Super Smash Bros. and everything Nintendo’s flagship brand brawler represents, hangs like an invisible noose around PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale’s neck. There’s no escaping Smash Bros. comparisons with this one; PS All-Stars and what it will do right and what it will habitually do “not so right”, will be defined by how it manages to negotiate the Smash Bros comparison conundrum. Sitting down with a playable demo of PlayStation All-Stars after being limited to just a handful of gameplay videos online, you can’t help but wonder just how tangible the “smash” factor is and how much actual “smash” Sony managed to cram under the hood of this brawler with just a PlayStation logo branded on the behinds of everyone attached to the game in order to pass it off as their own. As it turns out, after 30 odd minutes of controller in hand with Sony’s brand fighter, the seemingly omnipresent “smash” factor evaporates to nothing. Comparisons to Ninty’s fighter, though fair and just at an entry level, don’t matter after a half an hour with Battle Royale. PS All-Stars has more than enough going for it to be evaluated and enjoyed all by itself.
It goes without saying that Battle Royale is exactly what it’s supposed to be, that being, unanimously fun and cogently complimentary to its parent brand. It’s immediately obvious that PS All-Stars prides itself in its pick up, play, fight and have fun gameplay impetus. If you’re a casual button basher when it comes to fighters, you’ll be in heaven. In saying that, if you’re the kind of person who takes joy out of strategic displays of offensive and defensive fighting, coupled with an addiction to learning complicated combos and displaying an innate and instinctive aptitude in dishing out the most unforgiving special moves at the most unforgiving time in any bout, then Battle Royale will keep you equally as satisfied. There’s plenty of meat on Battle Royale’s bones, not least because every character I got to play with, played and felt completely different. Almost impossibly, SuperBot have managed to anchor all of these characters to a standard fighting scheme without compromising the idiosyncrasies and individual offensive traits synonymous with each one of these characters and the 9 to 5 day job franchises we all know them from. Kratos is an excellent example. He feels just as powerful, just as ruthless and just as malicious as he does in God of War here. Sly Cooper on the other hand retains his stealthy and seemingly innocuous and subtle fighting technique. He’s less impulsive and far more refined than Kratos, but can be just as deadly. Nathan Drake is actually the only real “human” character announced that I got to play as (Sweet Tooth is more monster than man) and his vulnerabilities are much more tangible than the other “fantasy” characters. Drake is particularly fun to play with. He’s characterised to perfection, right down to the way he jumps from ledge to ledge. It’s clear to see that SuperBot have spent a lot of time on each character and their individual quirks. The game works on AP (Action Points). The more points you pick up, the more your meter grows, allowing you to dispose of your on screen opponents with a combination of three special level attacks, varying in power from 1 to 3, with the latter being an all consuming attack that wields serious damage to everyone on screen unlucky enough to stand in the way of said attack. Nothing here is half-assed, even when it comes to the level 3 power attacks. This is indulgent fanboy service in every way shape or form and it underscores every element of the Battle Royale experience from the characters, to their moves, to the arenas and worlds you fight in.
The attention to detail in each fighting level is worthy of its own paragraph, not least because it’s quite brilliant. The mash-ups, the cross-over’s and the themes, all merit a genuinely affectionate thumbs up to SuperBot. They nailed it. From Jak & Daxter’s Misty Island being bombarded by Hot Shots Golf nine iron missiles, to the ever endearing viral Patapon attacking God of War’s lumbering monstrosity Hades, SuperBot have crafted original interactive levels that not only stay true to the underscoring PlayStation theme, but actually affect the way you play. Most people are waiting for SuperBot to announce new fighters for the extended roster, and I’m with them there. But after playing the game, I equally can’t wait to see what other insane level mash ups they have planned. This is perhaps one of the more complete and noticeable differences by comparison to Smash Bros. Smash Bros’. levels are essentially simply emulated character themes, Battle Royale’s levels are eccentric random interactive mash-ups that make no sense on paper and complete sense when you play with them. They’re one of the games strongest components.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t actually score kills in the traditional Smash Bros. way. You can’t knock opponents out of the area to score K.O’s either. Instead, you must wear opponents down with any combination of your 1, 2 and 3 level attacks. As such, the game really rewards patience as opposed to just simply timing special attacks and knocking opponents out of the ring in to declare a definitive winner. It’s actually a refreshing twist to say the least. It makes you concentrate on the actual close quarters fighting and not how you’re going to knock your opponent off a ledge into the abyss or up into the clouds.
This is ultimate PlayStation fan service and if you love your triangle, circles, squares and X’s, then you’ll love what SuperBot are onto with this. The only reservation lies in the character selection. So far, SuperBot has got it right, in fact, they can’t actually go wrong until the game is out and we can see the entire roster. No matter what way you look at it, SuperBot have set the bar so high with the attention to the PlayStation detail, that all and everyone will probably be disappointed with the final roster because that ONE character you would have loved to make the final cut, probably won’t be there. Just your luck, eh? If Crash Bandicoot isn’t in there, I’ll be devastated. But if my favourite box mashing apple chomping marsupial doesn’t make the cut, I’ll try and see past it, not least because Battle Royale is indulgently great fun. What more could you want?
PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita this October 24th.