PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

Preview

posted 9/21/2012 by Jeremy Duff
other articles by Jeremy Duff
Platforms: PS3
Like to admit it or not, Nintendo has cornered the market on mascot-based video games. Other companies have tried their hand at them but nobody has achieved the same level of success as Nintendo with series like Mario Kart, Mario Golf, and the Super Smash. Bros. (SSB). The fighting genre in particular (Smash Bros.) is a particularly hard breed of game to create using a variety of mascots. How do you put together characters from vastly different worlds and have people take their confrontation(s) seriously? Does Mario really stand a chance when facing off against Samus Aran? The truth is, he doesn’t. If you can find a way to put them on a level playing field, by perhaps putting them on a level that focuses more on the strength of their character rather than their physical brawn, then things seem to work out.

The secret appears to be to simplify things and up until this point, only Nintendo has mastered that art. At their core, the various SSB games are extremely simple and a giant match of “king of the hill”. The latest release isn’t that much different from the original release from 13 years ago. SuperBot Entertainment seems to understand what has made the SSB series so great. They have taken their observations and understanding of the SSB formula and applied it to the PlayStation universe with PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PSASBR). The truth is, PSASBR is practically a carbon copy of SSB and contrary to popular belief, that isn’t a bad thing.


This isn’t a real battle and we aren’t here to see these characters flex their physical muscles; instead, we want to see them flex the might of their personalities. That is exactly the same reason that the characters chosen for these types of games are done so based on their charisma and not their brawn. SuperBot obviously gets this concept based on the selections they have made thus far for the roster and judging from the gameplay experiences that I have seen in an early build of the game, they are applying the same lessons of simplifying things to every aspect of the experience and the resulting experience is one for the ages.

In simplicity lies the long-forgotten art of “fun factor”
Thanks to the simplicity in its design, the developers have been able to focus on something far more important and often forgotten in today’s gaming market: fun factor. Remember back in the day when this was an actual category used in rating games? If you are under the age of 30, then probably not. PSASBR is overflowing with this long-forgotten element and a majority of it stems from this simplicity of the experience.

There aren’t any complicated move strings or special inputs required in order to pull off the fancy special moves and attack combinations; players simply need to press towards a certain direction and press the attack button. Depending on your position and that of your opponents, your character will launch a corresponding special move. It is very easy to sting these maneuvers together and create devastating combinations. This concept keeps the action moving at a break-neck pace and things never seem to slow down; this means that you, as a player, are engaged literally from start to finish in a match.


The goal here is to keep the focus on the overall gameplay experience and not individual techniques or strategies. Players can effectively pick up and play as any of the characters on the roster without having to worry about being completely lost; sure, there is a bit of a learning curve required in terms of the strengths and strategies behind each character’s arsenal, but the actual means of controlling them is the same across the board. Some may be more offense oriented while others may be all about turning your opponent’s moves and momentum against them but they all allow you to jump right into the action and begin swinging for the fences with little trial and error. This method of gameplay should sound familiar to SSB fans as it is exactly what drives Nintendo’s famous series. SuperBot isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here and because of that, they are able to hone in on the fine details that will make the experience memorable instead of trying to set a new standard in the realm of gameplay.

A roster with endless possibilities
Any fighting game fan will tell you, a fighter’s roster is as important as nearly every other aspect of the game. Since we are in the third generation of the PlayStation (console) brand, there are plenty of viable candidates for the game’s roster. SuperBot has definitely spanned the globe of possible contenders for their selections as the announced cast ranges from the obvious selections like Kratos and Cole MacGrath to incredibly obscure fan-favorites such as Sir Daniel Fortesque and Parappa the Rapper. The roster that I played with only consisted of 6 characters, the final version will include many, many more.


In addition to incorporating first-party characters, there are quite a few third-party characters being included who are arguably as important to the PlayStation brand’s history as any of the in house personalities. The following lineup has been confirmed as of the beginning of September:
  • Big Daddy from BioShock
  • Cole MacGrath from Infamous
  • Colonel Radec from Killzone
  • Dante from Devil May Cry
  • Evil Cole MacGrath from Infamous
  • Fat Princess from Fat Princess
  • Heihachi Mishima from Tekken
  • Jak and Daxter from Jak and Daxter
  • Kratos from God of War
  • Nariko from Heavenly Sword
  • Nathan Drake from Uncharted
  • Parappa from PaRappa the Rapper
  • Raiden from Metal Gear
  • Ratchet and Clank from Ratchet & Clank
  • Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil
  • Sly Cooper from Sly Cooper
  • Spike from Ape Escape
  • Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal
  • Toro Inoue from Together Everywhere!
The diversity of this lineup is part of its strengths. What other game can you think of where you will see a glorified stuffed animal (Sackboy) facing off against a God from Mount Olympus (Kratos), a serial killer (Sweet Tooth), and a Japanese kitten (Toro), with their being no clear winner from the start. In this world, Sackboy and Toro have just as much of a chance of pulling off a victory as the fearsome brutes of Kratos and Sweet Tooth.

There are still more characters being revealed as we approach the game’s release this coming November. The truth is that we have no idea, at this point, as to how many characters will round out the final roster. There are literally endless possibilities regarding who could be added at this point. there are a variety of PlayStation staples notably absent from the game thus far, including Lara Croft, Crash Bandicoot, and everyone’ favorite spokesperson Kevin Butler. This should open the door for more surprises not only leading up to the game’s release but also in terms of potential DLC support afterwards and for subsequent sequels to the game.

Worlds as lively as the cast
Just as the options for the game’s roster are practically endless, so are the potential settings for the battles. SuperBot has just just as many, if not more, settings to choose from to use as the backdrop for these epic battles. They recognize this and are doing their best to make sure that the game’s backgrounds are as lively and full of character as the playable roster. We aren’t just talking about surprising locales, but making them as integral a part of the gameplay as the characters themselves.


For example, one of the stages of the game is set in the creation mode of Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series. It looks and feels like the creation mode of the original game, complete with someone adding in new features and elements as the match goes on. While you start off with a couple of platforms to bounce around on and use to your advantage, before long they are being terraformed and altered on the fly. It is just as if you were dropped into the world of someone’s actual LBP game.

Before long, the LBP elements fade away and you find yourself on the stage of Sony’s staple quiz game Buzz. This change of scenery doesn’t just bring visual alterations to the game, but physical changes to the gameplay as well. Occasionally, the announced will pose a question to the players in the heat of battle and there will be answers posted on different platforms on the screen. You will only have a couple of seconds to respond and will be tasked with choosing an answer to the question being posed; those who fail to give the right response will find themselves on the receiving end of a devastating, AI-triggered trap.

It is this style of level design that keeps the game fresh and exciting match after match. considering that there are so many possibilities for source material, who knows what they will think of next. The levels also offer Superbot a chance to diversify the experience even further both leading up to and after launch. There is easily as much thought being put into their integration as every other aspect of the game.


Although my experience with the game was very brief, it left a huge impression on me. There is an element of fun found in PSASBR that is missing in a majority of modern releases. It is simple and addicting and I found myself less concerned with whether I won or lost and more concerned with getting back into the heat of battle. The net code that drives the game’s online play was perfect, although being a beta test it wasn’t really being stress tested, so things could change when you have the traffic increased exponentially. This is an easy game for both hardcore and casual gamers to pick up and get into and the accessibility offered by the game being on both the PS3 and Vita should only further that appeal. Something tells me that as long as people don’t get hung up on comparing the game to Nintendo’s fighting series, and focus more on the quality experience offered by the game, PSASBR is going to be a big success and one of this Holiday’s smash hits!

PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale is scheduled to be released for the Playstation 3 and PlayStation Vita on November 20, 2012!
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