The game combines Capcom's trademark anime-inspired graphics, as seen in the Darkstalkers series, with the colorful characters and events of Hirohiko Araki's creation, resulting in a highly stylized and detailed visual style. It features many of the gameplay mechanics seen on previous Capcom fighting games, such as the use of power gauges for super moves, as well as a brand-new Stand Mode: a character's Stand can be summoned or dismissed at will by the player, resulting in variations in the character's move list and abilities.
The game would receive a revision in 1999 titled Heritage for the Future in Japan, with the Western release being simply named JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Both revisions would later be ported to the Sega Dreamcast under the later revision's title, allowing the player to choose which revision they want to play. A special edition of the Dreamcast version named JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future for Matching Service added an online mode to the game, which has since become defunct.
The basic gameplay mechanics are those of a standard fighting game: one-on-one battles consisting of two or three time-limited rounds, in which the goal is to deplete the adversary's Vitality Gauge using regular attacks and character-specific special and super moves. Special and super moves require the input of button combinations and/or accumulated energy, which is displayed in a Super Combo Gauge that increases every time damage is dealt or taken.
The game uses a simplified four-button control scheme, consisting of three attack buttons (light, medium, and heavy) and a Stand button, which switches the character's Stand Mode on or off. Pressing all three attack buttons triggers a invulnerable forward dodge; pressing the three buttons while blocking pushes the opponent back a set distance. Depending on which button is used to select a character, a different color palette will be used for that character.
Two single-player modes are available: Story Mode, which traces a character's path through a predefined series of battles and cutscenes, and Survival Mode, which allows the player to take on an endless series of battles. The game's three unlockable characters can either be unlocked via time release or the game's service menu in the original arcade version; in the Dreamcast rerelease, they can be obtained by clearing Story Mode as certain characters. In addition, the Dreamcast version adds Alessi Mode, which is unlocked after clearing fifteen battles in Survival Mode; this mode allows combatants to fight entire battles as the child versions of their characters.
Fighting with Stand Mode on enhances a character's offensive and defensive abilities; these improvements heavily depend on the character and Stand, but the most common benefits are double jumping, absorbing residual damage when blocking special attacks, and more powerful special moves. Stands themselves are physical extensions of their users, and thus damage and attack effects inflicted upon one carries over to its user. Like avatar/puppet-based characters in other fighting games, Stands are able to act independently of their users, allowing for several offensive gimmicks.
Most of the game's unique mechanics derive from the introduced Stand Mode. Many special moves and attacks send a combatant's Stand away from its user, making it more difficult to protect both at the same time; each character's orientation is based on their position towards their opponent, and not necessarily the opponent's Stand. If a character is damaged while their Stand is far away, the damage received is doubled. On top of the Vitality Gauge and Super Combo Gauge, there is a third gauge, the Stand Gauge, which decreases when a character's Stand is damaged and refills when Stand Mode is switched off. If this gauge is depleted, a Stand Crash occurs, leaving the character paralyzed and open to attack for a moment.
Another feature of Stands is Tandem Attack, which can be executed once a character has one stock of the Super Combo Gauge to expend. During the extended startup flash, inputs can be provided for the character's Stand; the Stand will then perform these button inputs on their own as a Program Attack, leaving the user free to do as they please and attack simultaneously. Controlling the Stand directly by performing a special move will cancel the Stand's predetermined onslaught early, however. Weapon Stand users, who are unable to separate their Stand from themselves, can instead perform a Real Time Attack, in which most of their moves can be chained into one another until the stock is emptied.
Of the game's three unlockable characters, DIO is the only one able to enter Stand Mode, as Young Joseph has no Stand and Shadow DIO cannot fully utilize his Stand. Two of the nonplayable characters that appear in the game's Story Mode (Death Thirteen and N'Doul) are either present in Stand form only or move completely independently of their Stand.
The mechanics of each Stand create strong differences between the game's characters, and force different offensive approaches for each one. This "character-dependent gameplay" style would inspire several subsequent fighting games, such as the latter entries of the Guilty Gear series (which, interestingly enough, also contains rock and pop music references).
If certain attacks of the same strength and intensity occur at the same time and collide, clashing occurs. It is hard to see this system in action as it happens very infrequently. This mechanic would later be incorporated into future JoJo games, such as All-Star Battle. In some cases, when two certain opposing special moves are performed at the same time, a Blazing Fists Match can occur. When this happens, both combatants are prompted to rapidly tap the attack buttons to win the duel and decide who will receive damage, a feature first seen in Samurai Shodown. This feature has since been adopted and expanded in All-Star Battle.
Bonus Stages and Special Battles
In some battles, special rules are applied in order to reenact certain chapters of the original manga that were unable to be adapted into the normal circumstances of the 1v1 battles.
- N'Doul is not fought directly; instead, the player character finds himself on a corridor level and must reach N'Doul at the end of the level. Throughout the stage, Geb will attack, and the player must avoid the Stand's attacks by jumping or dashing.
- Vanilla Ice is fought as the penultimate enemy in each character's Story Mode, but cannot be selected as a playable character. He would later be added as a playable character in Heritage for the Future and the game's PlayStation port.
- Mannish Boy (or rather, Death Thirteen) can only be fought in Story Mode if the player clears the first five stages without using continues and while playing as one of the heroes. His attacks exploit the dream-like nature of his stage, as well as the absence of his user. Whether the player wins or loses against Death Thirteen, they are allowed to continue the Story Mode.
Differences from the Manga
- Jotaro removes Kakyoin's flesh bud at the hospital immediately after defeating him as an antagonist. In the manga and anime adaptations, Jotaro takes him to the Kujo household and removes the flesh bud there.
- Much of each character's story is not logically explained. One example is in Kakyoin's storyline: after encountering Jotaro, his story immediately jumps to Devo without introducing his victim Polnareff in Hong Kong first. Many of the cut scenes and character interactions were later introduced in the PlayStation port's Super Story Mode.
- Many character-altering injuries were downplayed or outright cut, such as with Polnareff and Iggy.
- The playable villains have very different storylines from the manga in Story Mode. Chaka, Devo, Midler, and Alessi turn on Dio in their storylines, while Dio himself must face a surviving Avdol and Iggy in his storyline.
- Midler is seen with a new character design as the result of a collaboration between Araki and Capcom. She has been drawn by Araki with this new design ever since.
- In the Stardust Crusaders anime adaptation, her character design was reverted to her manga appearance.
- DIO's explosive death is more violent in the game, as only his bloodied lower torso is left. In the manga and anime, his upper torso remains, sans his decimated head.
As JoJo's Venture marks the first time that a JoJo game was released outside Japan, the game's English localization changes the names of several characters to avert possible legal issues. Most of these localized names have never been used since.
- Young Joseph (若ジョセフ) was shortened to JoJo (inadvertently making him the titular character).
- Iggy was renamed to Iggi.
- Devo the Cursed was renamed to D'bo, the Cursed One.
- Vanilla Ice was renamed to Iced.
- Chaka was renamed to Chaca.
- Alessi was renamed to Alessy.
- N'Doul was renamed to N'Dool.
- Holy Kujo was renamed to Holley Kujo.
In addition, the blood in the game is colored white, and DIO's defeat in Story Mode is changed to him being sent flying off-screen (where he presumably dies). Near the start of N'Doul's bonus stage, an animation of Geb reacting to the dead helicopter pilot's watch alarm and cutting off his hand has been removed, and the blade of Chaka's sword is changed to a wooden brown color in every sprite it appears in. These changes, unlike the name changes, can be reverted by disabling the game's regulation in its service menu.
- While some of its sound effects have been borrowed from the Darkstalkers series, the unique sound effects used in this game have been recycled several times in other titles from Capcom, including Capcom vs. SNK 2, Capcom Fighting Evolution, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and even the Street Fighter series.
- Regarding the Darkstalkers series, Shadow DIO uses a voice filter similar to that used by one of the games' characters, Jedah Dohma (from Vampire Savior). In addition, Dio is voiced by the same voice actor as Jedah (Isshin Chiba) in this game. This adaptation is the only time Dio's voice is rendered with a filter; in all other adaptations, he speaks without any notable filters or distortions.
- Some of the visual effects used in this game (particularly the sparks, dust, and super sparks) have been borrowed from Capcom's Marvel vs. series.
- DIO’s Road Roller super move, which has him pummel a road roller repeatedly until it explodes, mirrors the 1993 OVA where the tank truck DIO uses explodes after he pummels it. In the manga and anime, the road roller does not explode.
- GioGio's Bizarre Adventure, another JoJo game developed by Capcom, features an orchestral rendition of Polnareff's theme as the background music for Chapter 11-1. In addition, some cutscenes use the villain intro theme from this game's Story Mode.
- The underlying mechanics of All-Star Battle (and by extension, Eyes of Heaven) borrow heavily from this game. In addition, All-Star Battle has two DLC costumes for Jotaro and Polnareff based on promotional material for this game.
- Iggy's Sand Storm super move is a reference to the Shun Goku Satsu move used by Akuma in the Street Fighter series. This is further evidenced in the game's debug mode, where an unused graphic shows the kanji for the word dog (犬 inu) stylized in a similar manner to Akuma's kanji for heaven (天 ten).
- Four of the game's voice actors return to voice different characters in All-Star Battle: Mitsuaki Madono (Kakyoin), Hōchū Ōtsuka (Young Joseph), Sho Hayami (Vanilla Ice), and Toru Okawa (Joseph Joestar). Madono voices Part 8's Josuke, Hōchu voices Hol Horse, Hayami voices Enrico Pucci, and Okawa voices Weather Report.
- This sprite is taken from Heritage for the Future. In JoJo's Venture, Young Joseph's torso and arms use the same sprites as his older counterpart's.