PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review
Fighting games usually come in one of two flavors: tournament-ready ordeals designed for the hardest of the hardcore, and casual affairs made for the everyday gamer. Pleasing both crowds with one title is no small feat, but that not stopped SuperBot Entertainment and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Santa Monica Studio from trying with their crossover fighter PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Did they manage to strike a perfect balance, or is everything all askew?
Taking a page from Nintendo’s Smash Bros. series, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale cherry-picks 20 characters from Sony’s rich history and pits them against one another in battles that are one-part fighting, one part platforming, and one part nostalgia. Everything looks the same as the big N’s offerings on paper, but the devil lies in the details.
For starters, the core fighting mechanic found in PlayStation All-Stars come off as unbalanced. With each battle built around a “Super Meter,” the winner is not determined by who deals out the most damage, but rather by who lands a meter-draining move. While the best way to fill the meter is through attacks, there are a number of other ways to build it up that come off as just plain cheap. This mechanic works exactly as it should in one-on-one bouts, but free-for-alls often devolve into people standing around and stealing kills from others at the last possible moment.
It’s a shame, because the controls manage build on the already rock-solid foundation set by Smash Bros. Despite each attack requiring nothing more than a direction and an attack button, the system found in PlayStation All-Stars allows for launchers, air combos, and other fighting game mechanics not normally associated with a game of this caliber. While it is true that bouts will not eclipse the complexity found in Virtua Fighter or Guilty Gear, it is still a welcome addition that brings some much needed depth. The fact that each character can be boosted via an in-game experience system to a rank of 999, the system celebrates one’s victories and encourages mastery of the entire roster.
But how does each stage factor into each battle? Half of the fun of crossovers is seeing characters in worlds that are not their own. Not satisfied with simply having one theme per stage, the courses in PlayStation All-Stars encompass two different worlds. Some are played up for comedic effect, some are bland affairs, but all of them are perfectly fair. With the danger of bottomless pits downgraded and stage hazards kept to a minimum, nearly every level can safely be deemed “tournament legal.”
Perhaps the biggest way PlayStation All-Stars differs from its brethren is in its cast. Despite claiming to have “some of the most iconic PlayStation characters of all time,” the roster is padded out with obscure characters (Heavenly Sword’s Nariko), third-party additions (BioShock’s Big Daddy), and virtually identical clones (InFamous’ Cole and Evil Cole). More characters are set for DLC in the not-so-distant future, but more well-known characters like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon would give it some much-needed brand recognition.
If anything, PlayStation All-Stars gets points for trying something new with a well-established formula. The trouble is, some of the ideas here are half-baked, and a more months in the cooker would have made it the next big thing. It won’t bring in any new fans to the genre, but those who know their way around a wavedash will feel right at home smashing it up with Sony’s cast and crew.