Some disheartening news came out recently for fans looking forward to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R, a remake of the PlayStation 3 title of the same name (minus the R). Fans of the game have lamented for years that the title was trapped on the PS3 with no way to play it outside of using original hardware. At the last Sony State of Play, developer CyberConnect2 surprised fans with the announcement of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle remake, but a recent interview regarding rollback netcode has dashed some of that excitement.
Rollback netcode is something fans of fighting games have been asking for in games for years. It’s only in recent years, though, that developers have started acknowledging these pleas. Western developers had more of a headstart, with games like Killer Instinct (2013) and Mortal Kombat X and 11 all having great online functionality. Japanese developers were far slower to react, but that has been changing for the better in the past couple of years. Games like Guilty Gear Strive and King of Fighters XV show that Japanese developers are willing to adapt to make their games playable for the wider playerbase. However, one key holdout in this is Bandai Namco.
Bandai Namco is home to popular fighting game franchises as Tekken, Soul Calibur, and Dragon Ball FighterZ. One thing all of these series have in common, unfortunately, is that their online functionality is terrible. This is compounded by the fact that the producer of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R said in a recent interview with Japanese publication Dengeki Online that the game will not feature rollback. Considering all the improvements that CyberConnect2 is adding to this new version of the game, like a better combo system, improved hitstop, and removing the insane character unlock system the original had, this decision feels all the more baffling.
The official Jojo Twitter account even responded to fan’s demand for rollback, seemingly placing the blame squarely on the developer, or more specifically, Bandai Namco. For those who have been paying attention to the genre in recent years, this should come as no surprise. Bandai Namco’s refusal to add rollback to any of its games is a meme at this point. Even Capcom has announced that the upcoming Street Fighter 6 will feature a new rollback netcode system, different from Street Fighter V, leaving Bandai Namco the sole standout among its peers.
The taste… of bad netcode
The lack of rollback netcode continues to baffle anyone who questions it. Implementing rollback netcode can be difficult, but it is entirely possible. Indie games like Them’s Fightin’ Herds are able to include it, as well as giant AAA franchises like Mortal Kombat. So cost is clearly not the issue. The only explanation one can try and decipher is a cultural one. Specifically, the corporate culture at Bandai Namco. Japanese developers have had a long history of not using anything not developed in house for projects, which is why many of the Japanese developed fighting games that do have rollback netcode are still developed in-house. Sometimes that works, like with Guilty Gear Strive, and sometimes it doesn’t, like with Street Fighter V.
It could also be that Bandai Namco just doesn’t feel like this is necessarily. Tekken 7 is the highest selling entry in the franchise despite its terrible netplay. Likewise, Dragon Ball FighterZ sold over a million copies while having some of the worst online functionality for fighting games in recent memory. But the key thing here is that these games sell because they are named Tekken and Dragon Ball Z. However, with the world moving further and further online, this is going to become a gap that Bandai Namco eventually needs to cross.
No rollback? MUDA!
Rollback netcode is essential for fighting games to work properly and do well in the modern era. Arguing against that fact is redundant, and Bandai Namco needs to catch up with the times. If Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R is any indication on Bandai Namco’s feelings towards rollback netcode in the future, I am very worried for what’s in store for the inevitable Tekken 8. People just want to play your games and have them work.