Developer: SuperBot Entertainment, Sony Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Super Smash Bros. I thought I’d start this review by getting it out in the open. Let’s be honest, if you don’t know much about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, then Nintendo’s famed and much-loved franchise is probably the first thing that comes to mind when looking at screenshots or footage of SuperBot Entertainment’s recently released title. However, in comparing these two titles, one must be cautious. Comparing PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale to Super Smash Bros. is no better than comparing Call of Duty to the Battlefield series. Both titles are of the same genre, but feature differing gameplay elements and, I think it goes without saying, a completely different roster. Feel free to compare them yourselves, but if you’re looking for that here, you’re in the wrong place.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is SuperBot Entertainment’s first real foray into the gaming market, and they have chosen a bold step. Taking characters, some of which are close to the hearts of so many gamers, and crafting them to fit the brawler format is like walking on a bed of nails; impressive if you succeed, but a bloody mess if you make one misstep. For Sony fans, the roster is bound to please. SuperBot have made some excellent decisions in allowing players to play as Sony favourites such as Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet), Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Jak and Daxter (ahem, Jak and Daxter) and Sir Daniel Fortesque (MediEvil). As you can see from this mere handful of characters, fans of Sony franchises and dedicated owners of the PlayStation series all the way back to its original will recognise and be able to step into the role of some of their treasured favourites. Whilst there are a few notable entries missing (both Spyro and Crash Bandicoot come to mind), SuperBot always has the option to offer these characters as DLC. The roster is not bound to protagonists from Sony exclusive franchises however, with Big Daddy (BioShock), Heihachi Mishima (Tekken) and Dante (Devil May Cry) also entering the fray. Obviously the characters from these titles have (or will, in the case of Dante) made their step onto the PlayStation format, although in adding third party characters to the roster, SuperBot have widened the audience to friends of players who may not recognise some of the more obscure faces, but still wish to play someone familiar.
So how does it play? PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale features a new system in which attacks do not cause damage to other characters, leading to an eventual knockout, but instead grant AP (All-Star Power) that is spent to trigger special moves. These special moves rank from one to three, increasing in severity the longer you save your AP. It is with these special moves that players take out their opponents, and it is a system that feels refreshing. The concept was met with a lot of opposition throughout the early stages of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale’s creation, and I am happy to say that it absolutely works. The strategy involved in creating complex combos and air juggles to increase AP, coupled with considering whether to go straight for the first special attack, perhaps killing one or two players, or saving this for the ultimate move that may just get you six kills or more is fantastic. Furthermore, it requires skill. The game is very well-balanced, with some characters having a steep learning curve compared to others, and each boasting different gameplay styles. Do you try to keep your distance with Colonel Radec and scope your prey from a distance? Or do you repeatedly beat your opponents into the ground with Heihachi?
Visually, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale doesn’t disappoint. SuperBot have done a fantastic job in staying faithful to their source material. PaRappa the Rapper is effectively two-dimensional, Sly is suitably cel-shaded, and Sir Daniel Fortesque has been granted a resolutionary face-lift. In terms of stages, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale mashes together two different franchises into one warring stage. The colour pops in the Loco Roco stage until Metal Gear decides to crash the party and God of War’s Hades just can’t shake those pesky Patapon. SuperBot have done popular franchises justice without a doubt, which can be thoroughly enjoyed through a consistent frame rate and overall polished experience. On the not-so-polished side, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale’s menu is far from being the most interesting. It serves the purpose, but it is a shame considering the otherwise consistent level of care and consideration throughout the rest of the title.
Despite the variety of gameplay offered by such a comprehensive roster, it is a shame to say that the plot lines in the Arcade Mode are relatively weak. Each character is given an introductory and conclusive scene that is fully acted and conveyed through inanimate panels. Half way through the mode players will meet their rival character in the form of an in-game cutscene. This is great, but the reason given for why these characters have come together is relatively weak and not explored to its fullest. However, a fighting game is just that, a fighting game, and the genre has never been the go-to for engrossingly deep plots. We play games like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale to triumph online, and this is where it excels.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale’s online system works great, with the opportunity to invite friends to go online or just duke it out in the same room. Online matches are quick to get into, and devilishly addictive. Persistent play with characters allow players to unlock alternate outfits, victory music and other customisable aspects that allow a level of personalisation in your online experience. It should be noted however, that at the time of writing there are a few bugs within online play. Although rare, you may enter games as a character that you did not at all choose at the character select screen, as well as deal with opponents turning invisible and remaining invulnerable to your attacks, which can be quite frustrating. These will undoubtedly be addressed in an update.
Overall, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is the game that Sony fans have been waiting for. It offers a comprehensive roster of characters, complete with spectacular special moves including Heihachi’s nuclear launch and Raiden’s ability to force his opponents into hiding in Metal Gear’s staple boxes. Sony fans and gamers alike will be hard pressed to find a character they can’t enjoy. Multiplayer is ultimately what will keep players coming back. Granted, there are still a few bugs to iron out but SuperBot Entertainment brings PlayStation into the spotlight and fondly reminds us of the impact Sony has always had on our gaming lives.
Update: SuperBot Entertainment have recently announced Patch 1.02, which aims to correct many of the aforementioned issues including going into games as a character the player did not select, as well as a few balancing issues. You can read up on the full list of additions and changes in the new patch here.