I’ll admit that I’ve been highly critical of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale: I dubbed it Sony Smash Bros. after playing it at E3, after all. However, upon playing it again (this time at a recent Sony “Christmas in July” holiday showcase), I’m looking at the game in a different light. Getting hands-on in a less frantic and chaotic setting (with FGC legend and Superbot community manager Daniel “Clockwork” Maniago working the presentation) helped me appreciate the nuances. Note: The demo didn’t include Jak and Daxter or Cole MacGrath (indicating it’s not the most recent build shown at San Diego Comic Con 2012), but Tekken‘s Heihachi, and Toro, Sony’s Japanese mascot, were present.
I threw opponents into the stage walls–rendering them defenseless–and then strung combos together. This wouldn’t be possible in Super Smash Bros.
The breakdown: Characters have three attack buttons (Square, Triangle, and Circle), which produce different moves when you combine them with directional inputs. Take Nathan Drake, for example; he tosses a grenade when players press Square and Up. Square on its own causes him to perform melee strikes. As such, you’re able to unleash a variety of moves with a very basic control scheme.
Clockwork’s instruction enhanced the experience. I dodged, guarded, and countered with ease, and learned that you can toss blocking opponents as you would in traditional fighting games. I threw opponents into the stage walls–rendering them defenseless–and then strung combos together. This wouldn’t be possible in Super Smash Bros., as it’s a King of The Hill type game that focuses on throwing enemies off the stage to win. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an arena fighter, and as such, you employ different strategies.
In PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale you earn points by using your special attacks acquired by collecting AP. Landing a special attack earns you two points, while being killed costs the player a point. The player with the most points at the end of the round wins the crown.
AP refers to the meter each character builds; there are three different levels that players can attain. These attacks are a bit flashier than normal ones. Level three attacks are the most useful, easiest to land, and quite cinematic. Special attacks are the sole method by which gamers accumulate points. This makes meter management huge a meta game in itself. Certain characters need less AP to gain meter. Sly Cooper, for example, builds meter fast, but this results in a hard-to-land level three attack. Conversely, characters who gain meter slowly have more devastating attacks like Toro’s instant kill level three or Heihachi’s level three super (more on those in a sec).
An example of a character with slow AP gain, but powerful attacks is Heihachi. His level 2 attack is both fan service and useful. He summons his trusty bear Kuma who proceeds to shred opponents while the points rack up. Kuma is computer controlled, but I set him up with a few easy kills by punching opponents his way.
Heihachi isn’t extremely fast, but devastating at close range. He has Tekken attacks which include both the Twin Pistons and Electric Wind maneuvers. His level three is a nod toward his famous Tekken 5 ending where he chains Jin, Kazuya, and Jinpachi to a rocket and launches them into space.
Toro is hilariously fun to play as and, surprisingly, fits the brawler mold well. So far he’s the only character with multiple stances. He plays very similar to Parappa in that he’s effective at close range, quick, and agile while in his Justice stance. Yet he can become a ranged fighter in his Torobi stance. His size also makes him a small target, and he’s extremely hard to keep pace with due to his speed.
I found Toro’s dash the most useful attack in arsenal as it takes out anyone in his path (and it can be combined with simple strikes). Gaining meter with Toro is a bit difficult as he gains it slowly; the tradeoff is the strength of his special attacks. His level three attack automatically gives the player six points since it kills everyone on-screen–it’s Raging Demon-esque. Playing on that, he ends the attack with a similar victory pose as Street Fighter‘s Akuma.
The stages are interesting combinations; the Hades stage, for example, mixes God of War with Patapon. During the match, patapons fly in and attack Hades with an aerial assault that can harm players. Another mixes Hot Shots Golf with Jak and Daxter; golfers tee off, sending golf balls flying through the air hitting anyone in the line of fire.
On this night, however, we duked it out on a new stage: Master Onion’s dojo from Parappa the Rapper. Yup, it made the cut and blended with Killzone–a bizarre mix of the cartoony and the violent. After a few minutes of combat, the dojo’s walls drop and a Helghast MAWLR in the background wrecks the city, and occasionally combatants, with missiles. The stage holds true to Parappa the Rapper’s very colorful and playful art style. It also favors close quarters combat over ranged. I don’t know if it was done intentionally or its mere coincidence, but it favors Parappa’s play style.
Yes, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale burrows from many fighting games, but has its own formula and gameplay that gives it its own identity.
The multiplayer combinations are as varied as the stage combinations. You can have three people play the game on their Vitas, with another on a PS3, and vice versa. You can have two versus two, one versus three, or any other match permutation.
What stood out the most about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale are the different strategies that encompass a match. Smarter players will manage their meter while attacking foes who have large AP quantities. The point scheme also changes the match dynamics on the fly. Gamers will more than likely gang up on a dominant player. Each death counts as a minus one, so this plays into the meta game as well. My one complaint about the score system is that there’s no way to tell who’s in the lead–at least in the build we played. A score display would be very helpful during close matches when the score differs from one or two points between players.
The game’s glaring weakness, at this moment in time, is the cast. Yes, Jak, Daxter, Heichi, and Parappa are welcome additions, but the roster isn’t as recognizable or iconic as Smash Bros.’ lineup, which boasts Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and Samus. Adding a few more recognizable characters like Crash Bandicoot, Cloud Strife, Sephiroth, or Old Snake would flesh out the crew nicely. I can also envision one of Castlevania’s heroes getting in the mix with their varied weapons and abilities–Alucard anyone?
Yes, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale borrows from many fighting games, but the brawler has its own formula and gameplay that gives it its own identity. Plus, having Clockwork and Seth Killian on board helps its credibility.
We’ll have more information as the release date, October 23, 2012, approaches. I can confidently say that Sony All-Stars Battle Royale is shaping up to be an amazingly good time with friends, both the hardcore and casual.