PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
Developer: SuperBot Entertainment
Release Date: 11/20/2012
Since every other review out there is going on and on comparing this game to Super Smash Bros, I’ve decided I’ll do my best not to mention it every few sentences like they did. Obviously PASBR has a lot in common with SSB, but it is far from a clone.
Anyways, I was really looking forward to this game. While the roster isn’t exactly how I’d have it, a lot of personal favorites made it in and I was interested to try even the characters that I didn’t like. I’m a bit of a Sony fanboy at heart, though I’ve gotten better at hiding that. I’ve been wishing for such a game for over a decade. I’ve longed to settle the Ratchet vs Jak debate with a a hectic battle between the two. This game lets me do that. I’m already in love.
So, is the game that Sony fans have been dreaming of, nothing but a cheap knock off, or just an amusing title to pull out at parties?
With any mash up, there’s comes the awkward part where they try and explain why all of these incredibly disparate characters have come together to beat the living snot out of each other. PASBR attempts this to a degree, but keeps things vague. Each character has an intro and an ending which explains why they’re heading towards the gathering. Ratchet believes there may be some gold bolts there, Cole is looking for conduits, the little sister is looking for more Adam, etc. Each ending resolves nothing. The characters don’t find what they’re looking for in most cases, and move on with their lives. Some of them seem to gain some sort of power from defeating the end boss, but no one mentions said boss or what this supposed power is for. What really sucks is that each of these intros/outros is done via a voice over a slide show. It feels half-assed to say the least.
More interesting is the rivalry scenes. Each character has a rival that they face one on one before heading off for the final fight. These are preceded my amusing interactions between the characters involved. For example, Big Daddy wants to take down Sackboy because he’s jealous of the sister’s affections towards him. Some of these are quite silly though. Kratos and Sweet Tooth are beating the crap out of each other because of some spilled ice cream. This is mostly done to keep the game at an all ages rating, but it gimps two of PlayStation’s most iconic characters.
For modes, the game follows the traditional fighter format. Arcade battle takes you through a similar set of challenges for each character, culminating in a boss fight against Polygon Man of all things. Combat Trials have you attempting to perform combos, practice with specific moves, and get a general feel for each character’s move set. Practice mode lets you set things up however you want and just mess around.
For multiplayer, the game supports online and offline four player action. Players can battle in teams or in a free for all. Conditions can be set that alter item spawn rates, victory conditions, time limits, etc. A ranking system keeps track of wins and losses for those looking to see how they stack up against the competition.
Finally, we have the customization options. Here you can change costumes, taunts, minions, victory music, and other things for each character. You can also view character bios in case you don’t know all of them already. It’s a decent setup, though it is in sore need of party games or at least a more involved story.
Considering the wide range of characters that had to go into this game, they’ve done a heck of a job of creating a unified art style. Let’s consider this for a moment. This game takes place in universe where the 2D Parappa can have a physical altercation with someone like Kratos. It’s a place where talking skeletons can have a jovial conversation with a anthropomorphic raccoon. It’s a silly place. As such, some of the characters simply aren’t going to gel together. However, there is a certain sheen to the game that unifies them.
Each character, stage, and item is created out of love for PlayStation’s history. The animations are fantastic, with each character moving how you’d expect them too. Kratos is a violent brute who hits everything in his path, Ratchet pulls out gadget after gadget, and the Big Daddy bulldozes forward with little regard for his own safety. They are all quite faithful. Some examples of the crazy stage combinations include a Metal Gear Ray tearing up a level from LocoRoco, an army of Patapon working together to take down Hades, and Captain Qwark struggling heavily to avoid being eaten by a hydra. It’s fantastic stuff. I’d often get distracted by what was happening in the background, which was bad for my performance but good for my funny bone.
On a technical level, the game does not impress. Honestly, it looks like a high end PSN game rather than a full priced cornerstone of Sony’s fall lineup. This has a lot to do with the fact that the online mode connects PS3 users with Vita users. Some concessions had to be made. However, it has a great artistic feel, which was most important. It’s a pretty good looking game, even if it doesn’t go all out.
This game has a pretty vast and eclectic musical suite to pick and choose tunes from. There’s so much, in fact, that each stage contains two remixed songs mixed together. This leads to some bizarre and interesting combinations, but satisfying ones at that. The most iconic tunes are all here, from the Uncharted theme to Sandover Village from the very first Jak game. While the originals are all better than the remixes, these are still fun to listen to and fit well with the theme of each level.
There isn’t a huge amount of voice acting in the game, but the iconic voices return to bring life to their characters once more. They do a bang up job, but aren’t exactly given too much variety to work with. It’s all voice overs and battle cries. Still, it’s nice to know your favorite has the right person behind the microphone.
As this is a four player fighting game, the sound effects get pretty hectic. Add in the sounds that comes from the stages as well, and you can imagine how hard it is to pinpoint one particular noise. It’s chaotic, but in a good way. Once again, the sounds are true to the source material, which is important.
Overall, the game has a satisfactory presentation. It doesn’t astonish, but it does things the right way. I don’t have any real complaints, though things could certainly have been better.
What we have here is a fighting game where you look to build your own meter rather than deplete the life of your opponent. By building your meter, you can unleash super moves that kill when landed and score you points. Whichever player score the most points when the time limit expires is the winner. In other cases, a certain number of kills may be needed, or a limited number of lives may be lost. Either way, this is an interesting take on the brawler format.
For starters, the game is heavy on the use of combos. Chaining moves together allows one to build meter at a higher rate than normal, and keeps the affected opponent at bay. The interesting thing here is that you can hit your opponent all day with hard hitting combos, but not win the game. Instead, the super moves must be used and used correctly. Thus, choosing a character is a tough call because you’ll want combos that you can use well, but you’ll also need supers that you can use just as well. Also interesting is that because you can only take out an opponent with specific super moves, you must also be wary of your opponents meter as well. If someone with a good level two is standing right next to you, it might be a good idea to either take the fight to them or simply run away if you know you’re about to be hit. The engine creates an arms race between the combatants that’s quite interesting. This game is played very differently form SSB.
The controls are straight forward and easy to learn. You have three attack buttons that can be modified with directional inputs. These don’t quite work as a light/medium/heavy scheme does. Instead, they tend to offer different kinds of attacks. The square button is generally used for melee attacks, triangle is for long ranged attacks, and circle is for a more specialized approach. For example, Nathan Drake punches with square, shoots a gun with triangle, and throws an explosive barrel with circle. The cross button is used for jumping, and can be tapped again for a double jump. The right analog stick is used to perform throws, which drain your opponent’s meter and gives you a chance to steal it. You can block and dodge with the shoulder buttons. Supers are performed with a simple tap of R2.
One of the more interesting choices the developers made is that you can’t store a level one super and then build towards another. Nor can you have a meter powered up to level two and use a level one. You use the super that corresponds with the level of your meter. However, your meter isn’t full drained. So, if you use a level two super and had some left over meter, you may find yourself with a level one immediately at hand. This might be annoying to some players, but it means you take some risk in saving up for the bigger supers.
There is one area where comparing the game to SSB is needed. That would be the stages. In SSB, the stages were often death traps, with death possible from falling off or getting knocked off the screen by a hazard. It kept you on your toes. Here, getting hit by an environmental attack often just stalls your for a couple of seconds. Getting hit has no other ill effect. In this way, there is little tension when a background enemy gets ready to strike. It’s kind of lame. On the same side of the coin, the items don’t prove to be as useful as the one’s in Nintendo’s brawler. While some are good for shaving meters, most just knock people around or give you a small amount of meter. It’s often not worth the risk of going for them.
On the whole, the fighting system works and works surprisingly well. The game is simply fun to play, thanks in no small part to the chaos of four players all trying to build up meter in order to launch devastating super attacks. It’s a different kind of game, and one that may take players a while to get used to. Still, there’s a diverse cast to choose from, and a number of strategies that work. It may not be the deepest fighting game, but it’s more than serviceable.
For a solo player, the game isn’t exactly jam packed with modes. Clearing the game with every character will take about five to six hours depending on how long certain levels take you to complete. Once you’ve done that, all you really have left is the character trials, which simply aren’t worth it. You don’t get the best idea of how to use the character in a practical game. While such a mode works fine for a one on one brawler, this is simply not that kind of game. You’re not often going to have the chance to land a ten hit combo thanks to the extra opponents/environmental hazards/utter chaos you’ll face in each battle. The practice mode can be useful, but only to a point.
The game’s strength lies in the multiplayer, which is good both online and off. There are rankings to top, trophies to earn, and characters to master. I can’t imagine playing through single player more than once, so the multiplayer is really the only option.
What this game needed was some party games or bonus missions that highlighted the frantic nature of the gameplay. These would be fun to play on your own, and would help give the game added length. As the product is, it simply doesn’t offer much.
All of these characters tend to play quite differently. It makes it hard to judge the balance until you’ve pretty much mastered everyone. There are some characters that are more friendly to newcomers. Anyone who’s ever played a God of War game will no exactly what to do with Kratos as his combos are ripped straight from those games. Someone like Sackboy, however, requires a bit of studying to be effective. He’s actually pretty good at laying traps as opposed to landing good combos. Some super abilities become much more useful with practice. I did terribly with Nathan’s level one until I got the timing down. After that, I was getting two or three kills with it more often than not.
One of the more interesting things about the game is that you don’t see an on screen point total for most battles. This means that if you notice a player has just killed everyone else with a level three, you may simply want to target that player in order to lower their point total, even if it turns out that they weren’t in the lead. This kind of play creates some tense and chaotic scrambles as time runs out. Not only is this fun, but it makes for some close finishes.
Single player is incredibly easy. You can always just beat on the most dangerous foe and the AI doesn’t defend against supers the way a human opponent would. Sure, it can be tough towards the end when you’re one on one and they start dodging all of your level ones, but they’re pathetic at building meter and are susceptible to throws in a big way. The only times I lost were when I failed on some level. The AI never beat me.
People who like to claim that this game rips off SSB are simply forgetting that SSB was not a wholly original franchise itself. After all, crossover titles very often tend to be fighting games. The Vs series alone is proof of that. Where SSB differed was in the gameplay. It created a unique mechanic of increasing vulnerability through hits in the effort to knock an opponent off the stage. The way you played was fairly original. The same can be said here.
You simply cannot play this game the same way you play SSB. Beating on foes is all well and good, but if you can’t land a super, you’re dead in the water. Building, maintaining, and managing the super meter requires a different level of strategy. It gets harder and harder to build the meter from each previous level, and if you fail to get kills, then you’ve wasted a lot of time to launch a dud. The key is knowing when to strike and what to strike with.
Basically, just because there are four characters battling it out on a stage doesn’t mean the game is a rip off, copy, or even like a game with that same mechanic. Contra and Call of Duty are two franchise where you attempt to shoot bad guys while staying alive. However, they’re still incredibly different games.
Honestly, there is very little reason to keep playing this game, unless you’re really into the multiplayer matches. All of the characters are unlocked from the start, and there are no secrets to find either. There are some things to unlock for sure, but they’re windrow dressing at best. None of them change the game in any meaningful way. The intros/endings for each character simply aren’t worth the effort of playing through the arcade mode twenty times. I did it because I wanted to try out each character, and because (so sue me) I wanted some easy trophies. Honestly, I could have held off playing as Toro. It was pretty easy for me to put this game down. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. I did. It’s just that there was nothing about it that screamed â€œplay me nowâ€.
That being said, multiplayer is the saving grace. The game takes on a whole new level when you’re battling with other people capable of using actual brains. I had the most fun when I was goofing off with my siblings and creating different rule sets. The game will work great for get togethers/parties and such. It simply wasn’t meant to be played alone.
The game is certainly accessible to anyone who should care to play it. For young ones, the violence is toned down a good degree. There’s no blood, death, or foul language. This may turn off some more mature players, as it can lead to some less than faithful translations for certain characters, but it’s not really a deal breaker. The gameplay is easy to figure out. My sister picked the game up pretty easily, despite not playing much of anything besides shooters.
If anything, the price is the biggest detriment. This simply doesn’t feel like a sixty dollar game. It doesn’t have enough features and/or production values to back that price up. If you happen to own a Vita, the price is actually worth it, as new copies come with a code to download the Vita version. Likewise, the game’s cross play feature increases the odds of finding people to play with no matter which system you’re using.
Hardcore fighting fans might enjoy the deeper combo system. SSB fans may simply enjoy the interesting clash of characters. However, I can easily see both sides having issues. It’s too chaotic for hardcore fans, and not goofy enough for more casual fans. The fighting system in general is going to make or break this game. A demo really needs to be put out.
People may claim the roster is weak, or that Sony couldn’t get enough mascots to put together a sizable group of characters. On the contrary, I was quite impressed by what they did here. There are twenty characters pulled from nineteen different franchises. The only crossovers are the two versions of Cole. Beyond that, each character represents a different game. SSB relies on using multiple characters from a smaller pool of franchises. For example, even the first SSB used three from Mario and two for Pokemon. That game only had twelve characters. Later installments were more likely to add more from the same franchises than pull new ones into the fray. That’s why three Star Fox characters were in Brawl. For PASBR, even the two announced DLC characters will be representing two entirely new franchises. That’s impressive.
In the end, this game is a good start for a potential long last franchise. What the game needs is simply more of everything in order to justify the big price. More modes is the most important, though more characters is nice as well.
Graphics: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
Final Score: Above Average Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
All-Stars Battle Royale is a good start, though it doesn’t go far enough to be a must have game for Sony fans across the globe. While it has a good roster, fun gameplay, and frantic multiplayer, it lacks in terms of offered modes, fails in it’s attempt to offers a satisfying story, and won’t likely take up too much of your time. For a diehard Sony fan, the game is worth a look. For those just looking for a fun brawler, wait until the price drops. It’s solid, but it needs some more to sweeten the deal.