Review by Dark Raven X
"A competent, but shallow Sony Smash Bros"
The comparisons between PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Super Smash Bros are obvious and well founded, but this game's second biggest problem is the obvious attempts at diversifying the gameplay. In an attempt to be unique, the fundamental mechanics of play are obfuscated and changed for the sake of being different, not because it makes for better game feel.
To win in PASBR, you must defeat opponents through use of a Super Move, acquired by charging up via hitting enemies with regular attacks. Outside of Super Moves, players are all invincible. Given the inevitable Super Smash Bros connection, this core difference can be very off putting at first. Despite having a much more complex combo system (though still nowhere near a 'true' fighting game, this is still very much in the realm of party game) the overall combat options feel more limited than Smash Bros; everything is building to that Super Move, and if your character's Super is ill suited to the level you're playing on, that's it. Done.
As everything revolves around these Super Moves, it can also be disheartening to be playing as a character with one or more of the moves being overall weaker in comparison to those elsewhere on the roster; some have very difficult to execute Level 1 Supers and must resort to saving their energy and building up to higher levels to have any hope of successfully deploying and scoring. This is not a high level fighting game, it is a party game, and everyone needs a chance. It would be more fitting if items were more diverse and potentially lethal - that element of randomness is what is missing here, the potential for the underskilled player to throw out a Pokeball that totally turns the tide.
The combat feels competent, but an odd mix of casual fun and a hamfisted attempt at higher complexity. But this is all still the second biggest problem. The biggest problem is just that... Sony doesn't have the franchise power to pull this off at all. Smash Brothers works because Nintendo's franchises are their lifeblood. Each IP is iconic, everybody knows Mario, Samus, Donkey Kong, Link. Sony does not and never has relied on first party mascots, and it really shows here; the most iconic PlayStation characters are missing - no Crash Bandicoot, no Lara Croft, no Cloud Strife. All characters that helped sell the PlayStation, all absent from this gathering of PS heroes.
The presentation is sloppy, the menus and general layout of the entire user interface is unappealing. There's a glaring lack of consitency to the whole thing; going into a menu to customize your player's icon will pause the music and produce a black loading screen for a moment, but changing the background in via the same menu does not. Swapping from your selected characters first outfit to second is seamless, but moving back to the first requires a split second load. These all add up to produce an overall feel of an unpolished product.
Even the characters look inconsistent with each other; no attempt is made to bring all the character models into some cohesive style and universe, rather they all appear to be their original models plucked from their respective games. To make another Super Smash Bros comparison; Mario does not look like he does in his games, a semi realistic denim texture is applied to bring him into a certain aesthetic that all the SSB characters share. PASBR does not do this, and the characters are totally uncohesive as a result.
The levels are a mixed bag, some levels are invaded by games with a totally different aesthetic, and it just does not work. A Loco Roco ultra colourful 2D world has it's background shatter to reveal a realistic world behind with a Metal Gear RAY screaming and dancing around, before getting attacked by the resident blobs of the former game. It's a novel premise, but often it's just a distracting eyesore. Some levels do manage to pull it off though; a realistic Killzone level gives way to an Ape Escape vista, and they blend together very well. A plane from Uncharted comes under attack from flying robots from Bioshock Infinite. When it works, it really works.
The story mode is no worse than the standard Tekken/Street Fighter fare, and makes a decent attempt at pairing up characters on the roster as rivals, often to fun effect when they finally face off, and in a rare show of originality and humour, the final boss is in fact an old discarded PlayStation mascot. The game's soundtrack is fantastic, some quality remixes of existing tracks to blend them together, the Bioshock related tracks are especially good, as is the game's main theme.
General negativity aside, I do not regret the purchase, a new party fighting game is always welcome, but it doesn't have the same visual appeal or sheer fun factor of its inspirational title. It's a competently made, though fundamentally flawed and ill conceived game, and I find myself wishing just a little bit more work had gone into the presentation and making the menus look a little nicer.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/03/12
Game Release: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (EU, 11/23/12)
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