Before we get down to anything else lets get it over with, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is not Super Smash Brothers although, it’s undeniably more of a mouthful. Although they share a fair amount of design ideas All-Stars isn’t a soulless clone of a successful classic. It admirably strives to carve it’s own place in the genre of mascot brawling and, it succeeds. Don’t dismiss All-stars a “me too” affair on Sony’s behalf, it’s fantastic frantic fun means it’s well worth your time. Now we’re (hopefully) over that, time to move on to real matters.
All stars 20 fighter strong roster is compromised from diverse range first party characters as you might expect, but also dabbles in third person franchises to further flesh out it’s selection. The offering’s vary from the very well known like LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy, with more than a sprinkling of obscure choices, Fat Princess and MediEvil’s Sir Daniel Fortesque immediately jump to mind. More avid Playstation games will appreciate these members, however the average person isn’t going to know, remember or frankly care about Sir Dan star of a series that hasn’t seen any serious action since 2000. Furthermore its painfully obvious that they’re a few “all-stars” from PlayStations rich history missing: Solid Snake, Crash Bandicoot, Lara Croft and Spyro to list a few. The Roster is admittedly a little underwhelming.
Start playing however and soon the odd roster choice or the sting of a missing favourite becomes a thing of the past, because what All-Stars does best is what matters, it’s brilliant fun. Every fighter is unique, every member of the cast feels as if they have been built from the ground up, there is no palette swapping to be found here (with the obvious exception of good and evil Cole). Bioshock’s Big daddy is a lumbering monster whose moves are powerful but less combo-centric he needs to stay in close, whilst a character like Killzone’s Colonel Radec uses a plethora of ranged techniques and a few tricks to escape the fray when stuck in melee range. No doubt you’ll find yourself trying all the characters; working through their intricacies combined with All-stars superb fighting mechanics is a joy to experience. It won’t be long until you find a character that fits you perfectly.
Most experience with the experimenting is through the games story mode, which is standard fighting game fodder. There is very little narrative and what is there is as paper-thin, perhaps even more so than the usual affair. You play through a set number of rounds against AI opponents whose ability is perfectly fine, they never feel over-powered or cheap; on the other hand they’re quite dull to fight. This standard round based combat repeats until the second last stage where upon you encounter a mini-boss level in the form of your rival, followed by the last boss himself. This finale is a huge let-down, seeing as the antagonist is an old Playstation advertising campaign, in North America; no where else in the world, for anyone but the Americans this falls totally flat. You may have your interest peaked at the previously mentioned rival, Developer Superbot came up with the intriguing idea of pairing characters up into “rivalries”, the idea plays out mesmerizing well in the opening cut-scene, however in the game it is relegated to a 30 second long cut-scene between the 2 characters who’ve never met basically chatting before the fight initiates, it’s underwhelming.
Rounds in All-Stars take place between two to four combatants, these rounds are not won in the traditional fighting game manner, nor like Super Smash Brothers, they’re no health bars or percentages to be found here. Instead successfully damaging your enemy accumulates AP, which is used to fill your super meter. The meter can be fully charged up to three times, each time improving the power of the technique expending the bar will use, hitting other players with these cause them to be knocked out and re-spawn, each knock out earns you a point. A daring evade from a foe or a mistimed super by yourself can waste a whole charge and so must be used with the utmost precision, this system of heavy emphasis on tactical use of super moves sets All-Stars apart from it’s competitors. This is a brave design choice on Superbot’s part, but crucially it works, it’s a lot of fun and helps give All-Stars an altogether deeper identity.
All 14 of All-Stars brilliantly designed stages furthers the identity that All-Stars carries, each stage is a mash up of well known franchises; what’s more all of the stages are interactive. Watch bewildered as LittleBigPlanet’s creator mode is ravaged by the antics of Buzz as the stage spontaneously changes mid-fight. The environments alone would be fantastic but the excitement brewed from the first time you see these stages morph into something radically different is one of wonderment. The stages themselves are more interactive that just changing, for example on the God of War Hades level players will have to actively avoid being hit by Hades who looms over the stage slamming down his claws unleashing shock waves from time to time.
All-Stars single player may fall a bit flat but, truly comes into it’s own when played against other human competitors. All-Stars online modes shine allowing quick access into battles, pick a character then enter the match making queue after a short wait you’ll up against 4 random players. They are multiple match types to compete in, the stand-out options being a all vs all match of 4 players, or a team match of 2 v 2. Unfortunately only the all v all matchmaking matches will affect online rankings, it’s a shame as the 2 v 2 portion is welcome break after so many all out brawls. Your rank is earned through playing in these ranked matches during tournaments that are reset monthly, at the end of each tournament players are awarded different coloured belts depending on the number of BP (Belt Points) earned during the month. The online is perhaps the best I’ve seen in a fighting game I’ve played to date but to see the All-Stars multi-player at it’s best you need to gather some of your friends and play local co-op because it is a blast.
All-Stars has a long on hard road ahead of it, full of unfair comparisons and misplaced doubt in the titles quality. It’s most jarring flaw is that to understand the systems fully it needs to be played, but the number of sceptics may well stop that from happening. Either way, All-Stars is a absolute blast to play, although it has it’s flaws it’s undeniably fun; at it’s best in a room packed with close friends. Anyone whose looking for their next fix of a great brawler would do well to pick All-Stars up on PS3, that’ll also bag you a free vita copy an identical game that’s identically fun.