PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale PS3 Review

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe  Developer: SuperBot Entertainment  

Genre: Fighting  Players: 1-4  Age Rating: 7+ Other console/handheld formats: PS Vita

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is the PS3’s take on Super Smash Bros, bringing together iconic characters for a celebration of both the past and present of the PlayStation brand, though celebration here doesn’t consist of food, drink and merriment, but instead lots and lots of fighting.

In terms of characters, current heroes like Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, Ratchet from Ratchet & Clank, Kratos from God of War, and the charismatic Sackboy from Littlebigplanet. It’s also great to see the likes of the flame haired female warrior Nariko from the early PS3 hope Heavenly Sword, skeleton Knight sir Daniel fortesque from the long dormant MediEvil series and the rapping dog and PS1 icon Parappa the Rapper. Third party characters such as Dante from Capcom and Ninja theory’s upcoming reboot DMC: Devil May Cry (though the more famous and established white haired one is bizarrely nowhere to be seen), Raiden from Metal Gear, Heihachi from Tekken and Big Daddy from BioShock are also featured.

Individual characters that were once synonymous with the PlayStation brand such as Crash Bandicoot, Lara Croft, Gabriel Logan and Solid Snake are sadly missing, whilst, disappointedly, the Final Fantasy and Resident Evil franchises aren’t represented either, and it also would have been pleasant to see more obscure series’ like Vib Ribbon, Wild Arms, Dark Cloud/Chronicle and Suikoden covered alongside the more mainstream games. Perhaps some of these unfortunate omissions will be added to the game further down the line with DLC.

The roster is still strong, however, and offers plenty of variation and all the characters signature attacks and abilities that they use in their respective games are present: for instance one attack sees Nathan Drake hiding behind cover, whilst Sackboy can fly around the stages with a jet pack. There’s some balance issues, which sees some characters being wildly overpowered at this point in time.

Like the character selection, the backgrounds are also full of fan service and dynamically transform whilst you’re fighting. For instance The God of War stage sees Patapon’s eventually emerging in the background and then proceeding to sing, whilst the Parappa the Rapper stage eventually sees the city come under attack by a Mech from Killzone. Such transformations aren’t always just cosmetic either, as they sometimes bring hazards into play that you must be wary of whilst fighting.

On the surface, with the chaotic combat the fighting looks very much along the lines of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, though PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale doesn’t require you to send your opponents flying off the screen to win; instead each character has three super moves that you must use to defeat your opponents, with higher level ones being flashier and more effective, for instance Raiden will transform all of his opponents into cardboard boxes, Dante will shift into his devastating devil incarnation and Big Daddy will flood the stage, slowing down his opponents.

Characters have a fairly extensive range of moves, which, by themselves, are effortlessly executed (though not always easy to land) with face buttons and simple, individual up, down, left and right directions required. Things get more complicated once you try and mix these moves into combinations, though it still doesn’t manage to come close to matching the intricacies and technical depth of more serious minded fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter.

By winning fights and such, all characters are able to level up and, by doing so, you’ll sometimes earn rewards such as additional costumes, taunts and victory music. Unfortunately those that are expecting the level of hidden content of Super Smash Bros. will be left disappointed at how comparatively paltry it is with its extras.

Modes consist of an arcade mode, which sees you taking part in a series of battles cultivating in an encounter with Polygon Man. Each character has a flimsy story in the mode, none of which are very interesting, though it’s a genuine delight witnessing characters from contrasting games being involved in verbal exchanges with one another.

Combat trials are also available, of which allows you to test your skills on a fundamental level, as well as with individual characters. There’s also a rich and genuinely helpful practice mode on offer, which is a handy tool for those that are looking to take their game to the next level.

Like just about every fighting game in existence, the most longevity is found in the games multiplayer facet. There’s offline versus matches, whilst  the online multiplayer pleasingly caters to guest players as well. The online is impressive in how smooth it generally performs and the fact that there are seasons is a nice idea. Such goodness is  hindered by the occasional bug however, which sees you unable to respawn for the remainder of a match, whilst other times you’re unable to move.

The primary inspiration for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is obvious, though it brings enough contrasts to its mechanics to go beyond a mere clone. The character roster meanwhile, as it stands, could be stronger and it would benefit from being more finely balanced than it currently is, though hopefully it will evolve over time.

Nevertheless, the game is an enjoyable first effort that has enough to please both longstanding and newer PlayStation fans, and it succeeds at blending disparate universes and allowing such absurd match-ups as Sly Cooper vs. Nathan Drake. It’s hopefully the instigation of a series and one that, judging by this, has the potential in the future to become the celebration that gaming royalty like the PlayStation brand wholly deserves.