In the build up to launch day it was hard to stifle fans’ excitement when PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale finally touched down. After what seemed like years of speculation Sony had finally shipped the crossover fighter many had been dreaming of.
Released for both the PlayStation 3 and Vita, All-Stars allowed players to pit their favourite gaming icons against one another across a selection of unique interactive arenas. From obvious inclusions to newer members of the PlayStation family, developer SuperBot delivered on its promises and then some.
Having only played Super Smash Bros. on a handful of occasions, I’m in no position to compare it to what many originally dubbed a blatant copycat of. However, even to my limited knowledge, there are some immediate similarities.
Adopting a two-dimensional perspective is the default for all but a few fighting games out there but the way its used in Battle Royale is fairly evocative of Nintendo’s smash-hit brawler. Four players, regardless of how teams are structured, will navigate stages via a series of platforms, giving the game a vertical dynamic. Stage-outs and the use of super-charged signature powers also permeate All-Stars’ gameplay experience.
The former was a particular highlight for me, personally. I’ve always been used to fighters in which the prime objective is simply to batter your opponent until their health bar is depleted. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this genre staple although, in my experience, it can lead to an excess in tension, nudging players into using repetitive or sneaky strategies to win.
All Stars, on the other hand, uses a system in which players fill a gage as opposed to emptying it. Through using a combination of attacks, you will unlock your “Super Move” with three different levels, the third being the most powerful. It’s only with these attacks that you can defeat an enemy with regular moves simple used for point building as well as the occasional stun or knock back.
It’s a great system and one that also generates a good deal of unpredictability. The best moments in All-Stars are usually the ones in which a player comes from out of nowhere, delivering a much-needed triple kill to propel them into the lead. Even at its most frustrating the game was still fair, rewarding both skillful and creative players.
There was a downside to all this, however. The roster, despite a few appalling omissions, and gameplay won a bagful of brownie points though the same couldn’t be said of the content on offer.
Creating a story to tie together so many different game universes would never have been easy. Whatever SuperBot may have come up with it would be goofy and stuffed with plenty of loopholes and inconsistencies – you know, the “so good, it’s bad” kind of story.
Sadly, however, players didn’t even get that. Instead the developer bolted character-specific cutscenes at the beginning and end of an arcade-style ladder. After running the gauntlet with a few PlayStation heroes the mode became painfully repetitive and lacked the same passion SuperBot had put into its fighting mechanics.
Since launching almost eighteen months ago, All Stars hasn’t had an easy ride. Just like a number of recent PlayStation exclusives, it failed to break the charts and achieved less than positive sales numbers. To top it off the game’s stream of downloadable content was cut-off after two releases with developer SuperBot shuttered just months after.
Online numbers have no-doubt continued to dwindle but, overall, PSASBR is still worth a punt. The combat is surprisingly deep, with each character having their own expansive movesets. The only thing that let the game down was the lack of a substantive game mode players could keep going back to.
Hopefully we’ll see a sequel in the years to come. With so many amazing characters to utilise and a solid web of core mechanics, Sony should genuinely consider taking another crack at the idea somewhere down the line.