Review by blitz_0623
A game only halfway through its potential
If you are still undecided on whether to get this game or not, I hope this in-depth review can give you insight and help in your decision. This review should be able to answer most common questions. Note that I will try keeping references to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros series at a minimum as I feel this game deserves to be reviewed as its own game and not a clone or whatever you want to call it.
When Sony announced Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, which I will call PSASBR or All-Stars from now on, there were mixed reactions. Some screamed Smash Bros ripoff and some were delighted. Some didn't know what to think of it, and some just didn't care.
All-Stars brings together both old and new franchises that have appeared on a Playstation console, from the very first Playstation, to the dominant PS2 and now the current PS3. Sound too good? Don't get too excited, as characters like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon aren't included YET.
Presentation - 6
This is the bottleneck of the game, ie its weakest link. Save for the extraordinary introduction video, the entire menu interface and arcade mode presentation are very plain and bland. This isn't really a bad thing if all you're after is gameplay and fun like me, but for a game to be a critical success, everything about it has to come together to create the perfect experience, and the menus alone can turn off a person. As some of you may know, there is also a PS Vita version available (and you get it for free if you buy the PS3 version). This may have had an influence to the game's interface design. The whole interface looks like it was designed for a touchscreen. The menu items look way too big, and you could get lost in the navigation from time to time until you get used to it.
The arcade mode on the other hand, seems like it only exists for the sake of the Single Player component. When you start an arcade mode of any character, you will see a small scene with the character you selected talking about meeting other people. Then you'll automatically be thrown to successive matches until you meet your 'rival' which is supposedly your hardest opponent (1v1). And then you meet the final boss, beat him/it, see another small scene in the end, and that's it. You just beat someone's story. It is to be noted that this obviously isn't the main attraction in the game, however if you are someone looking for an engaging single player, this will disappoint you. Most people will not find any reason to play arcade mode since you can unlock everything through other modes. People like me like collecting trophies and learning a bit of a character's biography, so arcade mode helps. Plus it is also a good way of learning how s character plays, unless you are a Practice Mode kind of player.
Graphics - 9
For a cross over brawler, I'm really impressed by the graphics. Think of a cartoony version of the characters, but still very accurate and pretty. The stages are a mash up of 2 different games, and I personally think SuperBot did a really good job of integrating them together. The stages start with one game, then transitions over to another, with the hazards also changing. The stages represent a franchise very well, and if you've played most of the PS2 franchises included and forgot about them, the stages do a very good job of reminding you and giving you that "Hey I remember this!" moment. You will also get some good laughs, like seeing Captain Qwark get eaten by a God of War Hydra.
Sound - 10
I find the menu music to be very catchy. The in-game sounds also mix very well. The voice actors do a good job in reprising their roles as the characters they voiced before. Let me just say that the game is very authentic in the sense that the characters involved haven't really changed the last time you remember them, save for New Dante, who I will be talking more about soon. This is where nostalgia comes in, besides the characters themselves. You will be hearing sounds and music from older games again. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the Uncharted and Killzone theme songs all over again. Just like the characters, the sound is also very authentic and is a strong point of this game.
Gameplay - 9
This is where it's at. I didn't buy this game to look at menus or each character's story. Just like any other person who is interested in the game, I bought this to have fun. A game like this is meant to be played with other people, be it locally or online and it delivers and is actually the best asset of this game. While the menus and arcade looked boring, the gameplay will give you a different feeling. It is very fluid, dynamic, smooth and engaging.
Every character has a set of moves, divided into similar controls as the Smash Bros series - side/up/down + Square/Circle/Triangle. All these attacks contribute to gaining what we call AP. By gaining enough AP, a player builds up a meter up to 3 times. On each level, a special move, more commonly known as a Super, is available for use. Supers are the ONLY way to get a kill and therefore win a match. They are divided into 3 tiers - level 1, 2 and 3, corresponding with how many times the meter has been filled. Each character has different Supers. Some have better level 1 Supers than their 2's, etc and because of this, several issues arise. At the moment, the Super available corresponds to your meter level, however I for one would prefer that the game allow us to use, say two level 1's instead of being forced to use a level 2 Super. I would also want to be able to use Supers in the air. This is not a huge concern, but it definitely adds strategy to the game. Another thing to note is that combo characters such as Kratos, Raiden and Dante build up their meters quicker than other characters. One can argue it's because their Supers aren't as great as the others, but if timed properly, their Supers can be just as deadly.
Other than the attack buttons and generating AP, a player can also choose to grab using the right analog stick. The grab system is a very nice addition to the game. Grabbing another player will cause him to lose some AP represented by AP orbs (for Ratchet and Clank veterans, you will notice a similarity to Nanotech orbs used to heal R&C). Picking up these orbs essentially allows the grabber to 'steal' the victim's AP. This is a good way of slowing down people charging up to level 3.
Items and hazards play a special similar role in the battle system. Both can be disabled before the match. If not disabled, both will appear randomly throughout the match. Their effect is like grabbing - any character hit by a hazard, or by a person wielding a weapon loses orbs. Most items are weapons used to hit other players and cause them to lose orbs the same way grabbing them would. Some items give a temporary boost to the player (Hermes' boots gives a temporary speed boost). Hazards are part of the stages and can hit all players at the same time, causing orbs to scatter around.
There are 2 ways to play the game - Tournament Mode or Versus mode. Tournament mode is the online component. You can either join a ranked (Free-for-All or 2v2 3 minute Time Limit) match or unranked (you can choose different settings explained below). There is also a leaderboard that includes some statistics for your viewing pleasure if you're the kind of person who views stats as an integral part of the game and a player's skill. Versus mode allows you to play locally with other people, against computers or online with PSN friends in a created party. A very common question I've been seeing is the inclusion of 1v1. This is ONLY available in Versus mode where you invite a PSN friend (party of 2). I believe one of the reasons this was omitted is because it's a 'party' game. It's meant to be played with more than one person. I don't have any complaints, since I'm not very fond of 1v1's against random people, but it definitely won't hurt to add a 1v1 mode online.
The settings I mentioned above are detailed here - Time Limit, Stock Limit and Kill Limit, all of which can be played via Free-for-All (FFA) or teams (2v2 or 3v1 in Versus). They are also customizable - you can choose how long Time Limit is, how many lives you have in Stock, and number of kills in Kill Limit. The modes are very basic and are what you expect in this type of game. You will probably find Time Limit to be the fairest mode as I did, although each mode is supposed to be played differently in the first place. Time Limit is the basic mode where you have to kill to win, as is Kill Limit. Stock mode is about survivability. You can win the game with only 1 kill - the finishing blow.
Replayability - 9
I would easily give this a 10 if they included characters to be unlocked, but they didn't and it honestly takes away a lot of motive to play single player. The multiplayer component is awesome, however, and will definitely keep you coming back for more, whether to play with teams or just slug it out free for all style. Characters have ranks that grow every after match (single or multiplayer). As their rank grows, you unlock several things related to their games, including minions. You can customize your 'banner' that shows up during the loading screen with a background an icon - both of which are unlocked through character progression. Really, all of these I find are unnecessary, they are just there for people that have a thing for unlocks. The real replayability comes from the fun one gets from playing the game, and I tell you, you will definitely have fun.
This game has all the potential in the world to be one of the biggest games of 2012 and even the PS3 era. While the gameplay and battle system are a massive hit, the roster doesn't quite cut it. Don't get me wrong - I like the roster, but just like most other people, it could be better. Support via DLC gives a glimmer of hope that characters such as Crash and Spyro can still be thrown into the game, but at the moment, not everyone is familiar with the included characters. Other than the roster, a few balancing issues prevent this game from being the game it can be. Finally, the entire presentation needs a makeover. I cannot stress this hard enough, but the menus look incredibly boring, and the arcade mode is lackluster.
+ Extremely fun and addictive battle system
+ Authentic sounds, stages
+ Excellent use of characters included
+ Good cast of characters, could be better
- Poor presentation
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (US, 11/20/12)
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