At any party with video game consoles, the Wii is always everyone’s first choice for proper party games. With games like Mario Party and Super Smash Bros., the system has had a firm hold on both casual and hardcore gamers alike, and both Sony and Microsoft have made countless attempts to catch up. Sony’s latest attempt, Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, is more ambiguous; it aims to take down the most dominant party game, Super Smash Bros, begging the question of whether Sony takes the path of plain mimicry or innovation to dethrone the king.
Unlike its direct rival, Playstation All Stars definitely caters more to hardcore gamers. Players can only deal out KOs by hitting their super moves, which require meter that players gain as they combo opponents. Additionally, the game’s rich fighting game credentials especially shine through the combo system. Players will certainly get by, especially in a casual party setting, by mashing on individual buttons. However, the combo system is extremely open ended, leaving room for players to develop long combos that make use of classic fighting game mechanics like links and target combos. With enough practice and creativity, players will be able to pull off combos that build a level one super easily.
Though supers of all three levels will deal killing blows, their utility improves as levels increase and players will certainly benefit from holding out for level two and level three supers. Take Nathan Drake, whose level one super throws out an explosive fire grenade as players detonate it with a shot, all the while he is vulnerable to attacks, level two super pushes forward a pillar that knocks out any enemy in its path, and level three super that turns everyone into zombies that Nathan can take out with one shot. Skilled players will definitely find ways to maximize their opportunities to land level one supers, which build more quickly, but patient players who build toward higher level supers will be greatly rewarded.
Tournament players who worry about broken items intended only for casual and party settings will be relieved to hear that the game’s versus mode includes a myriad of options, including changing the match type from timed to death match to changing the frequency of any items’ spawn rate. Though multiplayer with other players on the PS3 was easy to set up, adding in a Vita was notably more confusing. While players will get an extra digital copy by simply buying the PS3 version of Playstation All Stars, they would never be able to play with a Vita using the same account. Instead, players will have to log onto different accounts on the two systems to play with each other. Puzzling.
As a mash up and tribute to all things Playstation, Playstation All Stars succeeds wonderfully, bringing together old characters like Spike from the Ape Escape series and new Sony powerhouses like Nathan Drake and Kratos. The addition of third party characters, however, feels out of place and is a blatant attempt to fill up roster slots where there were no longer any Sony mainstays to fill. Despite that, however, every character feels right at home, taking moves directly from their games and keeping the same animation to instill a sense of nostalgia in practically every moment. While the in-game moments are all fine, menu screens are ultimately bland, making the game feel more like a beta than a full fledged title.
Like other fighting games as of late, the title includes a rich amount of modes to both get players started and acquainted with their characters. The tutorial not only covers the basics of the game, but it also includes a simple combo tutorial for every character in the game; sadly, the tutorial never goes into more essential combos like those into supers, leaving players to rummage around YouTube and other resources to become even slightly proficient. Though that gives players a head start amongst other casual gamers who may pick this up on a whim at a social gathering, the trial mode really gets players in touch with their characters, featuring trials such as countering other characters’ supers with another super or winning a match using only one button.
Like Super Smash Bros., this game is best played with a group of friends sitting next to each other in person. However, for players who may not have that luxury and must settle for online play instead, they will be deeply disappointed. At times, it would be an acceptable substitute and play out smoothly, but matches often featured teleporting characters and unexplained scores. Even worse, there was no appraent option to mute the mic, which would be fine if the whole Playstation community was family friendly, but it is instead filled with trash talking teens whose vocabulary extends little past the censored word list on any language filter. This is not ideal for any family who thinks this may be an acceptable substitute for the innocent fun found in Super Smash Bros..
Playstation owners have waited far too long for a suitable party game for their system. Thankfully, Playstation All Stars is that game. It blends together the casual and hardcore mechanics needed to be both a fun and competitive title beautifully and is sure to appeal to both crowds. Shortcomings in some of the game’s options and net code show the developers’ inexperience, but it hardly holds the game back from being a worthy contender to Nintendo’s crowned jewel.
Available on: PS3, Vita; Publisher: SCEA; Developer: SuperBot Entertainment; Players: 1 – 4; Released: November 20, 2012; ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $49.99 (Vita), $59.99 (PS3); Official Site