-future cyberpunk society where governments are effectively powerless and huge conglomerates reign supreme. You play as Noa, a hacker who regularly participates in attacks on businesses and sells sensitive information on the black market. Noa and her partner-in-crime, Ryder, are just carrying on with business as usual when she receives a message from her estranged father, who warns her that a company called Monomind might be after her because of something he works. Shortly after, Monomind kidnaps his father, setting Noa and Ryder on a quest to free him and get to the bottom of his latest research project.
It’s a well-paced plot throughout and that’s greatly aided by the strong world-building along the way. Conversations with NPCs help get a sense of what everyday life is like in a place like Bright Town, while cute slang like “Digits!” or “Gigafloppin’!” exclaim by the characters help imbue the world with a certain personality. The character development feels a little superficial given the relatively short length of the entire story, but it’s hard not to become attached to the world of Jack Move given how much it charms the player. Obviously, a lot of effort has gone into adding little details and vignettes to complete the experience, like an NPC that Noa repeatedly gets into friendly insult matches with, and all those little details. add up to create something with real texture and meaning.
The combat follows a traditional turn-based structure, but has the interesting wrinkle that you only get a party member for the duration of the game. Noa is a competent fighter, but she effectively has to be her own backup in all of her battles, which leads to the inclusion of a “soft” job system that makes her quite versatile . Noa’s available skills and actions are dictated by the RAM available in her deck, with each action taking up a certain number of blocks. You can only fit a handful of actions into your available RAM at any given time, but you can “Patch” on any turn to swap abilities in or out of need. For example, we started a tough boss fight with a few big debuff abilities ready to drop their stats, then we swapped out some buff abilities to boost ours, then went all out to blast them.
Most fights against common enemies don’t really last long enough to require a lot of swapping items in and out of RAM, but we liked how cleverly this system manages to feel like it has a party while battling with a single character. Noa always feels capable of meeting the challenges she faces, even when comfortably outnumbered and only taking one action for every two or three the enemy can use. Plus, the Golden Sun-esque idea of having that give-and-take of changing your character mid-battle makes every choice meaningful.
However, there’s more to combat than swapping items in your RAM, such as the presence of a simple rock-paper-scissors system that can be used to exploit enemy weaknesses. A purple “Wetware” attack, for example, will be super effective against a green “Cyberware” enemy. Most enemies are color coded so it’s easy to see what they’ll be weak to, and taking advantage of this system has the passive effect of adding significantly to your Jack Move meter. This acts like a Limit Break, and when full it allows you to unleash a devastating attack on the entire enemy team that can very often end the fight on the spot. Even better, you play a brief DDR-esque mini-game before performing each Jack Move; nailing all the prompts at the right time will greatly increase the damage and make the attack even more devastating.
Another thing that can help tip the scales in your balance is the turn window in the corner, which indicates which enemies will attack when and when Noa can then act. With this information, you can sometimes take out an enemy to get another turn from Noa, or you can either slow enemies down or speed up Noa to give you more actions on a longer timeline. We liked that developer So Romantic gave you several tools to increase your chances of success, as it makes the fights much more dynamic and keeps them from feeling too outdated and identical.
When you’re not fighting enemies, you guide Noa through intricate cityscapes, datascapes, and junkyards, opening hidden briefcases containing useful items and solving basic puzzles to manipulate the environment. All the while, if you’re in a dungeon area, there will be a threat indicator in the upper corner that indicates when the next battle is. Once full, you won’t necessarily be attacked right away, but it can happen at any time. And, if you don’t like getting jumped while trying to solve a puzzle, there’s a useful toggle to decrease the rate at which it fills up or to stop it completely, although the latter option might make Noa too underpowered. -leveled to keep pace with ascending difficulty.
When it comes to character growth, Noa only levels up in a traditional sense, but each software action can also independently gain usage experience and level up to make it more effective in combat. Additionally, there is a wide variety of software available that you can unlock either by completing side quests or by purchasing it from one of the stores in a town; it feels like you’re always five minutes away from unlocking another one to expand your arsenal. With that in mind, it’s pretty impressive how Jack Move manages to feel like a much longer game than it actually is. Enemy levels and stats increase fairly quickly, but Noa’s ability increases at a commensurate rate; the difficulty doesn’t feel like it’s increasing too much at any time.
It’s worth mentioning that the story will probably only take you about ten hours to complete. There are side quests you can do to lengthen the runtime a bit and hanging on to a tough boss fight here or there can distract you, but even then it’s probably one of the RPGs the shortest you’ll ever play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the power ramp ensures that you level up and get better gear at a much faster rate than most – but those of you who really like to dig in a deep and complex JRPG can be left a little disappointed and wanting more. We did appreciate the short duration though, as it ensures there are no half-baked gameplay mechanics or unnecessarily long cutscenes.
When it comes to its presentation, Jack Move employs a hi-bit art style somewhat reminiscent of the work seen in titles such as Aegis Defenders and Katana Zero, characterized by beautifully detailed HD pixel art, smooth character animation, and overall flashy retro aesthetic. . Jack Move’s world isn’t necessarily gritty, but we liked how it incorporated other elements of the cyberpunk genre – spider robots, street pirates, neon screens full of advertisements on cityscapes rainy – in a colorful and surprisingly dynamic world.
All accompanied by a soundtrack mixing synthwave, lo-fi and industrial music that creates an intense and nostalgic atmosphere. We wish there were a few more tracks in the overall playlist to give it a little more variety, but what’s here is absolutely top-notch work.
It might not last very long, but Jack Move manages to pack in all the important elements needed for a great cyberpunk JRPG adventure. The inventive combat system, enchanting world and engaging graphics all come together to create a perfectly paced, engrossing and memorable release that no RPG fan will want to miss, and worth double for time-strapped aficionados of the genre. . It’s not often you see a JRPG that leans so heavily on sci-fi tropes, and Jack Move makes the most of every minute of its execution. Highly recommended.