PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a video game that caught many gamers off guard. It’s premise is similar to that of the successful Nintendo licensed Super Smash Bros. franchise. Comparisons between the two began as soon as news arose of its existence and because of this, many gamers have most likely already decided that the PlayStation’s interpretation of the tried and tested party –brawler is one to either waste little thought on, or simply ignore completely.
The surprising thing about this title however, is that All-Stars stands tall and regardless of its similarities to Smash Bros. it definitely has a few new ingredients to add to the formula.
All-Stars is clearly a rival to Smash Bros. and to argue otherwise would be incorrect. The former borrows heavily from the latter, but the innovation lies in the few key differences worth noting. While Nintendo’s super brawler relies on the focus of launching opposition out of the playing field, All-Stars focuses on keeping enemies close until the time comes to finish them with a super attack. Smash Bros. is famed for its damage system, a system that rewards combatants for wailing on their opponents and raising their damage percentage – the more damage a character has taken, the further they fly when attacked; the aim here being to use their damage percentage against them and ultimately use it to knock them out of the arena entirely.
All-Stars handles things a little differently, with characters technically capable of taking infinite damage while still being in no significant danger of defeat. The method to victory in PlayStation’s mass brawler is to accumulate attack points (abbreviated in-game to “AP”) in order to earn enough of them to initiate a super attack. Executing and successfully landing a super attack on an opponent is the only way to defeat them, meaning that even after gathering enough AP for a level 3 super attack (super attacks range from level 1 to 3 in this game, the latter being the most devastating and greatly strengthening the likelihood of eliminating opponents), if the enemy manages to evade or you fail to time your manoeuvre correctly, all previous effort will be in vain.
This approach to battle is one that works, and in retrospect is more reminiscent of Final Fantasy: Dissidia’s approach to combat and strategy rather than Super Smash Bros.
The game delivers an authentic PlayStation experience, with contributing factors being both large and small in scale. Characters are integrated well in battle, each one feeling true to its origin title. Ninja Theory’s Dante character from 2013’s DMC translates remarkably to the roster, with his play style and signature techniques being instantly recognisable with his in-game persona (which fans where given insight to throughout the course of the downloadable demo now available on PSN). The other characters are also true to form, with PlayStation newcomers like Sackboy fighting in the laughable and adorable manner we’d expect him to and Jak using weapons which are all clearly identifiable to fans and also useful in battle.
Each character can be individually levelled up, which adds another layer to the battles and also reinforces the notion that All-Stars is as much a fighter as it is a party game, with players able to unlock taunts, costumes, entrances, exits and victory theme music all to be used in the arena. Unlike its Nintendo counterpart, All-Stars leaves players with clear rewards for investing time into their favourite characters and therefore adds purpose in sticking with a particular character.
Stages are mash-ups comprised of elements taken from different PlayStation titles, and very cleverly executed. The God of War stage features a mean looking Hades, setting a dark and dramatic tone in his domain, but moments later the Patapon arrive in the background and activate “frenzy” mode, a key aspect in the Patapon series that when implemented in this game, actually affect the characters on-screen. Each stage is delivered with beautifully rendered crisp animations and imagery that make All-Stars feel like the HD predecessor to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The combined scenery is clearly thought out, and at no point feels tacky or too much.
Unfortunately the All-Stars title is more likely to be considered good rather than great. This is something owing heavily to the fact that the game’s presentation is appalling – in short, it feels lazy and incomplete. The interface of the main menu is bland and uninspired, and even the character select screen which should be buzzing with energy to motivate and excite the player has been left rather dull. Presentation (or lack of) is most noticeable during the game’s Arcade mode.
The game features a non-existent story, with each character’s pointless backstory told through the use of dull static panels and using voice acting that fails to inject any further life into the experience. It would have been good to see solid storytelling using a story mode that at least attempted to explain how all these very different characters ended up in the same place. Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary mode is an example of simple but beneficial storytelling, and although far from the greatest story ever told, fans of the title appreciated the effort. Considering PlayStation are attempting to enter the ring with already established champ Super Smash Bros. it would have been wise to at least attempt to deliver something visually exciting.
Dialogue in this title is also far from desirable, with some characters feeling unnatural. Even during the rival confrontation battles, which are unfortunately not delivered with any excitement, characters feel lifeless and untrue to themselves.
Through all its faults however, perhaps the biggest flaw that Sony made with this title, is the failure to include classic PlayStation icons. Long-time PlayStation fans may be disappointed and even confused to see cross-platform characters like Raiden from the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Dante from the soon to be released DMC game, in place of traditional true PlayStation heroes such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Gex, Croc, Klonoa, Rayman, Kain and Raziel or even Lara Croft. A supposed PlayStation roster without any of these characters is concerning to say the least.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is not a perfect title, but it is one worthy of recognition. Sony have delivered a fun party title that is great at entertaining friends or just you alone. Multiplayer does not add to the game, instead a more accurate statement would be – multiplayer is the game – and because of multiplayer, All-Stars will entertain you for a long time to come. The game is smooth online and just as much fun playing with three friends sharing the same sofa. New dlc on the way promises to keep the game current and fresh.
Fans of the Smash Bros. franchise will be surprised, and if they bear an open mind, it is highly probable they will enjoy this game; however newcomers will just as easily have as much fun. The game’s pick up and play nature is appealing to everyone and the game features a tutorial that can be revisited at any time and accessed from the main menu.
To conclude, All-Stars is a fun and enjoyable title that will satisfy gamers looking to relax with a game that’s immediately accessible and fun to learn. Well worth a look if you’re a PlayStation owner.