Review: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3)
Title: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (7.2 GB)
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Developer: Superbot Entertainment
ESRB Rating: T
This game is also available on PlayStation Vita.
The PS Vita version can be purchased separately, but also comes with the PlayStation 3 version for free.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 295 of the podcast.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PSASBR) is something of a surprise to me, after playing more than a few iterations of the game in the past year at events and in beta form, I’ll admit that I wasn’t feeling the gameplay. I did, however, honestly love what the game was, a true love letter to PlayStation fans. So I’ve been quite conflicted about the game for a long time, and unfortunately for PSASBR, it can’t get past the fact that everyone will compare it to the ‘Smash Bros’ franchise because of the visual and thematic similarities.
Let’s get those comparisons out of the way, yes it is similar to the Smash Bros. series in a couple of ways. Visually, it is definitely similar in the fact that playfields are arena’s that (mostly) exist in a single screen environment. Thematically, the game consists of characters and levels from the consoles past, present, and future franchises, and you have four fighters in the matches at the same time. That’s really where the similarities end though.
Again, I was pretty worried about reviewing this game because I’m not a fan of the gameplay in the ‘Smash Bros’ games. I was afraid that no matter how much time I put into the game, that I just wouldn’t have the capacity to give it a fair shake. Thankfully though, once I realized that the core gameplay is more likened to a brawler like Double Dragon/Final Fight/Streets of Rage, I totally got it. Unlike a “normal” fighting game, in PSASBR every character uses the same control scheme. Instead of learning a moves set for each character, you’ll know what button presses and directional moves are for every character, it’s just that every character’s actual moves are different. So pressing ‘Up’ and ‘Square’ is normally an uppercut move, but for some characters that move may do something completely different.
So unlike the Street Fighter games, where a character like Ryu has a Fireball move with D/DR/R with Punch, yet Guile doesn’t and instead has a charge move to do so (so D/DR/R with Punch doesn’t do anything for Guile,) in PSASBR every character has a move for the standard set of movements and button presses. This allows the player to focus on the move mechanics of specific characters, and definitely makes the game a LOT more accessible.
Also, you can’t simply beat someone up enough to finally knock them out, as the only way to do so is with a ‘Super’, and those come in three levels for every fighter. A Level 1 Super is usually performed in close-quarters, and can be cancelled by a well-timed hit. A Level 2 Super usually has a better range, and can be cancelled by another Super. Level 3 Supers though cannot be cancelled, and depending on the character, can even be an insta-kill for anyone on the screen.
This is where the deep balance system definitely reveals itself to the player. But it doesn’t stop there, as balance has obviously been a priority in the development process, and even though there will most certainly be certain balance issues (there always are), this is better than most other fighters that I’ve played at release. Some characters build-up AP quicker (AP being what you need to accumulate to achieve Supers,) some may walk slower, and even others have special abilities to overcome deficiencies. Sly Cooper for example, can’t block at all, but he can teleport and become invisible, which when I was playing the testers I learned can be incredibly effective if used correctly.
Twenty fighters are available on the disc with a good amount coming in the future as DLC (2 have already been announced, and both will be free.) Like any modern fighting game, there are definitely different tiers that the fighters fall into, but it really does seem like the lines between those tiers are blurred more than in other games. Even a character that you would consider weak like Sackboy or Toro can really pack a punch when you take the time to learn their moves and combos, and fortunately PSASBR has a deep learning system to teach you all of those things. They’ve done a great job of giving you the tools to learn your characters, so it only takes time and patience to do so.
Additionally, those who are fans of unlockables will be incredibly pleased, with tons of unlockables available for each character and your profile as well. These can include titles for your player card, alternate costumes, intro and outro music and quotes, and even avatars that will cheer you on during your match. The unlockable system is deep, and definitely helps the player stay motivated to keep going deeper into the game.
One last mechanic that needs to be talked about is how the developers have handled one of the worst problems in fighting games (at least in my opinion), the ‘Infinite Combo.’ Superbot have taken a stand against this pariah in an active and welcome way. If you get cornered, or get caught-up in an Infinite Combo, the game will automatically shoot your player across the screen and into safety when 100 AP is inflicted, and will even make your character invincible for a couple of seconds. There are a few fighters that can definitely get you into an Infinite, and the addition of this system is pretty great, especially for those with non-expert skills (like me!)
The visual style is just fantastic (and really cool too.) Superbot has done PlayStation fans a wonderful service by keeping the themes of both the characters and the environments as faithful as the original source material. Each level consists of environments from 2 separate games (the word “mash-up” has been invoked a few times,) and there’s some pretty sweet combinations there. The way they’re presented just adds to the excitement as well, like when the walls of the Parappa Dojo fall down to reveal a Helghan walker in the background destroying the city.
The characters are also handled extremely well, with moves that are right from the games that they’re pulled from. Drake hides behind concrete cover, or rolls an exploding barrel across the ground, and Cole/Evil Cole floats around the sky or even climbs a wall when they’re present. All of this is presented in a smooth and constant 60 frames per second, on both the PS3 AND Vita versions. This consistency will be appreciated by those that obsess over frame counts in fighting games. Quite frankly, this game is a visual stunner, and the amount of detail included is more than simply impressive.
Pretty-much every character is voiced by the person that provides the voice in the original games they come from, and what a difference that makes! Not just that, but music from all of the original games is included as well, and with some of the older games that are represented, PSASBR can be a pleasing walk down memory lane. On top of that, fighting sounds and environmental effects add to the experience, making this a wonderful aural extravaganza. The attention to detail once again makes the entire game an incredibly genuine and accurate trip through the history of PlayStation’s life, and can even help educate those that only joined the “family” with the PS3.
Beside the awesome 4-player local play, online is a MAJOR factor in PSASBR, especially since it supports cross-play with the included Vita version. The modes available aren’t anything groundbreaking, but they do offer a decent diversity with the ability to team-up with friends.
Ranked matches don’t allow for a party of more than two fighters to be utilized, so either with two players on a single PS3, or via invite with a friend on another PS3 or a Vita. Unlike the flexibility offered in non-ranked events, Ranked matched follow a specific set of rules: three-minute matches, default item drop rates, default AP generation, and a mix of Free-For-All and 2v2 modes. Also a part of the ranked mode are Seasons, which integrate with the online leaderboard system. Each season brings a new set of rewards and challenges, including new ways of reaching the top rank. So for those that think “I’ll never achieve a good rank on the leaderboard,” they’ve taken steps to give many people a chance to climb through the ranks. I’m not sure if there’s a set duration for each season, but the current one I believe was set for around 25 days.
When you leave the realm of ranked matches, your options obviously expand. The standard “quick match” is available right from the menu, which will take you into public matches of any type, or use filters to restrict your search to only a certain game type or match limits. Again in quick match, you can only bring one other friend along.
Standard online opens up even more, allowing you to party-up with up to three more friends, and lets you control every aspect of the matches while also not having to deal with dumping back out to the menu after each match. Two game types are available; Free-For-All and Team matches. One funny thing about the team matches is that you can play the standard 2v2, or if one of your friends is extremely cocky, can be played in 3v1! There are three rule sets that can be changed; Time limit, Stock Limit (after so many deaths you’re knocked-out of the match), and Kill Limit (first one to X kills wins). The diversity and level of control is quite good, and the flexibility of having one or two per PS3, and being able to include Vita players is great! I do wish though, that there was a lobby system included, but since the matches always consist of 4-players, it’s probably a bit tougher to implement something like that in a functional sense. Also, I’m still a bit concerned about attempting to setup a tournament in any usable form, which may keep this from becoming a true contender in competitive gaming circles, although I’m sure that if the game gained enough interest and credibility, that players would find a way to make it work.
Actual online play has been exceptional so far, so it seems that the lengthy beta process may actually have yielded some good results. Voice chat is superb, with clear audio throughout. Matchmaking seems to be working very well, but with only a handful of players online during the review period, that’s left to be seen. In no match that I’ve played online have I had even a minor issue, as it is impressively smooth all-around.
For anyone that listens to the podcast especially, I don’t think that it’s any secret that while I loved what this game is, I wasn’t very excited for it at all. To me it was an attempt to best the ‘Smash Bros’ franchise, and I really do hate those games. What we got instead though, is an extremely deep but accessible brawler with a deceptively simple to pick up control scheme. The fighting system definitely allows players to spend the time and energy to master the favored characters, and like any competitive fighting game these days, there’s a rock-paper-scissors system that can take time to master.
Also, I’ve found myself actually using a fighting stick almost exclusively now. The game plays great with a Dual Shock 3, and even gives beginners an advantage with shortcuts via the right analog stick, but the folks at Superbot knew that to be taken seriously, they’d need to support some standard fighting stick configurations. Once you get used to what the buttons do, it’s just a natural feel, and one that I’ve really become accustomed to.
Like I said at the beginning, I was truly worried that I wouldn’t like this game, not because of how good it was, but because of my distaste for the genre as I knew it. Once I read the instructions and made my way through the tutorials, everything simply clicked. I’ll probably never be a master at this game, but I can definitely hold my own. Heck, I even won a match against three of the testers!
My best advice is to ignore your preconceived notions based on the obvious initial similarities to the ‘Smash Bros’ series and what you may have played in the beta. I seriously considered having someone else do the review for PSASBR, but I’m glad I didn’t, because it’s a fantastic game that not only exudes a deep love for the history of the PlayStation platform, but also brings a deep fighting system while still being very accessible to everyone else. Give it a try, you may be surprised like I was.
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