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Reviewed By Matthew Le Blanc (SynthR)

Release Date: November 20, 2012
Platforms: Playstation 3, Vita
Similar Titles: Super Smash Brothers franchise, Powerstone

What I liked:
– Seeing the classic movesets from Playstation characters
– Incorporating so many franchises into the level design
– Four-player local multiplayer
– Cross-save capability

What I didn’t like:
– One-dimensional gameplay
– Lack of depth
– Playing online and seeing the same strategies used over and over

My first three hours with Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale was an act of perseverance. For whatever reason, I had a difficult time getting into the groove of things. The concept of performing super moves to score points was a little foreign. Admittedly, I went in playing like you would Super Smash Brothers, which is a mistake. Normally, every punch and kick would count toward damaging your opponent, ultimately pushing them off the screen. Instead, every hit you land accumulates AP (All-Star Power) for your super bar. Super moves are the only attack in the game that can kill an opponent and score you points. It’s one shot, one kill. You miss that shot and you’re back at square one.

playstation-all-stars-battle-royale-vita-1The best way to describe the gameplay is by picturing the over-the-top, characters flying all over the screen style of Super Smash Brothers coupled with a simplified, combo-centric fighting game. Where you would have to know an enormous string of buttons to pull off a 60 hit combo in something like Mortal Kombat, you could simply mash the square, triangle and circle buttons to the same effect. It’s no different than most side-scrolling button-mashers, but a small amount of depth presents itself in the form of juggling. Knowing your character inside and out allows you to string together a series of moves to bounce your opponent around for major AP. Unfortunately, that’s as deep as this game ever gets.

Each round I found myself jumping or evading to the edge of the map and working my way in, trying to hit as many opponents as possible to build my super bar. I would fire off some super moves, score some points, finish the match and repeat. I can’t say much more than that. I remember having epic battles in Super Smash Brothers where I actually jumped out of my seat from being falcon punched to the stars. I have yet to react the same in All-Stars. As a matter of fact, there have been times where I didn’t even notice I was killed due to the sudden and abrupt nature of some of the super moves. It’s bad when you think you’re still fighting only to notice you’re character is actually respawning.

The game is very fast-paced and action oriented, which is a good and bad thing. Sometimes I would like to marvel at the intricacies unfolding on screen, but the action, coupled with the level design, becomes so chaotic and muddy that you have no choice but to focus on your character.

It’s unfortunate because the developers have put so much detail into the roster’s movesets that it almost seems like a shame not to give it more of a spotlight. All of Kratos’ patented attacks with his double-chained blades are ripped right from the game. Cole MacGrath’s hands erupt with lightning just like they do in the Infamous franchise. It’s all there and it’s these details that make me appreciate the game for what it is despite it’s shortcomings.

Online Mode and Multiplayer
The entire game is modelled around competitive multiplayer. If you’re into playing the best in the world, this game has what you’re looking for. It’s merciless and unrelenting. Coming pretty late to the game, rarely did I ever stand a chance online. Everyone knew what they were doing and I was constantly being smashed around the map while trying to find my place.

Each game I played in housed at least one veteran who commanded the field, ultimately winning the match. After a few games, I noticed my strategy of dodging to the map’s edge was the same strategy the majority of the veterans were using. Some players would camp and fire long range attacks into the frays, while others used sweeping attacks to hit as many people in a group as possible to accumulate AP. Needless to say, playing online in, what I felt, was a one dimensional system grew old real quick. It was the same thing each match and, more often than not, players chose the same characters again and again to spam specific attacks.

playstation_allstars_battle_royal-shot-2Gripes aside, I will give the game credit for how stable it runs online. In all my matches, I didn’t experience any lag or disconnects. Finding matches also took seconds, which helps those with a tighter schedule find the action quicker. Those on the Vita will be pleased at how fluid the game can be.

I might have enjoyed All-Stars more if I had some competitors closer to my skill level to play with locally. Being older, it’s harder to rally a group of friends who are now married with children for an afternoon of gaming on the couch. Some of my fondest gaming memories were playing a four-player game on the Nintendo 64 for hours on end. I suspect Playstation All-Stars would be no different. For this reason, if you have a good group of friends that are willing to try out All-Stars, I’m sure none of you would be disappointed. If you have one friend who is at least interested, you do have the option of taking them online for some skull-crushing action. It’s a nice feature and something I wish more games would allow.

character-lineupCharacter Selection
There are 20 playable characters out of the box, with four currently available as DLC. Even though the roster is pretty extensive, I can’t help but feel Sony fell short with some of their decisions. When you look at Nintendo’s roster for Super Smash Bros., it makes sense and they mostly fit with the game’s art style. Seeing PaRappa The Rapper fight Nathan Drake with a Patapon war raging in the background created a definite disconnect in my mind. It’s a fantasy crossover I doubt anyone wanted to see or even asked for.

Other characters, like Issac Clarke from “Dead Space”, Raiden from “Metal Gear” and Dante from DMC, were odd choices as well because they’re not Playstation exclusive. Yes, Raiden and Dante made their first appearances on the Playstation, but it still seems out of place against exclusive characters like Drake or Cole MacGrath. I really feel like Sony had to stretch their criteria to fill up the ranks by including some well-known faces to muster interest. Make no mistake, all the characters look and feel great in game, but did anyone really want to play as Sir Daniel Fortesque from “MediEvil”? Does that character even personify Sony?

Arcade Mode
Arcade mode is All-Stars’ single player story mode. Correction: there’s no actual story to be told so I guess it shouldn’t even be called that. Each character is given an intro and ending cutscene, and one live action scene when you fight your rival. The “cutscenes” are actually, what looks like, desktop wallpaper slowly zooming in and out as the chosen character voices their reasons for participating in the game. The narrative rarely went any further than “wanting to be the best”.

Playstation allstars battle royale wallpaper kratosSony had a huge opportunity to provide something unique for the fans. They took the easy way out and tacked on some half-baked stories, calling it a day. With a cast this large, and obviously going through the trouble of getting the appropriate voice actors, some really interesting stories could have emerged, spanning multiple universes. Instead, the Arcade Mode’s true purpose is to dispense new costumes and extras that have no real bearing on the game. It’s a tried and true way of adding replay value to a game even if it’s ancient in design.

Vita Version
The Vita version of All-Stars, in my opinion, is the definitive version. Sure, the game looks better on the big screen, but the gameplay lends itself to the mobile, play anywhere aspect of the Vita. You can spend minutes or hours playing at home, in a dumpster, on the subway or while at work hiding in the bathroom.

The two most noticeable differences between the Vita and PS3 versions are the menus and a slight change in button configuration. The menus have been simplified for the Vita to free up some memory. Everything is a little less flashy, but still gets the point across. The L2 and R2 buttons – which the Vita do not have – become the touch screen, which is somewhat cumbersome but manageable.

The amount of graphical detail the Vita can put out still impresses me. The game runs as fast as its big brother version, but the textures aren’t as sharp, something you barely notice in the midst of combat. Even online, the Vita never skips a beat and remains a stable experience. It’s very impressive.

The ability to enable automatic cross-saving between the two versions was a smart move. You can pick up and progress right from where you left off the last time you played without having to upload a save file. I really hope we see more of this with future cross-buy games because having to manage your save file after every gaming session becomes a hassle.

Purchasable Items
I’m not a fan of micro-transactions, I don’t really buy DLC either. It blows me away whenever I see a game with so much of it available in the online store, shamelessly selling the most trivial of additions. All-Stars rivals a few Hasbro RPGs as having the most pieces of purchasable items I’ve ever seen for a game. How many, you ask? 104. That’s 104 new costumes, minions that cheer your character on and new characters/content packs. Thankfully, it’s all cosmetic and has no bearing on the gameplay. To advertise what’s available to players, all the content is already in-game and used by the computer, and online opponents, when you face them. Pretty sneaky marketing.

Final Thoughts
Before giving Playstation All-Stars a whirl, I went in with an open mind and attempted to distance myself from the obvious comparison between Super Smash Brothers. However, it’s impossible to not see the similarities and, unfortunately, Nintendo did it better twice. There is fun to be had with All-Stars and with its drop in price – $20 on sale for the PS3 cross-buy edition – you can definitely sink some hours into something that offers bite sized fun. I would be hard pressed to recommend this game at full price because of it’s repetitive gameplay, but it’s a game that better suits the Vita’s mobile capability than on a big screen. It’s also a game that lends itself to being played with friends instead of faceless veterans online. It was hard for me to get into this late in the game, but if you’re looking for a Smash Brothers experience, All-Stars would be your best bet at the moment even if the enjoyment doesn’t last nearly as long.

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