Playstation All-Stars Battle Royal, this game has sparked controversy every since it was announced. From the Nintendo fans saying it is a blatant rip off of Super Smash Bros to concerns over the development and who is on the character roster and the general wonder if the game was going to be good at all. Some concerns valid, like this being Superbot Entertainmentís first game caused even more worry about how well the game was going to turn out, others not so much like the constant rip off claims. The game did have some impressive pedigree behind though it as two members of the Fighting Game Community, Seth Killian and Omar Kendall, worked on the game mechanics and material wise. All of this is nice but we really have just one question: Was it good?
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royal (PSASBR for short) mechanics are somewhat simple and familiar. Left Stick/D-pad moves the character, X jumps, square, triangle, and circle are your attacks and combining these with directional move produces different attacks while blocking is done with the R1 button. Up to four players at a time can fight in 2V2 or Free for All fights. Anyone who has played a mascot fighter before will probably be comfortable with these controls for the most part. The one thing that is different from most mascot fighters (with the exception of Shrek SuperSlam) is that with each attack you gain All-Star Points (Everyone is just calls them Attack Points) to execute a special attack with the chosen character which is activated with the R2 button. This goes up to three levels, first level being the weakest to level three having the ability to clear a stage of enemies and this is how you gain knockouts and eventually win. The controls are responsive and the characters have a distinct feel from one another.
On the subject of characters, this is probably one of the more debatable aspects of the game. The Playstation loyal will probably recognized and for the most part understand why the characters put in the game were chosen. Notable first party characters by the likes Kratos, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Sly and others are there along with a substantial number of third party support like Heihachi from Tekken, Dante from Devil May Cry (this one being the DmC: Devil May Cry reboot), Raiden from Metal Gear (his MGRising/MGS4 iteration), and, oddly enough, a Big Daddy enemy from Bioshock. One of the choices I had a little confusion over was splitting Cole, from inFamous, into two characters. I think it would have been easier to combine him into one but they do fight different enough to be seen as different entities. With the premise of DLC characters and two already confirmed for February, the well rounded roster will hopefully be able to dig more into Sonyís history of memorable characters.
Gamplay is fast and flashy. The characters have moves derived from the games the characters are from and Superbot did a good job making them smoothly transition into a fighting game. All of the attacks from the characters are faithful and work with their styles. The combos work well and the AP gain is relatively balanced and when problems arise they are pretty quickly patched like the fast AP gain with Sackboy. Along with the infinite prevention system to avoid frame traps and spam locks makes the game more strategic. The meta game is there but is not overly implicated like other fighters. Itís is easy enough for newer players to get in and have some fun while still being able to cater to the hardcore with potential setups and varying strategies for maximizing AP gain and special attack traps.
The levels also have an interactivity element that can impact the amount of AP that you have, can stun you or enemy characters, bounce you around, and it is pretty cool that they mixed aspects from two games in from pieces of source material. My favorite is the Dojo stage that mixes Killzone and Parappa the Rapper.
As for gameplay options it is pretty basic, Solo Play which allow for the arcade mode, tutorials which have basic, advance, and character specific combos, and a practice mode. Tournament that is the online mode, Versus on a single system, Customize, which allows to see won titles, profiles, character animations that you unlock and goals for titles to get in single player and multiplayer. Not really all too pretty but a nice features nonetheless.
The online is smooth and fun to play. If you have another person join you on your system or invite one of your friends online then you can play 2V2 fights. By yourself you play Free for All which can become challenging depending on what skill level you run into. People can play together on the PS3 and the PS Vita with very little lag. Speaking of the Vita, you get two copies of the game if you purchase the PS3 copy and a digital copy for the Vita. Not a bad deal if you have both.
As for problems with the game, there are some issues with balancing here and there that are quickly being patched and this type of game is only around as long as the community is there. Since there are not a lot of gameplay options besides the semi-story driven arcade mode. Each character has a prologue with some pretty good still art shots, a rival fight, a fight with Polygon Man (the original mascot of Sony NA) and an epilogue.
As for the big question: Is this game better than Super Smash Bros? My answer: It is a different type of game. Even though it borrows element from Smash, the same could be said for Mortal Kombat borrowing elements from Street Fighter. Time and effort were put into the game to be different and it shows. This game is set up for competitive play and it shows. I would have to akin this more to Street Fighter than SSB because a lot of the elements are shared. Meter management and combo consistency are important as well as movement and even observing some frame data. This is all presented in a format that both hardcore fighter players and new players just looking to have fun will get just that. Even though SSB has more recognizable characters and different gameplay, PSASBR has its own style and is not just a rip off of the formula popularized by Smash Bros. It is a worthwhile play and as long as the community is still around then this game can only go up from there.