We here at Source Gaming are fans of the Super Smash Bros. series of games, which should come as a surprise to know one as we are, primarily, a Super Smash Bros. fan site. There is just something magical about seeing your favorite Nintendo characters duke it out in a 4 (or even 8) player arena. No other game has ever quite been able to match the frantic fun of a Smash Bros. match, but many have tried. That’s what we want to focus on in this series…. the games that tried to be Smash Bros., with varying degrees of success. Smash 64 not only launched a franchise, it also gave birth to a slew of copycat party brawlers. We want to examine some of these so called Smash clones to see how they stack up against the original, and to determine if they are worth your time. Next up is Sony’s offering to the genre, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
This is a collaboration article between LIQUID12A and Spazzy_D, with the former writing the bulk of it due to his more extensive knowledge of the title.
How is this game like Smash?
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (or PSASBR for short) is a 4-player platformer brawler featuring characters from a wide variety of Sony IPs to draw in fans, which makes it like Smash on said principle alone. Items appear randomly to be picked up and used as well. Ironically, PSASBR may have possibly influenced Smash 3DS/U in a particular way.
What makes this game different from Smash?
The game engine bears some similarity to Smash, having double jumps, direction-based attacks, grabs, shield and roll maneuvers mapped to the same relative buttons as Smash. Unlike Smash, however, which relies on two buttons for attacks, PSAS relies on three. Those buttons being the Square, Triangle and Circle buttons to the right of a typical controller. This means that each character has 9 unique moves to attack with compared to Smash’s 3(not counting directional jabs in the latter). Unlike Smash’s percentage based system, PSAS uses a Super Meter. By attacking opponents, AP fills this Super Meter, which when full to a certain degree, allows a character to unleash one of three Super Moves. This Super Move mechanic is the only universal way to remove stocks/gain points in PSASBR, as falling out of the stage(when applicable) only stuns a character temporarily and there is no health meter in any mode. PSASBR also prevents conventional infinite combos via the AP Break mechanic, as the game does not have hitstun scaling in the vein of Smash or traditional fighters like Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Injustice: Gods Among Us. When a combo reaches a certain threshold(150 AP barring specific low damage moves), the character being comboed will be launched out of said combo and become invulnerable until touching the ground.
But is it good?
Let’s get one thing straight: the game doesn’t reach the level of quality of your average Smash title. It is, however, completely functional and offers a fairly decent amount of content. Arcade Mode runs can take some time while providing a loose overarching story that varies depending on character, complete with character rivalries before the final stage that range from interesting to “what were they thinking”.
The level selection takes it a step further when compared to Smash and incorporates crossover elements that merge two franchises together in one stage. For example, the Hades stage is based on the Underworld from God of War with the titular god of said underworld harassing the players from the background, but morphs to incorporate the Patapons from the PSP series of the same name, which proceed to attack both Hades and the players; fitting for the former point as the Patapons are known to slay gods in their home series. As these stages tend to contain stage hazards, they can be disabled along with items to create a neutral playing field for the combatants.
Online can vary in enjoyability as well between 2v2 and FFA matches, and while I would personally recommend FFA because of the higher fun factor, 2v2 teams can provide their own brand of enjoyment as well. PSASBR’s strong suit to me is its faithfulness to the source material of whatever is being represented. Examples of this include Ratchet’s arsenal being fairly similar to what he could do with the myriad of weapons featured in the Ratchet and Clank titles(albeit with changes made for the sake of balance) down to his RYNO IV Super Move playing the 1812 Overture when used. Raiden’s moveset is near identical to his Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance outing, and the adaptation of Zeus’ attacks from his first boss battle in God of War 3 to his first playable outing is commendable.
Considering how silly they are, the rivalries can sometimes have some surprising thought put into them as well. For example, Colonel Radec’s in-game rival is Sir Daniel Fortesque. Both characters are from series with games developed by SCE Cambridge Studio(Killzone and MediEvil), and are high ranking commanders(for the Helghast and Gallowmere armies respectively) representing different eras(futuristic and medieval) that die in their debut game(ironically at opposite points, the beginning for Sir Daniel and the end via final boss for Radec) via a shot to the head. It’s those little things that show the effort the team put into adapting these characters.
However, the game’s biggest downfall is ironically the character selection. For a game billed ‘All-Stars’, it’s missing a few characters that were heavily known as PlayStation icons back in the day; Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon being the more notable ones, but cases could be made for PlayStation 1 debuts like Cloud Strife, Rayman and even niche characters like Gex the Gecko.
Even then, the game does a fair enough job at representing characters old and new; the previously mentioned Sir Daniel(who hadn’t seen an appearance since 2005 with the MediEvil remake), Spike from Ape Escape, Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal and Parappa the Rapper bring the PS1 era to mind, Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper and Kratos bring the PS2 era to mind, and newer characters like Sackboy, Colonel Radec, Nathan Drake and Kat bring the PS3/Vita era to mind. It’s not perfect, but there’s some fanservice for fans of all the generations of PlayStation. While I mained Colonel Radec in the game due to my liking of the character, Sir Daniel was a massive selling point for me given my nostalgia for the MediEvil games.
Gameplay-wise, the game suffers its second big downfall: being a jack of all trades, master of none. PSAS makes an admirable attempt to balance out competitive and casual gameplay, but it’s merely competent at both while not truly succeeding. The game itself suffers from some harsh balancing issues competitively in particular. Casually, there do tend to be glitches that disrupt gameplay a bit, and while a number of them have been fixed,when they do appear, it’s ugly.
Overall, the game is not perfect. It has some glaring flaws in it’s execution, but it’s pretty harmless otherwise as a Smash clone. I’d recommend this to anyone who is either a big fan of the PlayStation brand or looking for an alternative Smash; it just might surprise you. I personally got a lot of enjoyment out of the game during the 1.5 years I was actively involved with it.
A Second Opinion – Spazzy_D
Ah, Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, a game I wanted so desperately to love but ended up pushing away all too soon. PSABR is a game with some decent ideas, but the core gameplay keeps it from ever really shining. I can not, for the life of me, understand why Sony decided to go with the super mechanic for KOs. It leads to a game that isn’t quite as engaging as Smash, as building up your super meter in order unleash a move just isn’t as satisfying as a ring out or depleting an enemies health would be. It seems like a change Sony made just to make this game seem like less of a Smash clone, which is a shame since it already does so many things differently, such as the extra attack button (which makes the game more combo heavy), the way super moves function, and the lack of “smash” attacks.
Unlike LIQUID12A’s minor gripes with it (and many others), I didn’t really have a huge issue with the roster. In all honesty, Sony built their PlayStation empire off of third party games, so the roster would never seem as star studded as Smash. Would it have been nice to see Chris Redfield, Cloud Strife, Lara Croft, Crash Bandicoot, and others? Of course, but that’s a lot of licensing. We did get the creme of the crop when it comes actual Sony characters, though, with Nathan Drake, Kratos, Jak and Daxter, and the like. The game even has deep cuts like Parappa the Rapper….as a huge Parappa fan, I can’t NOT like this game at least a little. The actual third party characters in the game see more like advertising than anything else, which is a bit of problem. Heihachi is an actual Sony all star, but after that things get iffy. Dead Space is a great series, but not an all star calibre one, and not even one that I would associate all that closely with Sony. Raiden over Snake and New Dante over old are also head scratchers.
The game is fairly fun, though, and it does a few things well. I like the hazard toggle switch, and would not mind if Smash incorporated a similar feature (no, omega modes aren’t the same thing) in the future. The story and rival feature is also really cool, and the cut scenes bringing them up are usually fun. Some of the match ups are so ridiculous that they end up being very entertaining (Big Daddy vs. Sack Boy, anyone?). Overall, PSABR is a fun title, and one I would recommend to Sony fans looking for a good party brawler. Still, it has enough faults that I don’t ever truly feel like going back to the game, so I would hesitate to really call it “good.”