Despite a solid blend of excitement and scepticism, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale has finally arrived for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. Superbot Entertainment's crossover-fueled fighting game has made quite a splash since it was first revealed earlier this year, but many who've been following the title's development have remained cautiously optimistic about the final product.
Rest assured that Battle Royale is much more than just the Super Smash Bros. clone that many initially claimed it to be, but it comes up a little short in terms of worthwhile bonus content.
For those unaware of the basic premise behind PlayStation All-Stars, it's a 4-player fighting game that stars well-known first and third party characters from the PlayStation brand's past and present. Everyone from Ape Escape's Spike to God of War's Kratos are prominently featured in the game's roster, alongside a few guest characters like Bioshock's Big Daddy, and they can battle it out for supremacy on several different game-inspired venues. The best part about these stages though is that they feature two game worlds invading one another. It's a little odd to see the cartoony world of Loco Roco invaded by Metal Gear, but these stages just help channel the zaniness of the title's actual concept.
There are a total of 20 characters that compose the initial launch roster in PS All-Stars, and (as many fans are already well aware of) that's simply not even comparable to the competition in terms of sheer volume. Only having 20 combatants to choose from is one thing, but when there are so many other highly desired mascots still missing from the title it's hard not to be disappointed by what could have been. Superbot has already announced plans to release the first pair of free downloadable characters early next year, and presumably the studio has even more still coming, but the on-disc roster is a little thin.
Once gamers choose their favorite character, they can jump straight into the single-player 'Arcade' mode — something that many fans will definitely enjoy. Each fighter has their own introductory scene that plays out with several different still images, and while it does work to explain the unique motives behind each brawler, it's still a bummer that Sony didn't bother to include actual in-game cinematics. Each character also has a special rivalry with another mascot in All-Stars, and portions where the two interact with one another, fortunately, features a brief cinematic of the two. These videos are incredibly short though, and don't really give much background into why these icons from two different games are even going toe-to-toe with such hostility in the first place.
Regardless, going through as each character will net players trophies in PlayStation All-Stars, but, more importantly, it'll also level each fighter up. Levelling up a character will unlock certain options for gamers to utilize, and there's well over 1,000 things to earn in total. For the most part, however, these unlockables feel trivial, and don't add that much to the actual game. All of the character specific content (i.e. alt. costumes, intros, outros, victory music, taunts, etc.) makes it well worth investing time and effort into unlocking new items, but these are still in short supply. Most of the time, players will be earning pictures and backgrounds, which are only used to customize a limited profile that's displayed to online users, but very few will want to spend time earning them. There are plenty of items to unlock, but a majority of them are just too minor to be desirable; fortunately, the gameplay itself will draw in gamers for countless hours.
The core fighting mechanics in this title are unlike any in other fighting games out there, and they end up making for a nice change of pace from similar members of the same genre. In order to secure victory, gamers will have to get as many kills and as few deaths as possible, but achieving a kill isn't as simple as pummelling foes into submission or knocking them off an edge. Instead, players are tasked with building up their 'Super Attacks', and this is done by effectively blocking and scoring combos. As gamers land attacks, their meters at the bottom of the screen will begin to build up, and once they fill the bar they'll have earned a level 1 Super.
Once the fatal first level attack has been earned, combatants then have the option of using the Super or trying to reach the next level for an even more devastating attack. Players can build the bar up a maximum of three times, and activating that will usually net users a great deal of kills. These extremely powerful moves are the only way to win a match, and having three different tiers to build up to adds a nice layer of strategy to Battle Royale. It's a very different way to play a fighting game, but Superbot's excellent execution of the mechanic has given this game a unique aspect that many will want to experience firsthand.
If the standard way of playing doesn't tickle your fancy, then it may be reassuring to know that there are several other gameplay options that gamers can choose from. The standard 'Stock' match is also available in case players want to stick to a more traditional formula, while the 'Kill' match helps make for a nice change of pace whenever individuals feel the need to mix things up a little. 'Stock' gives characters a set number of lives, and once those have run dry the person/CPU who depleted their life reserve will be unable to spawn. 'Kill', on the other hand, sets a score that must be achieved in order to win the game. Both of these make for some nice variation from the standard method of play, and their inclusion is much appreciated.
Once the story-esque mode has run its course, eager fans will probably jump right into the multiplayer aspect of Battle Royale, and this is where the title really shines. Players can hop into a free-for-all scenario against three other opponents, or they can team up with a friend and lay the smackdown cooperatively. Regardless, competition can be found locally or online, and the end result is almost always a blast. The connection speeds aren't too shabby at all either with the exception of a few buggy rounds that'll occur from time to time. Overall, multiplayer works well and many can probably thank the recent All-Stars beta for that. A warning for second-hand buyers though, this game comes with an online pass, and players will be unable to play against others online until the code has either been redeemed or purchased off of the PSN.
Overall, PlayStation All-Stars is an entirely different beast than any other fighting game out there, and its unique style of play sets it apart from similar competition. It's so much more than many initially gave it credit for, and the only downfalls it has are a lack of interesting unlockable content and its overall roster size.
Anyone who invests in the PS3 game will also score a digital copy of the Vita version for free, making it a worthwhile deal for game-hungry portable aficionados. Superbot Entertainment and Sony have managed to create something that gamers will be playing with friends for quite some time to come, and anyone looking for a fun new fighting game will find just that in this crossover-fueled beat'em up.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is currently available on PlayStation 3 and Vita.
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