I've often found myself and my friends in heated squabbles over the best fighting games. When one of them becomes the entertainment factor amongst three of my friends and myself, angry insults quickly spiral out of control as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter find themselves pressed firmly against someone's face. In all of the squabbling there always seems to be one fighting game that no one has any complaints with: Super Smash Bros. A deceptively brilliant fighting game, Super Smash Bros. has won the hearts of many casual and hardcore gamers. It only makes sense that someone would step in and try their own hand at making a game like it.Enter Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, a fighting game where you play as your favorite Sony characters and a couple that aren’t Sony characters. From Kratos to Nathan Drake, players pit their skills against each other as they fight in a variety of Sony exclusive inspired levels. As a 4-player fighting game, it perks my interest. The question is, is this the Super Smash Bros. killer, or just a cheap knock-off?
All the Attacks - A fun thing (read: my greatest annoyance) in fighting games is using the right button combination to pull off the perfect move in a situation. Using a tried and true method, Sony has set All-Stars up for some fun combat. With every skill a character has being accessible at the touch of no more than 2 buttons (not that this means that combos can be pulled off with two buttons), it's really easy for newcomers of the genre to do cool tricks. That’s not to say that some of the combos are as easy as pressing forward Square, but people will be able to come in and do some fancy stuff pretty early on.
A Variety in Characters - When you take characters that range from God Of War to Ape Escape, as well as some other third-party characters, you're bound to have some conflicts when designing the skills. I feel in this area, that rather than set a base level for everything, Sony went ahead and said “Screw this game. Let's drink some Petrikov and program some attacks”. To be honest, that's the only way I can justify Nathan Drake getting a random chest high wall to shoot from, and Toro hucking giant Mochi balls from across the stage. This isn't a bad thing; in fact, it's the best thing Sony could have done in this situation. Not that it's without imbalances.
Stay in the Combat - Stepping into Super Smash Bros. for a second, I'm not fond of 4-player FFA matches because I feel they lead to one player hiding in wait, and maintaining stock of his lives. In All-Stars, doing so will prove to be quite futile. Players cannot die without one player activating an execution move, and those can only be obtained by doing enough damage to your opponents. It's pretty much the exact opposite to Brawl.
The ability to kill another player and earn points is earned after successfully attacking them a certain number of times. This builds up a super gauge which has three levels. At level 1 and 2, most of the combos are targeted at specific enemies, but the third step in the combo meter generally means death for everyone who didn’t activate it. With some supers, specifically Sir Daniel’s 3rd level, you can even kill players multiple times. This adds a bit of strategy. Go with the simple ape net, or shoot a laser cannon from space?
They Look Good for Their Games - As video games have evolved, so have art-styles. If not for Sony's excellent job of smoothing over the characters, Parappa would look horrible when held to the shiny sword of Nariko if not for the work that's been put into maintaining original character design with updated graphics. They may not be the best graphics, but they don't really need to impress anyone.
Level Design Madness - Each level in All-Stars takes place in at least one iconic Sony title. In some instances, levels from games like Ratchet & Clank and Resistance can combine as the match goes on. It's cute to see the worlds of various video games combine with each other while their respective protagonists are kicking the crap out of one another.
Cross-Play is Awesome-Play - Whether you’re using a Vita (which can cross-play with a PS3), it’s a title that feels good. The simple design allows the Vita to be used without them being disadvantaged by the additional buttons that a PS3 controller boast. It’s a game with a lot of accessibility to it.
SONY DOES BAD
How About Spyro? - Here’s something I don’t get. Why would you pay for Big Daddy to be in your game and not Spyro? Him, Crash Bandicoot, a Resistance Chimera, and at least a dozen Final Fantasy characters could have easily been added to the title, instead we get the Big Daddy. I just hope they’re coming in the future.
Why Are There Even Items? - Items feel slightly unnecessary in All-Stars as they don't play a game changing role. Sure I could slap someone with a fish, but I don't see why I should do that when I can do just as much damage slamming a mochi ball with a hammer. In theory, items could spice up All-Stars gameplay by adding a level of randomness. In Practice, they fills up my screen with unnecessary crap.
Imbalances are Everywhere - As a personal preference, when playing fighting games I prefer the characters that are horribly obnoxious. In this instance, I chose Toro: A cheeky cat that has an army of playful tricks up his sleeves. It was fun to play him on single player, but online quickly became a different stories. The game was quickly dominated by characters like Kratos and Colonel Radec. Colonel Radec for example can jump around, avoiding damage with a teleport, and dominates with ranged attacks. Even when you get close to him, he quickly has a few advantages. Compare that to an adorable kitten with a black belt and some basic combos that leave something to be desired and you can easily see an imbalance.
Online Matchmaking is a Fickle Mistress -: Battle Royale focuses on a tournament system, where players fight for a period of time and get belts that show their rank. After one tournament is over, a new one starts. Bit of a problem though, unless you’re playing with your friends on the couch, expect some messed-up matchmaking modes. My very first game I went against three other players that were considerable levels higher than myself. I can see this being an issue with a game that has a small player base, this game has quite literally just came out. There’s bound to be an army of newbies like myself, and yet I haven’t played a single match where the players’ skill levels were balanced.
Too Little of Both Worlds - All-Stars tries to sit between brawler games like Super Smash Bros. and Power Stone, and a tournament played fighting game like Tekken. The problem is, the two game types sit so far across each other on the spectrum, that a breed between them would be nigh impossible. Smash Bros. excels because of all the options 4 people potentially have. Different game modes and cute maps that interact with the players also play a major role. Conversely, good fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter have huge depth in what characters can do that take hours of hard work to master. Sony has put a little bit of both, but hasn’t pushed deep enough into either, making All-Stars seem shallow in all fronts.
I'm not impressed with Playstaton All-Stars, it's that simple. It's a game that didn't have a lot going for it outside of its cross-universe cast, and that really begins to show after four or five hours. Yes, it's great that Sweet Tooth gets to fight Sly Cooper, but that shouldn't be what holds a game together. You could create a fighting game with characters no one has ever seen before and it would be great so long as it was fun. That's the thing. Sony All-Stars isn't fun. It's a giant fan-service for people who have supported Sony for the last 15 years, and that's about it.