Jack Move is a cyberpunk themed JRPG developed by the team over at So Romantic, drawing inspiration from classic games such as Final Fantasy VII through to Final Fantasy X and Golden Sun. Naturally, given the chosen theme, there are also influences from the likes of Blade Runner and Akira, but have those ideas come together to make Jack Move a fulfilling experience?
In a way, yes. You see, Jack Move possesses a variety of good ideas, however not all of them are implemented to their full potential and that holds it back from reaching the heights of being a great JRPG.
Jack Move doesn’t mess about as you’re immediately thrown into the story in the midst of a heist, undertaken by Noa Solares. She’s a vigilante hacker looking to stick it to the corporations and Monomind, the biggest of those corporations, in particular, fighting the good fight on behalf of the poorest in society. The stakes are raised though when the aforementioned company kidnaps Noa’s estranged father. They’re after the technology he’s working on which could allow people who die to live on in the digital world. Only Noa can save him and prevent this advanced tech from falling into the wrong hands.
The way everything occurs during the narrative, with one revelation after another, shows good pacing and doesn’t leave much room for unnecessary filler. On a slight downside it’s not easy to understand how the depressing world around Noa came to be, with the little bits of lore left here and there not being easy to digest. Despite the doom and gloom state in which society is in, the light-hearted banter between the protagonist and her trusty best friend providing help via comms, Ryder, ensures that the tone isn’t too serious all the time.
As for the gameplay, and well this is where proceedings begin to get a tad complex. Not in terms of the core concept, which is a straightforward turn-based affair for the party of one, but more in the terminology and mechanics.
Battles themselves appear to take place in cyberspace and occur in specific areas where every movement increases your risk of encounters. I appreciate the option to up the frequency or tone the chances down, even completely nullifying them, at will. Upon initiating a fight, you’ll have to drain the opponent(s) health to win before they do the same to you. This is when the tech terms come into play.
Aside from a bog standard physical attack, every other manoeuvre performed via the Cyber Deck is Software and uses Data. There are three main types of offence: Cyberware, Electroware and Wetware. Depending on the enemy in front of you, certain attack types are stronger against them; for example, unleashing Wetware hacks will work best when faced with a Cyberware foe. Usually it’s fairly obvious what kind of enemies they are, based on the colour of their aesthetic, but whether you have the optimum Software equipped is questionable due to the limiting Virtual Memory System (VMS).
The VMS is made up of RAM blocks, with each piece of Software using a set number of RAM to be a part of your arsenal. This means you must be very picky, which will probably lead you to overlook many of the Software available to purchase from vendors. The variety is great, with benefits of new Software including health regeneration, the removal of status effects and defensive buffs. Chances are though, the attacking options are going to be your priority and that leaves no space for much else, which is a waste really.
The same problem arises for Hardware, due to a maximum of three modules installed at any one time. Considering a RAM upgrade is almost guaranteed to occupy a spot, it’s a tough decision as to what does, and doesn’t, make the cut. Once again, there’s no shortage in modules to choose from, and that’s why I’m disappointed with the limitations.
A cool feature however, are the Jack Moves. Essentially, they’re super moves that recharge bit by bit after each turn until the bar is full. Upon triggering the Jack Move, a fun animation kicks in such as a wormhole or a tidal wave appearing, causing damage to every enemy on screen. It’s more engaging than the Software because there are button commands to input to increase the power of it.
In regards to the baddies you’ll encounter, they’re a proper odd bunch. I mean, the Monomind security guards and goons on the street are fairly normal in looks and movesets, but then the weird abominations in the virtual realm bring something different to the table entirely – one virus enemy can lay eggs to spawn another of itself for crying out loud. The bosses are creative too, with The Construct being a particularly memorable fight. Design-wise, it’s like a gritty version of Kang from The Simpsons, while the battle itself requires logic as you must target its consoles in a specific order to weaken it.
Outside of the encounters and story progressing objectives, there are a decent amount of secondary objectives to complete too. Even though the stories seem interesting, it’s basically a load of fetch quests that aren’t necessarily worth going out of your way for. What they will do however is encourage you to explore the world, which enables you to take in the nice pixel art used to present everything from the futuristic city to the run down slums.
One thing I must mention is how bloody challenging it becomes during the latter stages of Jack Move. As someone who actively sought out battles in a bid to level up as much as possible before the climax, I still found myself getting slaughtered every so often. Half your health, or more, can be depleted before even having a turn against minions, let alone the bosses. Don’t expect an easy ride.
Unlike many JRPGs, Jack Move doesn’t needlessly draw out the experience for thirty or forty hours; instead you could be done within ten, which is refreshing. The pacing of storytelling and progression is excellent, while the commitment to the cyber theme is impressive – even if a little confusing at times. Encounters are enjoyable thanks to the differing enemies, but the restrictions on Software and Hardware are pointlessly limiting.
Despite not realising its full potential, Jack Move is good at what it does and should definitely be considered if you’re after a condensed JRPG.
Jack Move is out now on the Xbox Store