Hands on Preview: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Or, what I’d like to call, “What happens when Kratos forgets the potato salad?”  That’s how these things start, right?  Everyone gets together for a company picnic and some asshole from Accounting forgets the potato salad.  For Smash Brothers, it was Donkey Kong, it had to be.  He’s a loveable guy with a snazzy tie, but he’s forgetful and left the potato salad right on his kitchen counter.  For Marvel vs Capcom, it was Wolverine.  He’s awesome, has claws, and wears yellow spandex like a pro… but potato salad?  Not his finest moment in his ongoing life.

Don’t give us that look, we know you started this mess! Potato salad!!!

For Playstation All-Stars, it’s Kratos.  He’s so busy getting ready for Ascension that he left the big bowl of creamy salad at the house.

All right, all joking aside, let’s talk about this new — not really, it’s been done before — game.  When I first heard about  Playstation All-Stars I laughed.  I laughed long.  I laughed hard.  I laughed long and hard at my computer screen.  Were they being serious?  It’s Smash Brothers.  It’s Smash Brothers with Sony characters.  I remember being a young gamer girl, playing Smash Brothers and stomping fools with Kirby.  I remember talking to my friends and having one of those conversations, you know, ones that you never think will happen?  “What if they made this game, but with these set of characters?”  Then you list off franchises, “Street Fighter,” or, “Final Fantasy,” and then you move onto companies, “Sony?  Microsoft?”  And you all have a good laugh over your game controllers and lemonade because there’s no way it’ll ever happen.

Of course, years later as an adult it does, indeed, happen.  Though Sony should be given some credit, other franchises have beat them to it.  There’s a Ninja Turtles game like Smash Brothers and there’s also a Cartoon Network collaboration in the same style.  Now, when looking at Sony’s brawler you think one of two things: 1) this is going to be amazing or 2) are they out of their minds?  I had been leaning towards door number two… until I actually got a chance to play it.

Much to my surprise, I’m all for this game now.

I got to attend E3 this year and right there, in Sony’s little area of paradise, sat Playstation All-Stars.  I rolled my eyes, chuckled a bit, and was ready to move on until I actually took a moment to look at the gameplay.  Is it just like Smash Brothers?  Well… yes, and no, but closer to being “yes.”  Is there anything wrong with that?  Smash Brothers has pretty much perfected the four-player brawler mechanic, Playstation All-Stars is Sony’s spin on it.  The game at E3 featured 8 playable characters: Kratos, Sly Cooper, Mael Radec, Sweet Tooth, Fat Princess, PaRappa, Nathan Drake, and the Big Daddy from BioShock.  I had not expected the Big Daddy at all and seeing the menacing beast made my mind race, “So is more than Sony exclusive characters?  Will there be more, non-Sony players?”

Hey kids, it’s your friendly neighborhood BIG DADDY!

This game had just become much more interesting.

Don’t be fooled by the non-mature rating, Kratos and Sweet Tooth will still kick your ass.

After standing in line for a surprisingly short amount of time — compared to other lines at E3 this one was a breeze — four of us were off to give the game a try.  The first thing I noticed was the character designs.  Each one looks the same way they do in their original games — most noticeable is PaRappa, who moves like a flat piece of paper instead of suddenly becoming 3-dimensional.  Each character retains their methods of battle, for example, Kratos is still as violent as he is in God of War, he still has his weapons and still runs around in all of his hack and slash glory.  Of course, there’s no blood being splattered about, but somehow Sony has managed to make a believable, T-rated Kratos.

We were able to play three matches and I chose PaRappa, Sly Cooper, and Fat Princess.  If you’re thinking that cartoony characters like these three don’t stand a chance against other Sony big hitters like Nathan Drake and Mael Radec of Killzone then you’re sadly mistaken.  Everyone’s got their own moves and everybody can hold their own in battle and, when executed properly, they are just as formidable as any god of war.  Like Smash Brothers, combat is easy to get a grasp of, but can become something much more complex with blocks, dodges, and items.  But unlike Smash Brothers there’s no knocking your opponent out of the ring, you actually have to kill them.  As you battle each other, there are orbs you can collect that build up your super meter.  Like the rules of Street Fighter, super moves can be executed at level one, but if you’re patient and build up to level three the moves are more intense.  A level one move in Playstation All-Stars can kill off a character, but a level three move can usually kill everyone on screen.  Each level three move features a cinematic before the character really lets loose.  The Big Daddy, for example, floods the entire battlefield, drowning his helpless opponents before knocking each one of them out.

The stages are fun combinations of Sony franchises.

There were four stages available when playing, and each one is a throwback to Sony franchises.  They’re all combinations of Sony games: Buzz Quiz Show meets Little Big Planet, God of War clashes against Patapon then returns to clash against Ratchet and Clank, and Jak and Daxter meets Hot Shots Golf.  Like Smash Brothers, there are items available for you to use against your opponents that will appear throughout the stage.  Since the point of the game isn’t to knock people off the stage, you can properly explore each level and use it to your advantage without fear of falling off and losing a life.  So if an item appears in a dangerous area, you can go for it without fear of killing yourself, but be careful of your opponents and the different obstacles that each stage will throw at you.

A Vita version of the game was announced at E3 with “cross-play,” meaning that the Vita version can be crossed with the PS3 version.  This opens up many, many possibilities, since all next-gen Sony gamers can get in on the fun via console or handheld.  This also tells me that the online play is going to be huge, something that I’ve always wanted with Smash Brothers.  I’m not huge into online gaming, but the replay value of a game like this would be insane if I could play with gamers from all over the world.

So is Playstation All-stars just a Smash Brothers rip-off?  There’s no denying the similarities, but it’s not like Sony is denying it in the first place.  Instead, they’re giving us their version of the popular four-player brawling franchise, and I have to say that it’s a hell of a good time.  What makes Smash Brothers so great — even now — is that it’s fun to just pick up and play, be it against the computer or friends.  From the three matches I got to play, I can tell that Playstation All-stars will be the same way.  I wanted to try every character, wanted to see what each one could do, and was eager to play more after our turn was up.  Smash Brothers rip-off?  Yeah, sure, but it’s one I had a great time with and would love to play again.

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About Briana Lawrence

A geeky girl that's cosplaying as an adult -- sort of -- I've been into video games since I watched my mom save the princess in Super Mario Brothers when I was six years old. A couple of years later, anime would be added in my on-going list of geekery when I discovered a certain vampire hunter who had a hand that talked to him. I'm currently living in St. Paul with my wonderful partner who feeds my nerdtastic needs of anime conventions, watching Persona 4 on Hulu, and trying to beat the crap out of people like Nightmare or rolling up things with a katamari ball. The both of us cosplay together and do artist alley tables, selling the crafty things we make like plushies, woodburned coasters, shotglasses, and other things. The two of us recently purchased a house together, took a room, and painted it with Pac-Man, Sonic, Portal, Star Fox, Katamari, and other gaming gems before we combined our massive game/anime/action figure collections. Up next? Painting our bathroom in an underwater mario theme! I would say I need professional help, but I'm a lost cause at this point. Besides, all men, women, and zombies are created equal!