Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale
Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita (Cross-Buy, Cross-Play)
Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale has finally arrived, and it is so much more than just an homage to Playstation. Just to clear the air, this game is not a clone of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. While it is rooted in the same basic idea- all of the companies iconic characters coming together to do battle- as fighting games, they couldn’t play more differently. Thanks to the major design decisions made by developer Superbot Entertainment, Playstation All-Stars stands tall as a robust, deep, and wholly unique fighting game.
Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale is set apart from other fighting games by its win condition. There is no smashing- hitting the opponent over and over will not result in a single kill. There is no health bar, either, so the focus is not landing big strikes. Instead, the focus is on building a meter by hitting opponents. Once the meter is full, the player gains access to a devastating “super” that is the key to knocking out one or more opponents. These supers come in three levels, each level more powerful than the last, but also requiring more time to build. While this may sound no different than the likes of Street Fighter, it is important to note that these supers are the only way to score kills or points to win the match, which vastly changes the way All-Stars is played, as compared to Smash Bros. or more Street Fighter.
First, these supers are not the end-all, be-all. It is possible to miss with most level one and two supers, effectively wasting the chance at a kill. The super can also be wasted if the player is hit as it starts, or if it is countered by another player’s super. The bulk of the strategy in this game comes from knowing when to use the supers. Immediately expending a level one super on the closest enemy may not be the best use of it, if another player comes along and scores a triple kill that could have prevented had the player held onto the super.
Then comes the skill. Even with a mastery of the art of a character’s supers, they still have to be earned. This is what will separate the dedicated and skillful from the casual. Building the meter requires the acquisition of “AP”, which can be obtained from attacking enemies. The meter can be raised faster by locking enemies into devastating and length combos, or by hitting multiple enemies at the same time. This will give the experience fighters a clear advantage, as they obtain super after super, never allowing their enemies to get enough hits in to get one. Balancing this a bit, AP will also appear on the level as blue orbs that can be picked up. These come from hitting enemies with certain items, throwing the opponent, or even from the level itself. Finding ways to build the meter quickly is crucial to winning a match.
Hopefully this paints a rather clear picture of what All-Stars is all about. It is not Smash Bros. And it is not necessarily a party game, though it can function as one. It also does not fit the mold of the traditional one-on-one fighting game, especially since it is at its best with four players. But it is an extremely deep fighter, and requires diligent practice and superior strategy to win at the elite level. This gives it the potential to sit on the same stage as any other competitive fighting game, if given the chance. Incentive to practice, beyond being the best, is the ability to “level up” the characters individually by completing challenges and working through arcade mode and combat trials. Players that trudge through these modes will be rewarded with alternate costumes, music, intros/outros, and decorations for their player card. Players will also be able to show off how much time they have dedicated to their characters when playing online, as the levels are publicly displayed.
There are a few presentation issues that, while they by no means mar the experience, could have benefited from a little more time and care. The biggest issue is load times- loading a fight takes just long enough to be annoying. Even more irritating is the 5-8 seconds of black screen that occurs when selecting a character to customize. The menus are not the most aesthetically pleasing gaming has ever seen, slapping bland fonts and boxy menus on top static images of characters covered by jarring animated environments. Playing the Arcade mode also has some equally disappointing static intros and outros for the story, and a very short cutscene when fighting the character’s “rival”. Some things are mysteriously not front-and-center. Looking for invites? Nope, not under Tournament or Versus. If playing the PS3 version, invites are in the bottom left corner after pressing R2 of all things. If playing on a Vita, invites are in the opposite corner disguised by a random black bar instead of being in the same location on a bar that clearly has room for it. It is the weird little quirks like this that make the presentation seem a bit like an afterthought- people that like clean, sleek, UI that clearly had effort put into it will not be impressed. Most may not notice or care, and the effort was clearly put into the most important part of the game- the game itself.
Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale wants to stand on its own two feet. Like all games, it owes its existence to the games that came before it. But fortunately for us, it is not a mere carbon copy of any one game. It is more of a conglomeration of elements from several fighting games that has been twisted into something new and unique. It is a satisfyingly deep fighting game, and one that will hopefully be enjoyed by not only Playstation fans, but fighting game fans as well.