It’s clear from the offset that Playstation All Stars Battle Royal is not an original concept. Franchise favourites competing against each other in brawling melee combat is something companies like Nintendo have been doing (and doing well) since the days of the N64. This in turn has made it far too easy for far too many to dismiss Playstation All Stars as a ‘Smash Bros clone’. However, after just a few minutes of playing you will realise that such a dismissal would be a huge mistake. Look past the concept and you will find that Playstation All Stars is a different beast altogether.
But the question is; does originality equate to quality? In this case the answer is a resounding yes. Sony, Superbot Entertainment and Santa Monica have created a whole new type of fighter which, despite looking like some we have seen before, actually reaches technical heights unsurpassed by many games in this highly contested genre.
The big difference here is in how the game is played. Unlike Smash Bros the object here is not to ‘ring out’ your opponents. There is no health bars or percentage meters and normal attacks do no actual ‘damage’ to anyone else. What normal attacks do accomplish however is charging your super bar. There are three levels of super per character and each holds the potential for more kills. This means you can go for the quick kill and maybe get one or save up your level three and get as many as six kills in one go. The matches are usually determined by either getting to a certain kill number or via most kills at the end of a set time limit.
Although this sounds like a bizarre system, it actually works amazingly well in practice. You can be lagging behind by four or five kills only to pull out a level three in the final seconds and win the match. As well as this there are also other elements to consider such as item drops and grab attacks that allow you to steal the other player’s super meter for yourself.
The reason this system is so great is it works for any game type. Whether it is you versus one other or four-player anarchy, no one mode feels superior to the rest. This incredibly well structured design can also be found in the roster meaning no one character feels overpowered.
Speaking of the characters, there is something here for every Playstation fan. From staple franchise faces like Sackboy or Kratos to the lesser known Toro or Noriko, all corners of the Playstation universe have been visited here. What is even more impressive is that, with the exception of good and evil Cole McGrath of infamous fame, all characters play completely differently. It will take time to master whichever character clicks with you but the hours you put in never feel a chore.
There are also in-game modes to help you reach higher levels of skill with your chosen character. These come in the forms of trial modes, tutorials and challenges. The real challenge however comes when you take your game online to see how the rest of the world fights.
As with most fighters, this is where the serious players plough their trade. I have logged many hours online already and can see myself logging many more over the coming months, however I am still nowhere near the skill level of some with their fighter of choice.
Regardless of which mode you play, your character level with your chosen fighter will increase. These in turn unlocks new icons, titles and minions for you to show off in online battles. This system is great as it means you are always being rewarded regardless of what you choose to do.
In terms of looks, Playstation All Stars is a pretty game. Every character brings with them the art style and feel that you remember from back when you first met them and their animations are slick and smooth, without breaking the feeling of nostalgia.
This is also true of the stages and the idea to cross them over works beautifully. Seeing the wondrous world of Loco Roco get torn into by a Metal Gear is something everyone should experience.
If All Stars has a major flaw, it’s with the single player element. As with many other fighters, the story here is non-existent which wouldn’t be bad if more time was spent on seeing the characters interact. Apart from a small cut scene before one rival match and an awe inspiring opening sequence, all other story here is handled via narrated still images. Although not the first fighter to do this, it just feels a little bit like a missed opportunity and if this is to be a franchise I certainly hope this is more fleshed out in later titles.
Something else you should be prepared for here is that this is a game for Playstation fans. Every inch of its design has been crafted to make you remember why you love these franchises and although underneath is a fighter that stands toe-to-toe with the best, people who have no interest in these much loved character will probably not be converted.
Another positive here is the Cross Buy/Cross Play function. PS3 owners can buy this version and get the PS Vita version for free. The Vita and PS3 versions are completely compatible in every sense (multiplayer, save file, etc) and Superbot has done a great job creating an experience that crosses both formats with such ease.
Playstation All Stars Battle Royal is an amazing fighting game wrapped in an idea we have seen before. When it comes down to it, what makes a great game in any genre is balance and All Stars has it in droves. Although some will never see its brilliance, I would maintain that once played it could change the mind of many a sceptic. Add to this a return for some of Playstation’s well missed characters and awesome value for money in Cross Buy and you have one of the most refreshing fighting games in years.