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PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale Review: Don’t Call it A Smash Bros. Clone
When it was first announced, PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale was accused a thousand times over for being a shameless Super Smash Bros. clone. And on the surface, it’s an easy comparison to be made. After all, All Stars is a game made up of characters from multiple Sony franchises all duking it out on various themed stages. But once you really take time to get into the systems of All Stars, you’ll find that’s about where the similarity ends.
Thanks to fluid combat and tight controls, it’s apparent that All Stars was developed by fighting game veterans. Combat is made up of button-based combos, offering a wide variety of both ranged and melee moves for each individual character including takedowns, strikes, shooting, and pop-up attacks. Systems within the game are implemented so well that skilled fighting game fans can approach and be satisfied with it and newbies can get away with button mashing and still hold their own in a match. It feels much more like a fighting game and less a quirky brawler, and it owes this in part to the game’s design and mechanics.
Probably the biggest difference between All Stars and any other game in the brawler genre is its Super Attack system. Unlike other fighting games, the main focus in All Stars is not inflicting the most damage possible on your opponents. Rather, each player is given an AP meter that fills up as they score attacks on others. When the bar fills up completely once, a level one Super Attack is unlocked, allowing you to release an attack that, if implemented successfully, kills all affected opponents. After the first level is achieved, the bar will fill up again two more times to reward you with a level two and level three Super Attack, with each attack being unique to the character you’re using. Matches are won based on how many kills are accumulated throughout the course of the round, so filling up on AP and gaining new levels in Supers is an integral part of the gameplay of All Stars.
For the most part, the Super system works really well. Once you’ve had a chance to sit down and really play with it, you’ll realize that the point of a match is no necessarily to fill up on your level three Super each and every time. Different levels of Supers each have their own useful application and use of timing will help you maximize your kill count as you manage your Supers in a match. Supers also play a major role in establishing an identity for each and every fighter in the game, as they tend to be unique to the character. Nathan Drake knocks over temple pillars on enemies, Cole McGrath uses powerful blasts of electricity, and Fat Princess makes a deadly beeline for a slice of cake, among many others.
The only problem that arises with Supers are some minor balancing issues. For some characters, a level one super might be as powerful as another’s level three. For others, Super Attacks might be powerful, but are easily interrupted, wasting a large amount of your AP an making for frustrating gameplay. Again, it’s all a part of the skill and proper implementation of each to successfully pull them off, but it still can be a hassle to use in an actual match.
The overall character roster is diverse and interesting, offering a wide range of characters with unique moves that reflect them and the game they’re pulled from. It still has all the charm of a franchise brawler, and the use of more realistic characters from Mature games makes for some satisfying and believable combat. Many of the characters control in such a seamless manner that they feel like they’ve truly been pulled from their respective games without losing their edge and appeal.
Still, some strange choices were made for the roster, and I couldn’t help but feel like it was lacking a bit in some areas. Why are there two Coles with startlingly similar moves? Why is an obscure character like Sir Daniel in there, but not a more recognizable character like Cloud from Final Fantasy VII? Again, the roster is made up of some great characters, but I still felt like it could have used a bit more to beef it up.
PlayStation All Stars does a great job of being a brawler, but it still manages to feel a bit one-dimensional. Online matches are limited to Free-For-All and 2 vs. 2-player modes, and the actual AI modes themselves are limited to a story-based Arcade Mode, challenge mode, and quick matches for friends and CPU enemies.
While it’s true that fighting games aren’t necessarily known for their narratives, All Stars‘ Arcade Mode feels a bit rough around the edges. Cutscenes are made up of stills and voice over, story lines are shallow and awkward, and the overall flow of the story mode is repetitive, right down to using the same stages for each and every battle throughout the campaign. The end boss fight lacks challenge and context, and it feels a bit awkward all around. Sure, it doesn’t take away from All Stars’ great gameplay, but it still could have been a bit more well-realized.
Challenge modes allow you to master your chosen character’s abilities and moves by putting you in matches and assigning you certain objectives, such as eliminating several characters with one Super attack at once or using certain button prompts to attack your opponents. It’s a great way to memorize button combos and train for online matches.
There’s a certain amount of customization to All Stars as well, as completing campaigns in Arcade Mode unlocks items such as character bios and icons for use in building an online profile. It’s nothing super substantial, but it’s still somewhat fulfilling to unlock new items as you play different campaigns in Arcade Mode. And trophy whores beware…All Stars is loaded with them and presents a Platinum opportunity for those who are patient enough to try and accumulate them all.
PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale is a great game with fluid combat and great mechanics that open the game to both experienced and rookie players. But for all the fun you’ll have with the game, it still manages to feel a bit like a somewhat disappointing one-trick pony that could have used a bit more TLC in certain areas. Still, it manages to forge its own identity and separate itself from Super Smash Bros. and other games in the brawler genre through its use of the Super Attack system and a unique lineup of characters. If you’re a PlayStation fan, fighting game fan, or simply want a fun, fast-paced game to jump into, PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale is definitely deserving of a spot in your gaming library.
(Note: This review was conducted on a PlayStation 3 after eight hours of gameplay. It is also available on the PlayStation Vita.)