Let’s get the most obvious comparison out of the way first. Yes, this game is very similar to the Super Smash Bros series. And while that’s true, Playstation All-stars Battle Royale is different enough that it doesn’t feel like a rip-off. Although differences are definitely good, they don’t automatically make the game itself good, and this is the case with Battle Royale, as it falls a little bit short of what could have been amazing.
Before getting into the bad, let’s discuss the good. The most obvious point is the simple fact that you get to play as some of the greatest Playstation characters of all time. From greats like Nathan Drake to forgotten classics like Sir Daniel Fortesque, Playstation lovers will undoubtedly be buried in tons of nostalgia. The next best thing is the astounding presentation – the graphics are great, especially for a 2D fighting game, and every character looks as they should. On top of that, the voice acting is superb and brings these iconic characters to life, and the catchy music is extremely well done.
Level design is also spectacular, the levels being good representations of the video games that have been mashed together here. The backgrounds are detailed and busy, meaning there is a lot to take note of. Admittedly, there isn’t much time to admire them during the fighting, but when you get a moment to rest you will instantly see the amount of time put into each level, and this prevents the backgrounds from feeling like they were simply painted on. On top of that, the environments can change as the match progresses to keep things interesting, or they might create hazards that you need to dodge.
It will take some practice to get used to the game mechanics, which do feel different to Super Smash. In fact, expecting Royale to play exactly like Super Smash is the wrong way to head into the game. It feels different, plain and simple, and that does not mean the game is bad – in fact, the gameplay is fairly fun. There are times when everything clicks and the game becomes addictive with its fluid and fast-paced fighting. This is when Royale truly shines, although it also paints a picture of what it could have been, as the game never quite reaches its potential.
The basic premise of Royale is to fill a character’s super bar to unleash their super move, which can kill an opponent. To fill the gauge, you have to land attacks on enemy opponents, and each attack will reward you with a different amount of AP. This idea is perfectly okay as an extra to strive for. However, it should not be the entire game.
No matter what game mode you are playing – timed mode, stock mode, or reversed-stock mode – the only way to win is by charging your super bar and unleashing your super move. There is no health bar and no damage amount, and this takes away almost all the strategy. Do you keep your distance and whittle away at someone’s health, or do you try and land that one big move to obliterate them? Well, frankly, it doesn’t matter in this game since it will always come down to one of your three super moves. The best strategy in Royale is to find the quickest attack that gives you the most AP and just spam it. You can already imagine how frustrating this game can get if the best strategy is spamming one attack.
To make matters worse, the characters are not evenly matched at all. It’s unrealistic to hope for a fighting game to have completely even characters, but in Royale it is painfully obvious. There are three levels of super moves, and as one would expect, the first level requires the least amount of AP while the third level requires the highest amount. This implies that a higher level super move is more powerful than a lower level, which is usually true. However, one character’s Level 1 super move may be equal to another character’s Level 2 super move. This means that a character with a better (more diverse and effective) Level 1 super move will have a distinct advantage over someone with a bad Level 1 super move, since the latter will have to raise their super bar another level just to have an equally powerful move. This is a huge issue as the entire game revolves around this super move mechanic, so the inequality becomes blatantly apparent.
The lack of a health bar or damage meter takes away a lot from the game, as it makes blocking seem unimportant and every character feel weak. Sending someone flying across the screen doesn’t feel rewarding when that person bounces off an invisible wall and stands up a second later. To make matters worse, a move might look powerful but won’t necessarily give you much AP, which makes it feel worthless. Again, this game rewards spamming more than anything else.
There are a couple of other issues that aren’t exactly flaws but which do drag the game down even more. Firstly, there are only twenty characters and fifteen levels. This isn’t much, although more characters are going to be added in the form of DLC. There isn’t much of a story mode, only an arcade mode – there are brief stories but they aren’t anything special. The cut-scenes are still images with voiceovers, and this seems like a waste when the graphics are so nice.
Playstation All-stars Battle Royale isn’t exactly a bad game. It’s judged harshly since it’s held up to the high standards of Super Smash. However, it doesn’t feel like another Super Smash game and that’s good. With good graphics and stage design, the presentation is stunning. There are plenty of unlocks for each character to keep you busy, and of course, playing online will eat away many hours of your life. The problem is the entire game revolves around the super move mechanic and that takes away a lot. There is hardly any strategy involved when spamming the best AP-gaining move is the wisest tactic. The characters are uneven and it clearly shows, and since there is no health bar of any kind, dishing out high-powered moves just doesn’t feel rewarding. It’s disappointing to say that a game full of Playstation icons isn’t anything special, but that’s how it feels. Royale is good, but it could have been amazing.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Playstation All-stars Battle Royale developed by Superbot Entertainment and SCE Santa Monica Studio and distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment America