- Platform PS3, PSVita
- Publisher Sony
- Developer SuperBot Entertainment
- Release Date 21/11/2012
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review
Let's get ready to rumble!
Super Smash Bros. is a great series; a series whose formula has remained virtually untouched by other developers since it debuted on the Nintendo 64. Why? Well, for one, Nintendo’s stroke of genius to create a fighting game involving most of its beloved IPs is something that most developers simply cannot do. As such, Nintendo’s fighting franchise has remained a fan favourite, go-to multiplayer sensation for years. So what happens when Sony decides to do the same for its fans by throwing together a sizable roster of PlayStation mascots to duke it out Nintendo-style? Well, you get PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, a true love letter from Sony, addressed to its devoted fanbase.
Obligatory Smash Bros. comparisons aside, All-Stars still manages to provide fans with a fantastic fighting game that strikes the balance between being an excellent multiplayer experience, whilst also providing a great base for professional play, and wraps it all up into a satisfying portable experience.
The story (or rather, the excuse) as to how these PlayStation All-Stars are meeting each other in battle is a simple one. A mysterious, powerful entity has drawn them all together to decide who is the strongest of the bunch. It’s as basic a setup as you can get, but there is a nice twist to the whole thing. Old-school Sony fans will love the fact that the game’s final boss is in fact Polygon Man, the creepy PSOne promotional mascot who looks like the disturbed lovechild of Andross and Dr. Kawashima. But that’s what’s so appealing about PlayStation All-Stars; there really is something here for everyone.
Developer Superbot has done a fantastic job of including characters from the last three generations. More recent characters such as Nathan Drake, Radec, Fat Princess and Kratos are on the roster, and that’s great. But the real surprises come in the form of characters who haven’t had an original title since the PSOne days. Sir Daniel Fortesque of Medievil and Spike from Ape Escape are present, as is my personal favourite: Parappa the Rapper. PS2 legends such as Ratchet, Jak and Sly Cooper are also present. Aside from Sony’s characters, All-Stars also features a number of third-party characters to round out the roster, including Dante (as he appears in the DmC reboot), Heihachi, Big Daddy and Raiden (as he appears in Metal Gear Rising). Anyone who has ever touched a PlayStation of any generation will feel at home with at least one of the twenty characters on offer.
PlayStation All-Stars features a control scheme that’s incredibly easy to learn that, as you’ll find when you take the game online, allows for an incredibly deep combat system filled with combos, cancels, parries and plenty of other mechanics more commonly found in fighting games. There are three attack buttons, each offering four different moves depending on the direction held when the button is pressed. This allows for around 12 unique attacks per character, but on top of this, characters can also guard, perform evasive rolls and throw opponents using the right stick.
By successfully landing hits on your enemies, you build up your AP meter shown at the bottom of the screen. Racking up enough AP lets you use devastating Super attacks, for which there are three levels. As these Super attacks are the only way to kill your opponents, the best tactic is to simply get stuck in and build up your meter as much as you can. Level 1 supers are quick to charge up, but offer only a short range of effect. As such they are not too hard to avoid. Level 2 supers have a wider area of effect but can still be avoided with skill. Level 3 supers, however, are incredibly hard to escape from and will usually result in the player who used them getting more than a few kills as their reward for saving up so many APs.
The great thing about the game’s characters is that they all feel as if they’ve literally been ripped from their respective IPs. Superbot have done such an amazing job creating these characters that it brings a smile when discovering various combos and techniques. Heihachi plays like he would in Tekken, for example, with juggling being a defining component of his fighting style. Dante uses his various weapons and his pistols to string together DmC-esque combos that feel right at home in a fighting game. Sly Cooper employs stealth and trickery to overcome his opponents, Jak and Ratchet use their numerous weapons for a ranged game, though Jak maintains all of his melee attacks from his series. Basically, it’s an absolute joy to see each characters’ moveset, and the simple controls make practising with them a ton of fun. It can be said that PlayStation All-Stars is a game of two halves; the first is doing enough damage to your foes and racking up AP, while the second half is all down to your management of your Super attacks.
There’s a deceptive amount of strategy involved when choosing how to deploy your Super attacks.
There’s a deceptive amount of strategy involved when choosing how to deploy your Super attacks. Level 1 attacks are just as likely to leave you open and vulnerable to attack as much as reward you with a quick kill or two. Level 2 and 3 Supers obviously leave more of an impression, but they take a while to save up for. In the end it’s a design decision that pays dividends for the game, as it’s a system that truly separates it from similar titles, as well as fighting games in general. If there were to be any drawbacks, it would be that the heavy focus on aggression can render battles somewhat hard to follow from time to time. However, it’s far from game-breaking and is actually quite a laugh in a party environment.
Take The Stage
Every fighting game needs arenas for its combatants to let off steam, and on this front All-Stars certainly does not disappoint. Each arena starts out as a faithful recreation of a scene or location from various PlayStation titles. However, a twist is thrown in around the mid-point of every fight that turns these arenas on its head. Essentially, something from a completely different game will sabotage the map and add a new dimension of challenge when navigating them. Moments like Chop Chop Master Onion taking on a Killzone mech, or watching Metal Gear RAY completely decimate Loco Roco’s Franzea will definitely remain fond memories for years to come, and moments like this are just the start. Buzz! invades LittleBigPlanet’s Dreamscape, Dollface from Twisted Metal lays waste to Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia, and the Hydra from God of War bursts into Metropolis, and takes a liking to Captain Qwark.
For the amount of effort that’s gone into the game’s characters and arenas, it’s sad to see All-Stars slightly lacking in modes. There’s your standard arcade mode for solo play (concluding with a fight against the aforementioned Polygon Man), as well as various challenges and a practice mode. Fighting will increase your character’s rank, with each rank unlocking a new item, such as icons, banner backgrounds for your online ‘tag,’ and costumes and minions that will cheer you on in battle.
Online is where the game really shines, though. In my experience lag has been nonexistent, which is truly impressive considering that this is the first Vita game to fully embrace Sony’s cross-play functionality. It’s a highly competitive environment that’s shockingly casual-unfriendly. There doesn’t seem to be any matchmaking currently in place, so what kind of game you’ll have is all down to who you’re paired with. You can, of course, create games suited to your liking, including whether you want a stock or kill limit. But, despite its lack of matchmaking focus, All-Stars still manages to be a highly addictive online environment that is sure to be played for some time to come.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an absolutely gorgeous game, too. Characters come to life through fluid animation, and the arenas are all brimming with detail. Little touches such as the Popit box appearing on Dreamscape and the battle-laden skies of Resistance’s San Francisco stage create moments where the game feels truly alive, and matches anything Nintendo has come up with in their fighting franchise. All-Stars is definitely a contender for the best-looking Vita game yet, with its visuals on par with its big PS3 brother. Seriously, if you’re looking for state of the art graphical prowess on a handheld machine, you’ll find it within this game.
PlayStation All-Stars was surrounded by skepticism when it was announced, and I'm happy to report that it should all but vanish upon its release. While there are a few questionable design choices and limited incentive for offline players, the game makes up for it with an incredible online suite, stunning graphics and seamless cross-play functionality. The Vita may still be a little starved of great games, fans of the handheld will find solace in this handheld gem. If you're a Sony fan or just love fighting games in general, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale will make a fine addition to your gaming collection.