Read anything on SuperBot Entertainment's PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and you are certain to see the words "Super Smash Bros." pop up somewhere within the sea of words. For a brand that has lasted almost two decades now, it is about time that PlayStation got its own all-stars game. While the similarities to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. are indeed prevalent, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale certainly does enough to distinguish itself from the series whose shadow it has stood in since its announcement.
The roster of PlayStation all-stars isn't as star-studded as Nintendo's lineup, obviously, but given what they had to work with, SuperBot delivered a competent catalog of characters nonetheless. Sure, having third-party characters like BioShock's Big Daddy don't make much sense (BioShock started on the Xbox 360, after all), and the addition of an evil version of Cole MacGrath is a waste of a character slot, but most of the choices are smart. You have your old-school PlayStation characters such as Spike of Ape Escape fame, Sir Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil, Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth, and PaRappa the Rapper, as well as PlayStation 2 era mascots like Kratos, Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and Sly Cooper. Finally, the current PlayStation era gets much representation with Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Nariko (Heavenly Sword), Radec (Killzone), Cole MacGrath (Infamous), and Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet).
As stated with BioShock's Big Daddy, in addition to the first-party lineup of famous video game characters, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale contains several third-party selections. You have your pick of Dante (Devil May Cry), Raiden (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance), and Heihachi (Tekken). The promise of downloadable characters, the first batch of which comes out early this year, means the lineup is only going to get bigger and better.
To go along with the characters, there are all of the stages for these all-star brawls to manifest themselves in. Instead of just going with one franchise per arena, SuperBot has made it so as many series as possible can be represented across the 14 stages. These "mash-ups" take the unlikeliest of franchises and mushes them together to sometimes hilarious results. Having a fight in the pleasant and colorful world of LocoRoco when all of a sudden the background shatters to reveal a Metal Gear and dilapidated city landscape makes for some interesting eye candy. Couple that with environmental hazards like in the Sandover Village stage where characters from Hot Shots Golf tee off from the background and pelt the battlefield with golf balls, and you have some splendid wackiness. If it's too wacky for you, you can turn off all hazards for strictly fighting-based battles.
Battle Royale plays like a more advanced Super Smash Bros. in the control department. Instead of only having one button and a stick direction for a given attack, Battle Royale has three buttons, and depending on which way you're holding the stick (up, down, left or right), a different attack with be delivered. Square is used for weak attacks, Circle for medium, and Triangle for the heavy variety. Each character in the game has a wide array of ways to bring the pain onto his or her opponent(s), taking many pages out of the exact moves they have in the games they are from.
As you beat down your opponents, you fill up your AP gauge.When it is full, your character can unleash a Super Attack. Each character has three different Supers that they can use: a Level One, a Level Two, or a Level Three. A Level Three means they need to fill up the AP gauge three times without doing a Super. Unlike Level One Supers, Level Threes are essentially guarantees that you will at least get one kill. They last longer, and they are much harder to avoid than Level One Supers, which don't have much in the way of reach, and Level Two Supers, which while a step up from a Level One, still don't guarantee kills.
Unlike other party fighters, Supers are the only way to get kills in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. That means strategically using a Super through using it at the right time is crucial for victory. You can try to build up a Level Three, but you risk taking too much time doing so. Perhaps you go for a quick Level One Super kill, but that can be dodged rather easily in most cases. This area of strategy is one that I am particularly fond of. While it isn't as fun as Smash Bros. (sorry for bring that series up again), Battle Royale's setup is still a blast.
There are several modes for solo players without an Internet connection, but obviously the real joy is in hopping online and participating in all-star bouts against the world. More on that later. Arcade Mode is the primary source of entertainment for solo players. You take one of the 20 characters through a series of matches. It starts off slow with a one-on-one timed contest, then you are thrust into combat with two other fighters, then three, and then you face your character's rival before taking on the final boss. While it is true that Arcade Mode is a bit bare-bones, I did find myself enjoying going through it with each character, watching the multiple image intros and outros that bookend the playing, and obtain valuable experience in the process. Along with Arcade Mode, there are various character-specific trials and tutorials to try out to gain experience that way as well.
Speaking of which, gaining experience is something that keeps me hooked to Battle Royale long after I acquired all of the trophies (it is relatively easy to do so, all trophy hunters). Each match completed, whether win or lose, awards whatever character you currently are with experience. As you gain levels you earn new content specific to your character, such as icons, backgrounds, taunts, victory themes, and even an alternate costume at Level 10. With the ability to level up in the hundreds, you'll be playing as your mains for a grand time.
But no doubt the main reason that many would be interested in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale are the online and local multiplayer bouts that keep everyone up till the break of dawn. Battle Royale delivers in this regard splendidly with mostly lag-free matches online, either ranked, public, or private; free-for-all or team-based; hazards and/or items off or on. My only main gripe with the online experience is that I did encounter some freezing in between matches that forced me to have to hard reset my PS3 system. Nothing too major or damaging, but annoying nonetheless.
Sony's party fighter is certainly fast and fluid. There is seldom any signs of intentional slowdown, even with all of the things happening on the screen. However, by that same token, it can be troublesome to see where your character is on the screen, especially with the occasional camera problem of it not showing the entire battlefield. On the sound side, SuperBot Entertainment and its cohorts have done a fantastic job of remixing music, including original music and voice actors, and creating some nice sound effects in the process. Perhaps it's not the smoothest sailing ship in the fleet, but Battle Royale does not tread a lot of water in the presentation department.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale does not quite outshine its main competitor in the market, the Super Smash Bros. series, but at the same time it does not have the qualities of a ripoff either. The game does more than enough to separate itself from Smash and make for a tremendous party fighter. PlayStation fans now have a game to rally around and call their own, and one they can be proud to play and enjoy. The way Supers work might detach some players from the Battle Royale experience, but I found it to be a welcomed change to the standard formula-- again, setting it apart from other games of the party fighter genre. Gather your friends, whether online or off, and get ready for a Sony-style brawl to end them all.