Alright, let’s nip this in the bud: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is not like Super Smash Bros. Firstly, Smash Bros is fun. Secondly, there were brawlers before Smash Brosand there will be brawlers after Smash Bros. Thirdly, no, this will not be a solely comparison-based review because every game should stand on its own merits, regardless of what has come before it. DO YOU GET THAT!? CAN WE STOP COMPARING THEM NOW!?
For far too long, I defended All-Stars, seeing it as a fun way to compete against friends in a relaxed environment. What I’d played at EB Games Expo and then later during the beta period, seemed to suggest that the game was going to be a tad unbalanced, but overall, a jolly good time.
I was wrong. Priest left alone with an altar boy wrong.
Before I get to that, let’s get all the good things out of the way. The stages are fun and, on most occasions, pretty epic, with scenes from the most popular PlayStation franchises playing out in the background. The graphics are superb, from the PS3 to the Vita, and a special shout-out should go to the Vita right now because it just looks so damn fine. Lastly, while the characters may not have the instant recognisability or charm of Nintendo’s roster, as a PlayStation fan, the characters available truly tugged at my heartstrings and gave me a chance to use them in ways I’ve never used them before.
Now prepare to ignore all of those points, because this game is unbalanced to the point of broken.
A quick review of the process of scoring in All-Stars – you hit the other people, your meter fills up. It has three different levels, each of which does a different super attack that is the only way to exterminate opponents. To build these meters, there’s a fighting-game style combo system in place. While I’d like to say each progressive super gets better, in many cases it just doesn’t, which is an oversight that makes me wonder if SuperBot was way too deep in the shit it had already created to change it.
What’s really fun is versing a character like Kratos. Kratos moves at an average speed, has a move that lets him fly, has medium-long range attacks that will interrupt yours, can pull you in closer, has a competent first level super, an amazing second level super and easily one of the best third level supers. What’s more fun is versing him with a beloved PlayStation icon like Sir Daniel Fortesque, who is slow, whose attacks don’t build meter that quickly, whose combos are few, whose first super is basically useless and who, no matter how amazing the player using him is, unlikely to ever get first place.
I don’t want to continue on and on with comparisons between characters, but it’s exactly where the game falls apart. Why would I ever want to use Parappa whose first level is a useless, short-ranged, easily avoidable front-flip kick, when I can use Raiden and do a decently ranged 360 headspin and take out three opponents at once? Oh, and his basic sword attacks are really good for interrupting opponent attacks. And he’s really fast. Also, he can jump really high.
It was depressing watching as a player using Nariko used a 10+ hit combo on me to get to her first level super, only to miss me with it (it’s a chick firing a rocket a very short distance – the only thing it could ever inspire is a yawn and nice, long crotch scratch), and then have me do a few quick regular slashes with Raiden and BAM! Take out three people.
Ever brought Heihachi to a fight where three other people are using Raiden? Of course you haven’t, because if you had, you would have shot yourself in the face out of frustration.
So far, a few people have told me that it’s ‘not supposed to be competitive’ or that ‘it’s more about fun with your friends.’ How the hell is this fun? The whole idea of fun with your friends is competing, to have a level playing field to determine who is better at something. A DC colleague and I played a lot of Street Fighter this year, and eventually I got to a point where I was on par with him (except against his god damn Dee Jay). I used to play a lot of Smash Bros and even trained myself with Sonic, a character most of my friends avoided, just so I had a card up my sleeve.
You know what these games had that All-Stars doesn’t? An acceptable and fair way to actually win based on the skill of the players in question.
SuperBot may have been onto a good idea with the Supers, and then the team thought ‘Screw it, we’re going to get EVERY EGG IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND CRAM IT INTO THIS BASKET BECAUSE IT WILL. NOT. FAIL.’ And it really has. It really, really has. I don’t want to play a game with my friends and watch as we all pick the same two or three characters to use in order to have a fighting chance. I don’t want to use a particular character just because they’re better; I want to use Sir Daniel Goddamn Worm In My Eye Fortesque because he is one of the earliest characters I remember in my gaming life. But he’s slow, his attacks are basically useless, and no matter how good I get with him, someone with far less skill will be on my level just because they’re using a better character.
To be completely honest, I’m beyond shocked at the scores I’ve seen. The game is clearly, clearly unbalanced to the point of broken. I don’t mean in a ‘holy shit guys I crunched every number and pixel in the game and it turns out that there’s 0.000001% more chance of victory using Drake on the Resistance stage.’ I mean in a ‘holy shit guys, Raiden’s first super can take out three people at once and Parappa’s first super won’t hit anything unless they are directly above him and have purposefully placed themselves there’ way.
I guess, at the very least, if you have no idea how a brawler or fighter actually works, and you have no critical thinking ability that allows you to differentiate between ‘fair’ and ‘unfair,’ then you could really enjoy this game. Until then, count me the hell out.
- Reviewed On