Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Release Date: 11/20/2012
Sony isn’t the first company one thinks of when one thinks of giant, mascot-filled brawls; while they have a few characters who are notable as Sony exclusives, for the most part they don’t really have the large, crazy roster one would expect for such a game type. Even Aaron, noted Sony fan on staff, made a list of characters to include that featured several characters who were borrowed from other companies, as while Sony has some notable franchises on tap to borrow characters from, compared to a Sega, Nintendo or Capcom, it’s not even close. That sure hasn’t stopped Sony from taking a kick at the can, however, as Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale has made its way to both the Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita. While Aaron’s going to talk about the PS3 version of the game, I decided to put the Vita game through its paces and see what it has to offer, and how it stacks up to comparable titles like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash Up. The good news is that, mechanically, it does a good job of building a framework that Sony can eventually build upon to make a really strong entry somewhere down the line. The bad news…
The plot, to the extent that there is one, is that a bunch of characters who have appeared on Sony consoles before have gotten together to fight it out for… some unspecified reason. Each character has a general reason for fighting and a general goal they wish to accomplish, but for the most part there’s little motivation here beyond what you’d expect to see in your standard nineties fighting game. There are a decent amount of game modes to play with to compensate, however. Solo Mode offers you a standard compliment of offline local play options, including Arcade Mode, which acts as the game’s story mode, Tutorial, which allows you to learn the basics of the game and each character, Trials, which allows you to practice the mechanics more in-depth for profit, and Practice, which lets you cut loose on a dummy or a friend to learn on your own. Tournament is your online component, allowing you to jump online and play in Ranked or Quick (Player) matches to earn rank or just cut loose with custom matches, as well as check the leaderboards if you wish. Versus Match mode allows you to create battles with online friends, local friends or the CPU to just goof around and beat people up under your own ideal circumstances. Customize allows you to customize your characters and your profile for online play as you wish relative to what you’ve unlocked. There is also the Extras mode that allows you to view character profiles and the game credits, if you want to see information on the characters or the development team. You’ll find there’s enough to do modes-wise to keep you interested for a while, on your own or against others, and while the game isn’t as robust as its contemporaries it’s not bad.
Playstation All-Stars is a very nice looking game on the Vita, both because it does a lot with the technical capabilities of the console and because the developers put a lot of effort into making the game as aesthetically interesting as possible. The various different characters animate very well and look appropriate to their franchise, so Nathan Drake looks completely different from Parappa the Rapper, for example, and both look exactly like their games would have rendered them. Further, the environments make great use of the elements of various games, so you’ll see environments that come from various Playstation titles, and crazy crossovers within them, like Chop Chop Master Onion fighting a Metal Gear or Buzz invading a LittleBigPlanet stage, for instance. Aurally, the game features a wide variety of tracks that are ripped from the respective games the characters appear in, as well as some original tracks, and all of the music here is generally exciting and quite varied. The voice work that pops up for story sequences and during combat is also well cast and effective, and you’ll find it to be solid no matter who you’re playing as or against. The sound effects are also rather well done, as different attacks and weapons and such sound as you’d expect, and are completely fitting to the game the particular object or person making the sound comes from.
For those who have played similar games to Playstation All-Stars, you might think this would be functionally identical to those types of games, but the mechanics are changed around a bit to make the game its own thing. The left stick and D-Pad can be used for movement, but there are three attack buttons, with Square performing weaker attacks, Triangle performing medium power attacks, and Circle performing more powerful attacks. Pressing a direction modifies the attack button, so pressing the button alone might perform a multi-hit combo while pressing it with Up may perform an anti-air attack or a launcher, for example. X is your jump button, and can be pressed twice to allow the character to double jump to get to hard to reach places. You can block with the Left Trigger or dodge by pressing the trigger and a direction, and the right stick is used to perform grabs, with the direction pressed dictating the direction of the grab and the subsequent toss of the opponent. As with similar games, items will also routinely appear in the environment, and tapping the touch screen allows you to grab and drop them as needed. You’ll find the controls to be friendly enough to learn them easily, and the game comes with several extensive tutorials and training modes to teach you the ropes in no time at all. Fans of this sort of game will find the mechanics more involved than in similar titles, but easy enough to acclimate to that they’ll still be able to jump in easily.
The biggest change to Playstation All-Stars over its competitors comes down to how eliminations are handled. Characters have no health meter and cannot be eliminated through standard attacks on their own. Instead, you beat on your opponents in order to charge your Super Meter, which allows you to pull off Super Attacks. Each character can charge up to three levels of Super Meter, allowing for three levels of Super Attack. Level One attacks are easy to charge, allowing the player to use them quite quickly, but are often slower and have limited range. Level Two attacks often allow for a middle-ground, coming out fairly quickly and allowing for more flexibility than Level One attacks. Level Three attacks are cinematic affairs, transforming your character on some level and allowing them several seconds to perform attacks that will completely decimate the playing field, but take an exceptionally large amount of time to charge up. As this is the only way to take out opponents and win, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of how you proceed here; do you go for lots of Level One attacks to build a lead, or do you aim for the huge Level Three attack to take out everyone multiple times over? How you handle this system is a big part of how the game differentiates itself from its peers, and it’s an interesting mechanic that is more reliable than the maybe/maybe not sort of system Super Smash Bros. works with, where eliminations can occasionally be problematic for the player to achieve.
You’re given a roster of about twenty characters to work with, featuring notable Sony characters like Nathan Drake and Kratos, more niche characters like Parappa the Rapper and Fat Princess, and a few outsiders like Big Daddy from Bioshock and Dante from the upcoming Devil May Cry reboot. Each character plays basically similar to each other, but is varied enough in their movesets to make them different, so you’ll likely find some favorites and some undesirables in the mix, though the general character balancing feels acceptable. You can learn the characters through the Tutorial mode, which allows for general play tutorials as well as specific character training, then head to Trials to master the mechanics of each character in tests that offer multiple difficulty levels and focus on different skill sets. Once you’re confident you can jump into Arcade Mode to clear out each character’s storyline or take your battles online to improve your rank in monthly tournaments that can award you titles and such for good performance against competitors. You’ll also earn experience for your characters as you play which goes toward unlocking various things associated with them, such as new costumes, backgrounds and icons for your profile, different intro and winning poses and Minions to cheer for you when you’re doing well in battle. You can also just jump into battles against friends and strangers in customized matches, either in Free For All or Team Battles, where you can choose to be judged based on total eliminations in a time limit, a set number of eliminations or a set amount of lives in reserve, and you can adjust stage and battle elements as you see fit. As such, you have plenty of options for how you want to play, making the game comparable to its contemporaries.
You’ll probably be able to clear out Arcade Mode with every character once inside of ten hours, if not less, but you’ll find that there’s plenty to bring you back if you’re so inclined. The Trials mode in particular gives you plenty of tests to complete and three difficulty modes per test, and each earns you points toward unlocking more elements for each character if you want to unlock everything. Some unlocks require you to get to level two hundred for the characters, so if you’re the kind of person who wants to get everything they can from a game that’ll keep you coming back for a good long while. The concepts behind the online play are also pretty rewarding if you’re a competitive sort, and you can always just jump into non-ranking based quick matches if you want to goof off and beat people up without anything being on the line. The character roster is certainly quirky as well, so if you’re interested in a wide variety of characters you’ll definitely find that here, and if nothing else, you’ll find a wide variety of Trophies to unlock through offline and online play if you want to boost your Trophy count. If you’ve been wanting a game of this sort on your Vita, Playstation All-Stars is certainly this thing, and it’s novel enough that those who are Sony fans will likely be able to squeeze a lot of playtime out of it.
For the rest of us, however, the game is honestly rather limited given what it offers. You’re given a twenty character roster, of which four characters aren’t even Sony characters or even identifiable as such (one could argue Heihachi and Raiden being Sony relevant, but Bioshock was out on PC and 360 long before PS3 and Dante’s new appearance is debuting on PS3 and 360). Even if one likes the novelty of such a thing, compared to a Super Smash Bros. the roster is meager, and given that this is a full-priced release it feels limited as a result. Further, the game basically comes down to beating on people to charge and unleash a Super, which is fine to a point, but outside of that your options for eliminating players are extremely limited. This just makes the game a big race to get to the Super followed by an awkward cat-and-mouse of wondering when the opponent will use it, as that’s really the best way to actually win, and in matches based around short time limits or small elimination counts, charging to Level Three is basically pointless, to be honest. To be frank, the experience is quite limited, as there are only so many combinations of characters and modes one can work with, and while the online takes a novel approach to things, it also uses the Online Pass system to punish those who might buy the game used, so players who don’t want to go for that and don’t get the game new don’t have that option.
Playstation All-Stars is a mechanically solid fighting game, to be sure, but it feels more like a full-priced advertisement for what Sony could do with more time in development somewhere down the road, as the mechanics are solid, but the experience is meager. There are enough gameplay modes to prop up the somewhat anemic plotlines in Arcade Mode, and the game looks and sounds exceptional on the Vita, to be sure. The mechanics are similar enough to competing products to be accepted by fans immediately but different enough to give the game its own flair, and there’s enough variety here to give genre fans reasons to come back to the game if they’re interested in what it does. However, the game simply feels limited, especially at its price point, due to a smaller character roster and limited amount of play options, and a gameplay system that feels like you’re racing to earn Supers over everything else. Online play might keep you interested for a while, assuming you’re not locked out because you lack and don’t want to pay for an Online Pass, but even then, the game doesn’t stand up well to competing products in terms of variety. Playstation All-Stars is an indication that a must-own game will come from this engine some day, as it’s a solid first shot that needs some depth and tweaking to be really good, but as the product stands right now it’s basically good for Sony fans, and a little limited for everyone else.
Story/Game Modes: ABOVE AVERAGE
Replayability: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale does a decent job of being Sony’s answer to Super Smash Bros., and it gives hope that there will be an amazing game in the series down the road, but those who aren’t huge Sony fans will find the game limited enough to make it harder to swallow as a full priced release. There are enough play options to work with and the storylines are… there, and the game is artistically and technically interesting and enjoyable in both the visual and audio department. The game plays in a way that genre fans will find it simple enough to jump into but varied enough to make it interesting, and the game offers enough elements between the online and offline modes to keep Sony and genre fans plugging away at it for a little while. However, the game is notably limited in comparison to its contemporaries, especially as a full-priced release, and the game at this point comes down as a race to earn your Super over anything else a lot of the time. Should you buy the game new or fork over the cash for an Online Pass the online play may keep you interested for a while longer, but anyone not in the position to do so will find the game a harder pill to swallow, as there’s simply not enough to it. Playstation All-Stars isn’t a bad attempt from Sony, certainly, as it shows there’s definite potential for the engine somewhere down the line to produce a really good game, but this comes across as being for the fans over anything else, and is harder to recommend to anyone not in that group as a result.