"A Smash Hit"
When PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was originally announced, comparisons to Super Smash Bros. followed immediately. Many came to the conclusion, based on the similarities between the new game and Nintendo's own inter-company crossover fighter, that SuperBot Entertainment's title would be a crass imitation of Super Smash Bros. Others, however, realized that "getting a bunch of video game stars to beat the crap out of each other" wasn't a particularly original idea in the first place, and were willing to give SuperBot a chance to do something unique and fun with Sony's characters. Thankfully, the final product proves the latter group correct. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is not Super Smash Bros. with Sony characters, but rather a clever new game with enough depth and personality to earn itself a place among the fighting genre's best.
Like Super Smash Bros., PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a fighting game for up to four players that stars characters from across the company's first-party catalogue. The game's roster includes not only several of the big-name characters one would expect (Uncharted's Nathan Drake, God of War's Kratos, etc.), but also several less marketable cult favorites (PaRappa the Rapper, Fat Princess, and Spike from Ape Escape). There are even a few third-party characters for good measure, including preview stars from controversial upcoming series revamps (specifically, Dante in his emo look from Ninja Theory's DmC, and Cyborg Raiden from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
The cast is satisfyingly diverse, and the few bits of story pay delightful homage to the characters' original games. Despite the flimsy nature of this sort of game's plot, it's good to see cutscenes explaining the characters' motivations, be it Sackboy's desire to create or Sly Cooper's desire to steal. It also manages to include several characters from M-rated games without dumbing down their histories; though no blood is spilt beyond characters bursting into clouds of PS button symbols, characters like Radec from KillZone and BioShock's Big Daddy get to fight as brutally as ever.
More important than the outer trappings, however, is the gameplay that brings these disparate characters to light. Though PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale looks like Super Smash Bros. with Sony characters, it plays like no other fighting game. This is because a common and often celebrated feature of the genre —the super move— is the cornerstone of this game's design. Though each character has several moves, the only way to actually score a kill against an opponent is with a super. Every other attack, from ranged attacks to close quarters combo moves to the items procured on the stages, only serves to build the super meter. This may sound tedious, but it actually works out quite well in practice. The fighting is manic and over-the-top, but it also requires strategizing in order to acquire and utilize supers. Successfully matching rapid-fire button combos with resource management is no small feat.
PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale is not only an impressive game, but it performs equally well on both Sony platforms. The title is available for both the PS3 and PS Vita, and buying the former even includes a free digital copy of the latter. The virtues of Sony's Cross Play initiative are effectively proven with PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, as players of different versions can still compete against each other, or sync their online profiles and records between both systems. The Vita version is less graphically impressive due to the limitations of a smaller screen, but it otherwise matches all of the content within the PS3 version. Hopefully more developers will follow PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale's example and release seamless Vita ports of PS3 games.
The only problem with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is the triviality of its unlockables. Though SuperBot Entertainment has boasted over 1,000 bits and pieces achieved by playing with specific characters, none of these are more substantial than extra costumes or victory quotes. The characters and stages are all available from the start, so if the unlockable decorations are meant to be incentive for continued solo play, they're not very successful. Then again, many have criticized Super Smash Bros. for forcing players to invest hours upon hours of time just to use the full cast of characters, so perhaps this is a better compromise between single- and multiplayer needs.
In any event, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is well worth playing if you own either of the devices that host it. While it can't dodge comparisons to Super Smash Bros., it emulates that game in the best ways possible —both are among the highlights of their respective systems' software libraries. Also, while Nintendo may have helped create the modern video game industry, it was Sony who helped make video games a socially accepted medium for older audiences. This is most obvious when comparing the rosters of the companies' respective mascot fighters, as Sony's game has more than just scaldingly colorful characters for children.
GameDynamo's Score for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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