Sony's answer to Smash Bros? Or just a cheap knock-off? Find out as Wesley Copeland reviews PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale raises one very serious question: Sackboy or Nathan Drake? Drake has the ability to pull up a concrete cover, shoot opponents from afar, and even kick a barrel like the human equivalent of Donkey Kong. On the other side of the argument we have Sackboy, who may be small, but he packs one hell of a punch. After hours of pondering my predicament I found only one logical answer:
Sackboy or Nathan Drake? Doesn't matter, Bioshock's Big Daddy has a huge effin drill!
There's no getting away from the All-Stars/Super Smash Bros comparison. So what makes a game like Smash Bros a success while other copy-cats like Small Arms fall by the wayside? Is it the pick up and play combat? Visuals? Online modes? Amount of characters? Each to their own, of course, but for me it's all about authenticity.
Authenticity is what made people fall in love with Smash Bros; Mario (with fireball power) vs Sonic (with spin-attack action) duking it out on a Zelda inspired level (complete with forest scenery). Had Smash Bros comprised of no-name fox versus no-name rabbit, would people have played it? Perhaps, but if we're being realistic it's the authenticity that the Nintendo licenses brought that made Super Smash such a beloved franchise.
I'll be the first to admit that before I played All-Stars, I saw it as a knock-off; Sony's way of cashing in on Nintendo's success. How on earth could Sony match the authenticity that characters like Link, Mario, and Samus, bring to the table?
It turns out Sony, and their super-team of SCE Santa Monica Studio, SuperBot Entertainment, and Bluepoint Games knew exactly what they were doing. Let's take characters we all know and love, some we have no idea who they are, and let's do what Super Smash Bros is doing. Let's steal the formula and rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capability to build
the world's first bionic man a rambunctious little game that shows there's still life in Vita yet.
Don't let appearances fool you; despite looking like an expensive Smash Bros, it's much more. Combat works in a similar way, but with a few twists. Pressing a face-button plus a direction still performs a move. Square is your basic attack/melee, triangle is where you'll find your volleys, while circle is where your more powerful attacks are. The main difference when it comes to combat is in the form of super attacks.
During matches players pick up blue orbs known as AP. Collect enough AP and you can launch a super attack. A super attack is a move that smashes an opponent off the screen enabling you to score a point per person you send flying; as oppose to Smash Bros' simplistic whack them when their percentage reaches 100. This little dynamic drastically changes how matches pan out. The player's super attack has three tiers. Level one is a simple smack and send them flying affair, level two is a more robust multi-kill, and level three is an animation that racks up a butt-load of kills.
The drastic change here comes from deciding when you want to launch your attack. Do you launch a level one attack and risk getting only one or two points? Or should you risk hanging on for the level three variant, so you can swipe the lead? What makes this idea all the more satisfying is that you can steal AP from your rivals. A flick of the right-stick performs a grab move, which in turn depletes a small amount of AP from other players; AP you could use to push you from a level two attack into a level three attack.
You'll rage when someone forces you down a tier, but it's massively rewarding when you do it to someone else.
All-Stars isn't just about fighting though, oh no. There's also a welcome customisation mode. Here is where you'll be able to unlock new options for individual characters or kit out your Street Fighter-style player card. There's a vast amount of titles, backgrounds, and icons to unlock, so if you're a collector like me, you're going to be here for some time.
The other major addition here is the implementation of character customisation. This is where you can modify your taunt, music, costume, and most importantly, your minion. As your character levels up, you unlock all these features along with an avatar who appears at the start of matches. It's an inconsequential mechanic, but it's one of many little touches that helps All-Stars set itself apart as its own game.
Plus, who doesn't want to go into a fight with a mini-little sister by their side?
It's the little details that really bring All-Stars to life. There an intro themed around Killzone that starts off from the perspective of a first-person camera, complete with guns and HUD, marching into the fight area. Every time I watch this, I can't help but smile. Not because it's a deep profound statement, or an innovative gameplay mechanic that is sure to change the industry. I smile because it's cool.
Sometimes we don't need a myriad of intellectual word-porn or grandiose gestures to get a point across. Sometimes, we need to just say 'This is cool' and these minute touches are just that, cool.
The overall level design is another point where All-Stars deserves credit. In terms of layout, they're a bit samey. In terms of content, they're outstanding.
Each level is based around a different game. One match you could be battling in the futuristic world of Bioshock: Infinite and another you could be watching a Loco work its way through a maze before the background shatters away revealing something more threatening. There's an attention to detail that makes everything feel 'right'. The Parappa inspired level has the Sensei singing Chop Chop (Kick. Punch. It's all the mind...), arguably the most recognisable song from the Parappa the Rapper.
Every level succeeds at encapsulating what makes the corresponding franchise so great, even if it's a franchise you're not familiar with.
I myself have never played Fat Princess or Sly Raccoon. I know of them, but believe it or not, reviewers haven't played every single game in existence. What's interesting here is that having not played their respective games doesn't hamper the experience at all. They still fit, they still feel authentic. There's actually a really amusing exchange when playing through Drake's or Sly's story where the two come face-to-face and exchange words over who really is the greatest treasure hunter. It's silly, it's canon-breaking, and it frankly doesn't make any sense, but it's hilariously fun and when you experience it first-hand, you begin to wonder what other crossovers All-Stars has paired together.
Will Evil Cole go after Cole for being a goody two shoes or might Heihachi kidnap Sackboy to clone and sell as a plush-toy? The possibilities are endless and the hilarity frequent.
When you're not battling or customising or reliving a nostalgic moment from your childhood, there's Trials mode. This mode sees players hop onto a motorbike and zoom through levels at an ever-increasing difficulty. Actually, it's nothing like that, that was a Trials HD joke. Well, it's not a joke either, jokes are meant to be funny...
There is actually a mode called Trials, that part wasn't a lie. Trials is where you can undertake different challenges – kill 3 opponents, build up a level three power attack etc. Extra modes like this aren't anything ground-breaking of course, but they do give the player something to do other than fighting when you need a well-deserved break. It's a mode that developers could have easily left out because of budget problems/laziness, so credit where credit's due.
You'd be forgiven for thinking with so many things going for it there has to be something terrible lying in wait, surely? You could complain that keeping track of your character is difficult when the screen becomes crowded. I personally didn't find this an issue. I played it on Vita and only once found myself looking at the wrong sprite. You could moan that Sony just stole the Super Smash Bros formula. They did, totally, but they also put their own twist on it. Do we condemn Saints Row for being a gangland sandbox? There a few hiccups here and there, but if it's straight-up action packed, chaotic, beat-'em-up fun you're after, then you've come to the right place.
If you can't get past that this is a Smash Bros clone, you'll hate it and no amount of telling you otherwise will change your mind. If however you love Smash Bros and love its one of a kind gameplay, then your romance Nintendo started is ending with a marriage to Sony. Or if you've never played Smash Bros, you're in for a real treat.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a blend of chaos, franticness, and stylishly kicking the snot out of your opponent. It's oozes authenticity, and above all else, it's fun. If you want complex combos, there's Tekken, if you want a cluster-fuck of mayhem from characters you know and love, All-Stars has it and then some.
All-Stars boldly states that the PS Vita isn't on life-support. It hasn't contracted an incurable gaming-disease from which it will never recover. It's picking up pace. All-Stars shows that the Vita can match its PS3 sibling with ease and provides the same experience in micro-form.
Should you give PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale a go? YES! Definitely.
[Note: The version used in this review was played on the PS Vita. Also, due to a lack of people online before launch, I didn't get to play it online enough for me to praise/condemn this mode.]
Name: Wesley Copeland
Born in Cyrodiil but raised in Ferelden, more commonly know as England. Wesley Copeland is a passionate writer with more opinions than an ostrich