True story: when I played the original Super Smash Bros. in 1999, I immediately wished Sony would make the same game, but with their characters. My wish as a young lad has quite literally come true with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Smash Bros. it is not, but this brawler still pits Playstation mascots (plus a few third-party contenders) against each other in franchise-themed stages. But does Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale really grant my childhood wish, or does this brawler lose the match?
Gameplay in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is simple: take control of your Playstation favorite and beat the snot out of everyone else. Using a combination of light, medium, and heavy attacks (otherwise known as “duh, it’s a fighting game”), you combo your opponents to build up an AP meter. Fill that meter, then unleash a Super Move to KO an opponent – it’s the only way to score points. This super kill-only mechanic starts off Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale on a weird foot: not having any sense of damage takes so much away from a fighting game. When only Super Moves can kill, the sense of “whoa, that combo really did some damage” is gone. It’s an odd design choice, to say the least.
The cast of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is its biggest draw. Characters run the gamut of current Sony franchises to 90′s classics, and additions like Bioshock‘s Big Daddy bring in third-party support. Unfortunately, the cast is far from perfect. The only game to have more than one playable character is inFAMOUS, with both Cole and Evil Cole available for play. This was apparently due to licensing issues, but using a character slot for a palette swap is just lame. Some heavy hitters are missing as well, with the lovable Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon strangely absent; there are also zero Final Fantasy inclusions. This too could be a licensing issue, but having more characters from the available franchises would have calmed the issue.
With each character in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale comes a unique move set. Here, developer SuperBot Entertainment shines with their attention to detail. Uncharted‘s Nathan Drake has a move set that is absolutely true to his character, with grenades, pistols, and machine guns at his disposal. LittleBigPlanet‘s Sackboy uses his game’s Popit to great affect, and God of War‘s Kratos has his staple combos ready to be unleashed. In the same vein, every character in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale has three Super Moves, set to three AP meter levels. The higher the level, the more powerful the attack, and they range from area-of-affect electrocutions to screen-clearing space lasers. SuperBot’s attention to detail is keen here as well, with the likes of the titular PaRappa the Rapper’s screen-clearing “U Rappin’ Good”-themed attack.
Unfortunately, balance is not given as much attention in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Sword-wielding characters are favored, with Metal Gear Solid‘s Raiden being frankly broken. Conversely, some characters simply cannot be used effectively, like MediEvil‘s Sir Daniel Forteseque. As a reaction to this, most characters have either powerful supers or powerful combo capabilities. Yet this does not stop Devil May Cry‘s Dante from being overpowered, or Sackboy’s Level 3 Super Attack from being able to flat-out win the match.
Beyond characters, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale offers multiple themed stages. Each is a fusion of two franchises: Jak & Daxter‘s Sandover Village gets rained on by golf balls from Hot Shots Golf, and PaRappa the Rapper‘s Dojo gets invaded by a giant walker from Killzone. This takes the already unique flavor of specific games even further by mashing them up with a second title. But much like the character roster, SuperBot made some odd choices here too. Bioshock Infinite – a game not even released yet – is featured twice, with its own stage and an appearance by its Songbird character in another…and that’s on top of a playable Big Daddy! With the likes of Sir Daniel Fortesque or Heavenly Sword‘s Nariko not having a stage to their names, why give so many nods to Bioshock? For that matter, why does Hot Shots Golf appear in a stage, but offer no playable character? Don’t misunderstand – the stages in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale fantastic, but that doesn’t mean SuperBot didn’t make odd choices.
With the stages Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale come music and items. Hearing familiar tunes from Uncharted or Sly Cooper while duking it out is a real treat, and it’s easily the most reverent part of the game. Items come in many flavors, and they too give nods to Sony franchises. The Leech Beam and Gravity Shield from Wipeout are great (but seriously, no Wipeout stage?), and blasting foes with Uncharted‘s RPG-7 is immensely satisfying. Items tie into AP meter-building too, as some build up your meter or drain an opponent’s.
A large cast of characters, a variety of stages, a dense soundtrack, and a laundy list of items – these make any fighting game good, but so do multiple modes. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale offers both single- and multiplayer modes, all of which are fun in their own right. The biggest draw to the game is, of course, beating the snot out of each other online, and there Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale shines like a star with a few dying parts. I say this because the aforementioned character balance issues can sap the joy from some matches. But by and large, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale has solid online features. You can rank up individual characters to show the world just how tough you’ve gotten with your main fighter (though it is nothing but number), a rank which is also used and boosted in offline modes. Aside from the “kill as much as you can in this time limit” match style, you can also play stock matches or first-to-X-number-of-kills matches, all of which can be done under the umbrella of ranked or non-ranked matches. And it all goes down with zero lag or server issues – assuming the host of the match doesn’t get his internet from a hamster wheel, that is.
Should you choose to play Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale offline, the single-player modes are just as fun. The Arcade mode lets you pick a character and play through his story, climaxing in a battle against his rival and a final skirmish against Polygon Man (an original Playstation icon whose inclusion is a great choice by SuperBot). You can also choose the typical training and tutorial modes, but Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale also offers a challenge mode. Here, you can pick a character and take up a series of move-based challenges to unlock a wide variety of content.
Those unlockables, of course, are a huge part of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. New taunts, victory music, and title cards are just a few of the features to be won in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Sadly, this does not apply to characters or stages, as all are unlocked from the beginning. It’s another odd choice from SuperBot, as new characters are a key part of any fighting game, though more have already been announced as DLC. Regardless, there is plenty of offline content to be unlocked in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale.
Characters, stages, items, game modes, and unlockables - Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale has everything it needs…except balance. That is the key factor here. Some characters have a clear advantage on the battlefield, and some are nearly unusable. SuperBot also balanced their included content strangely, with too much presence from some franchises and some getting barely a mention. SuperBot has promised more content such as characters and stages through DLC, but this review is for the base game. Some of the balance issues could easily be patched, but that wasn’t the case at the time of this review. Even so, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is pure fun to play, with both nostalgia and current-gen gimmicks to its name. Even the Super Move-only kills work well as a mechanic; the pre-release worry was ill-founded. Despite any odd design choices or balancing issues, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is worth your time – period.
[Editor’s Note: The PS3 version of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale was played for this review. Unless the PS Vita version has remarkable differences, consider this our definitive review for both platforms.