They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When Sony announced PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PSAS), comparisons to the Super Smash Bros. franchise were inevitable. Seeing characters from multiple franchises on the Sony consoles beating each other up looked like a lot of fun. Besides, where could you find Big Daddy, Sly Cooper, Sackboy, and Kratos knocking the snot out of each other for supremacy?
The roster included is a bit confusing. While PSAS is rated T for Teen, six of the characters at your disposal are from various M-rated games. Also, while most of the characters are from Sony-exclusive studios, a few are from multiplatform titles. It gives the game a slightly more serious tone, even if you don’t expect to see these characters in the same game beating each other up. While Cole and and Evil Cole play similarly, you aren’t going to see any other carbon copy characters.
The backgrounds of each other levels incorporate two different games. In the beginning, a single game is represented, such as the Dojo from Parappa the Rapper or a level from LocoRoco. After the stage has progressed a while, the level opens up where the back wall is opened up and you might see some mythical beast from God of War trying to knock you around or an ape robot shooting projectiles at you. They definitely capture the feel of the franchises represented in the game.
Controlling your character takes a little practice. The d-pad controls the movement, while Cross jumps and the other face buttons attack. Attacks will differ depending on which way you are facing and which direction on the d-pad you are hitting. Using the right stick lets you throw opponents, but it takes practice because of the timing. The L button is for blocking while the R button activates your Super Attack. You can taunt by using the Select key, but it is very hard to press in the midst of battle. The controls are simple to learn, but will take a while to master.
The premise is simple. All of the characters have an AP Meter. As you hit your opponents, it gets filled up. As you get hit, it loses energy. Once it gets filled, it can be used to launch super attacks. The more times you fill it up, the higher the level of super attack you can produce. All three levels can kill all of the other characters on the screen, but the lower the level, the more precise the timing has to be. However, the longer you wait, the higher the possibility that you might not get to that level. The rewards of getting a level three super attack make it possible to get more than three kills during the attack. You get a short little video as well to show you are about ready to wreak havoc.
All of the attacks are based on the games the characters come from. Big daddy uses his drill. Sackboy has a selection of items to bring onto the stage to hinder other players. Cole and Evil Cole have plenty of electricity-based powers. Sly Cooper uses his hook. You will have a pretty good idea how they control if you’ve played their own games.
You don’t have to depend on only your own moves to gain energy in your AP meter. Sometimes weapons will appear on the screen. If you are close enough you can touch the screen to grab them. They are more powerful than your standard attacks, and make filling up your AP meter easy. Fighting around those weapons can be tense.
The weapons and the other characters aren’t the only obstacles you have to worry about. Hazards can attack you as well. This can be a giant robot ape to a three-headed beast. If you get hit, energy spheres will be released from your character that can be grabbed by anyone.
The single player game follows a progression of stages. The first few stages are timed, with the next few stages requiring the winner to get a specific number of kills to win. After a “rival” one-on-one match is played, you go up against the boss which is a disembodied head made of up crystal-like shapes. You first must kill one character, then attack the boss, then kill two characters, then attack the boss, then destroy three characters and attack the boss one final time. While I have railed against cheap boss characters in fighting games before, the boss in PSAS is almost too easy to defeat. In fact, on the default middle difficulty I can count on one hand the number of times I lost a match. On the hardest mode, I didn’t have any difficult until the rival and boss levels.
As you get through the stages, you will gain experience points that level your character up. As you level up you will get little icons and other bonuses that allow you to customize your experience. They are nice little extras, but unless you have a compulsion to get every item you will most likely play through the short campaign for each character.
Graphically the game is very close to the PS3 version. Characters explode in the Sony face button symbols when they are destroyed, and while the lighting effects aren’t quite as good, they still look impressive. All of the characters have the same voice actors as their original games which helps add to the ambiance. The song for the intro is so catchy that I actually found myself thinking about it outside of the game, and the background music matches each stage well.
The online play is easy to set up, where you can play ranked matches or just for fun. The play is smooth, with hardly any hiccups. It really is amazing how well a portable system can handle the network traffic needed for a fighting game with four different people online at the same time.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale has a lot going for it, and to have Sony include the Vita version with the PS3 version is a great gesture. I really had high hopes for the game, especially since they brought in Seth Killian to help with the fighting aspect. It all sounds great, but there is something that is just missing from the gameplay. It has all the aspects of a Super Smash Bros., but the fact that only super attacks can kill off a character make the game feel less strategic. Still, it is a fun game to play with a few friends on the couch or online.