PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a mouthful and a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. While it may look like a ripoff of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. franchise on the surface, All-Stars Battle Royale delivers a level of depth and a roster of mascots with diverse play styles that the likes of Melee and Brawl can't match. Unfortunately, due to the timing of its release and appealing to few other than hardcore Sony fans, many may never see the promise this new IP provides in an era of unending sequels.
Ignoring the various features adopted from SSB, such as team battles and in-game weapons and items, All-Stars' main difference is its scoring system. Rather than simply pummeling an opponent to the point of knocking them off the level, contestants must build up AP (All-Star Points) before they can perform one of three levels of their Super moves. When used, each Super has the chance to instantly KO opponents, thus scoring points for the player. This brings a dilemma into play: choosing to quickly unleash a level one Super and taking out one or two opponents, or attempting to accrue enough AP for a more powerful attack, which yields more kills if the move connects. It's also important to learn each Super's weakness, as level one Supers can be interrupted by regular attacks and may be less accurate than the higher tiers. However, Super moves are the only way to eliminate opponents and score points. Rounds may often end in moments where players are too afraid to strike each other for fear of adding to the other competitor's Super meter. That's an extreme issue in matches based on the number of lives rather than a time limit.
Alhough it takes time to earn enough AP, level 3 Supers are very effective, earning several kills in a short amount of time.
But one of All-Stars best qualities is the varied cast of playable fighters, ranging from beloved PlayStation heroes Nathan Drake and Sackboy to great multiplatform veterans like Big Daddy and Raiden. Battle Royale even throws Sir Daniel from Medieval and Ape Escape's Spike into the ring – characters who haven't seen the light of day for some time. Each character also has a very unique combat style, giving players the option to master Ratchet's use of eccentric gadgets, Dante's fluidity when wielding Rebellion, etc. By increasing each character's rank through campaign and multiplayer matches, players also collect a myriad of unlockable bonuses, such as new costumes, taunts, and victory music to augment their favorite mascot.
Sadly, no fighting game is complete without balancing issues. Both Dante and Raiden have become popular brawlers online due to their ability to retaliate in rapid succession, leaving it difficult for the slower characters – most notably the Big Daddy – to stand a fighting chance against them. Other than the not-quite-perfect balancing, All-Stars provides great online competition that, when bolstered by an active community and continued support, shows the PlayStation name finally has its answer to Super Smash Bros.
Raiden and Sly throw down in the LocoRoco-inspired world of Franzea, only to be invaded by Metal Gear.
Another great addition to Battle Royale is how the maps affect the battle. Inspired by two games from Sony's library, for example, competitors face off in Alden's Tower from Infamous or Hades' Underworld from God of War III, only to be invaded by the worlds of Sly Cooper and Patapon respectively. This adds the danger of environmental hazards that must be avoided during battle, as some dangers sap a character's AP. Even though crossovers aren't a fresh idea, the level designs and how the other worlds collide show the immense amounts of creativity that developer SuperBot possesses.
With everything PlayStation All-Stars does right, it's a shame that the single-player campaigns are somewhat of a letdown. Each of the twenty playable characters have their own storyline that hovers around twenty to thirty minutes in length, though every arc leaves much to be desired. That said, it isn't the content of the plot that's the problem, but the execution. Most cutscenes are static images with voice overs, and a scarcity of plot development drags down the experience. Each story depicts a character being lured into some anomaly, such as Cole MacGrath (Infamous) seeking out more people he believes to have superpowers, or Ratchet and Clank investigating what seems to be a large concentration of gold bolts. This ultimately builds to a cutscene where these fighters meet their "rivals", and with the exception of the Sly/Nathan Drake and Ratchet/Jak conflicts, most of them feel forced and don't make sense. Once the player defeats a rival and the following final boss, the arc ends with another half-baked vignette.
The stars of Sony's biggest platformers about to duke it out.
But one of the most important things SuperBot does well with All-Stars involves its translation to the Vita. With the handful of subpar tie-ins like Assassin's Creed III: Liberation and downright terrible Black Ops Declassified, Battle Royale finally delivers the first nearly identical console experience. All-Stars supports Cross Save too, permitting players to transfer unlocks and progress made with characters between devices.
Don't make the mistake of thinking PlayStation All-Stars is a cheap Super Smash Brothers knockoff. In reality, Battle Royale is its own game with a sensible point system (+2 per kill, -1 per death), more diverse fighting styles, and better level design. Even with the uninspiring story mode, All-Stars shows it has promise and, given decent sales and a strong, lasting community, we may even see an improved sequel down the road.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SuperBot Entertainment,
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-4 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PS Vita (Reviewed)