It’s been quite a while since PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was first revealed but, now we finally get Sony’s competition for Smash Bros. in our hands. Will this brawler live up to the major hype it has received or will this be one fighting game that should be kicked to the curb?
I had always wondered what would happen if Sony created a similar game to Smash Bros. on Nintendo systems. Sony has so many interesting and diverse characters in their lineup that could make a really great fighting game. Ratchet vs. Sly vs. Jak? Count me in! Fortunately enough for us, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is full of the iconic PlayStation characters of past and present.
I want to get this out of the way right now. As much as PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is seen as a copycat of Nintendo’s Smash Bros., it tries to differentiate itself as much as possible. When people try to criticize this game, people have to remember that many games have been considered copycats in the development stage and have gone on to do things better than the predecessor that said game was supposedly copying.
In PSASBR (which will be what I refer to this game as from now on in the review), you’ll get a nice choice of characters from people like Raiden of Metal Gear Solid to Sackboy of LittleBigPlanet. There are 20 characters in all to choose from with some DLC characters coming in the new year. The problem with the character selection is that while there does seem to be a character fore everyone, after you play the game two or three times, you’re looking for more characters to play with that just aren’t there. There are some obvious exclusions that will definitely annoy hardcore PlayStation fans but, most of the dominant Sony franchises of the past 10 years are present.
What will surprise most people is what surprised me the most. This is a deeper fighting game than anyone will assume off the bat. SuperBot Entertainment was created with the sole purpose of creating this game and they’ve done a wonderful job with it. There are no shortages of moves and combos in this game and each character has a different feel and fighting style to them making each one different (except for Good/Evil Cole). I must have played through all of the characters to try and develop a winning strategy. It was great to see who had the best Super moves and find out who was the easiest for me to play with.
The level selection gives you 14 main levels to choose from along with a handful of basic practice levels if that’s more your thing. The great thing about the levels is the creativity shown by the team. Instead of making levels based on just one franchise, they mashed them up together to get some very unique levels. Sandover Village mixes Hot Shots Golf and Jak and Daxter with golf balls raining down on you as your fighting and then you have extremely odd ones like Invasion which mixes Killzone and Ape Escape of all things. Players will see that the team went to a lot of effort to make some very creative levels.
The greatest thing about these levels is how interactive they are. Each level has something different that you have to look out for, in Sandover Village it was the golf balls, in the Hades level borrowing from God of War and Patapon (another odd combination) it’s the keeper of the Underworld making his presence known as the Patapon launch arrows onto the stage that must be dodged. Some players may become annoyed by this but, luckily enough, these stage interactions can be shut off completely but, it sure makes the game a lot more enjoyable with them on.
Players won’t find a traditional health meter in PSASBR, instead you’ll find an AP meter that you have to fill to get your Super move. There isn’t just one Super move though, there are three. Each one is more powerful than the last and requires less accuracy to pull off. This is a very rewarding or frustrating system depending on how you use it. It’s all about strategy and whether you should build to your Super 3 or keep getting kills with your Super 1 over and over again. There is no right way to do it, it’s all how you play and it’s a true difference-maker in terms of gameplay and a smart move by SuperBot.
This game hinges on Supers and identifying when an opponent is ready to unleash theirs is imperative to winning. Choose right and you can stop your opponent in their tracks, choose wrong and you’re toast. There’s also the traditional block moves of diving, rolling, jumping, grabbing, and throwing to defend yourself against enemy attacks and working all those to your advantage can be the difference between wins and losses in PSASBR. It’s a far more technical game than anyone has given it credit for.
Attacks are mapped to the face buttons and differ by direction pressed. The combos are seemingly endless with the different button combos and character traits. Characters can utilize long-range or short-range attacks to vanquish foes and each character seems to have a great mix of both with characters like Radec and Drake excelling there. Then you have Sly with invisibility and Toro with three different setups. The choices are there for the best of the best to utilize to their fullest potential.
PSASBR is a great game to pick up and play but, it really has a bit of a learning curve before novice players can become competent at it. The lack of health meters can be confusing at first and if players don’t play the tutorial, they’ll be completely lost. There are a few nagging issues like Kratos being very tough to compete against and Ratchet having an insanely overpowered level one Super. Sly also seems to have quite and edge with his invisibility and I played a match where I literally could not hit him not matter what I did. These tiny issues will hopefully be ironed out as the game is played and SuperBot can see how players use the different characters so, no worries there.
There are quite a few game modes in PSASBR but, most of the gameplay will probably be happening in multiplayer, be that local or online. There are trials, challenges, and the single player arcade mode which is the main mode in the game. This mode allows you to run through a bare-bones story mode with each character going through a rivalry and then meeting the final boss. You’ll see storylines with Jak & Daxter and Ratchet and Clank among other rivalries. The story mode was a good addition but, it’s nothing to write home about.
The experience just isn’t that great playing against the CPU, there’s a lot of redundancy and it honestly gets boring fast. There are a ton of unlockables but, the one thing I wish would have been included would have been a co-op story mode. Playing by yourself against the CPU over and over again will never be as fun as it is with a friend.
The online modes are great and easy to dive into. You can cross-play with any combination of PS3s and Vitas as long as there’s four or less players. The game plays beautifully on when using Cross-Play and SuperBot have to be given a hand for how well it was handled. Be prepared for some stiff competition online. There are some incredible players out there already. You can give yourself the edge by customizing pretty much anything about the game you’re playing though including the game type, stage interactions, and special items. The one thing I didn’t enjoy was the fact that there was no PSN sign-in for the second controller which dampens the experience for a second player considering they can’t level up.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was an amazing experience and one that I really enjoyed. The character lineup was a little thin and I wish there was more to keep me playing for longer periods of time but, for the fighting game fan, you don’t get much more of a technical game. I hope that everyone gives this a chance as it’s not just a Smash Bros. knockoff, it’s has a lot more going for it than the naysayers realize. SuperBot Entertainment have made a wonderful first effort here and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.