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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review [PS3, PSVita]

Posted on November 26, 2012 AT 05:24pm

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…over twenty of the most iconic characters battle in gigantic arenas to punch, kick and smash their way to victory.  Random items and weapons also spawn in the midst of battle to help or hinder the four characters at a time who are locked in an epic yet family friendly brawl.  No, it’s not the next Super Smash Bros., it’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on the PS3 and PSVita.

I have to admit, I was extremely skeptical when Battle Royale was announced.  I was expecting a highly polished but ultimately mediocre Smash Bros. clone which failed at mimicking the addictive, easy-to-learn-but-difficult-to-master combat Nintendo’s flagship fighting game is known for.  I was dead wrong.  Superbot Entertainment not only created a fun, accessible brawler with it’s own identity but I’d dare to say that it is even more addictive and fun than the fighting games it has been inspired by.  With the addition of Cross-Buy and Cross-Play between the PS3 and Vita, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is an amazing value for Sony fans who want to get a taste of the synergistic potential of their consoles.

The cast of characters included in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is as motley and diverse as any fighting game available today.  Classic PlayStation icons such as Sly Cooper, Parappa,  and Spike from the Ape Escape Series stand alongside newcomers such as Nathan Drake and Nariko from Heavenly Sword.  A lot of time was spent carefully balancing each character and thankfully everyone can be effective in battle without being overpowered.  Heavy hitters like Big Daddy and Heihachi are powerful at close range but lack a strong set of ranged out attacks.  Cole McGrath in both good and evil forms and Dante can dash across stages and close the distance between enemies extremely fast.  Colonel Radec and Nathan Drake call upon their expansive arsenal of weapons to keep enemies at a distance.  Characters such as Dante and Sir Daniel are well balanced and excel at mid-range attacks.  Shorter characters like Sackboy and Toro are just small enough for some attacks to pass over their heads, but the wide effective area of most super attacks keep them from becoming too cheap.  The only character I have found throughout my playtime that feels a bit out of place is Kratos.  His attacks have an exceptionally long range and felt unusually quick, but I was never able to fully exploit these traits in my multiplayer matches.  Only time will tell if this is truly a balancing issue or just my personal perception of Kratos overall.

As flashy as the combat can get, the battle areas are infused with as much character as the diverse cast of warriors.  All stages are instantly recognizable to those familiar with the history of the Sony PlayStation and players are often treated to morphing terrain and character crossovers during battle.  Parappa the Rapper’s stage begins in Chop Chop Master Onion’s Dojo which is eventually destroyed by a towering Metal Gear as the battle rages on.  In Hades, a group of Patapon Warriors band together to take down a Titan who is constantly destroying parts of the stage.  Little touches like this are scattered throughout all of the environments and provide much needed character to what could otherwise be just a bland set of arenas.

No fighting game is successful without a solid set of mechanics and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale’s fighting engine is as solid as they come.  On both the PS3 and Vita players can attack with the top three face buttons, jump with X, and execute throws with the right analog stick.  By landing successful attacks and counter attacks players fill up their AP bar to a maximum of three levels.  Using the R2 button on the PS3 or R Button on the Vita characters launch their own unique super attacks that instantly kill an enemy when they connect.  Landing a super attack is the only way to score points in Battle Royale, but this is not nearly as easy as it sounds.  This is where the real depth of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale begins to show.

While Super attacks are rightly powerful, level 1 Supers can be easily evaded or interrupted with quick attacks by most players.  Level 2 Supers are more powerful and much harder to avoid and level 3 Supers are almost impossible to avoid, but earning and maintaining enough AP energy to unleash more powerful super attacks requires a careful balance of timing, aggression, and patience.  Players spill AP energy in the form of orbs when thrown or when hit by environmental hazards, so a player waiting to unleash a level 1 or 2 super attack is just as likely to be swarmed by opposing players hunting for orbs as they are to be avoided like day old sushi at the far end of a Las Vegas buffet.

As simple as the combat system may be, it would be useless without a means for players to hone their skills.  While the storyline in the single player campaign is borderline forgettable for each individual character, the progression steps up in a fair and incremental way form bout to bout.  Each character starts by battling a single enemy.  The second stage introduces a second enemy in a free-for-all setting while the the third stage adds yet another enemy.  The middle battles in the single player campaign have multiple enemies teaming up to take on the player and for the final battle players must fight one, then two, then three enemies in waves while also attacking the final boss in between waves.  Players can use an abundance of training moves outside of the single player campaign to further practice their stable of attacks, combos, and supers in addition to completing various combat trials for each individual character.  The practice stage is especially helpful because it features a grid system that allows players to accurately measure the effective distance of all their attacks and Supers.

Players who have had their fill of destroying AI controlled opponents will have a great time testing their mettle online with the included versus and tournament modes.  Both modes are available in both ranked and unranked varieties and include Cross Play compatibility with the PSVita.  During my testing period I found multiplayer to be mostly stable on both the PS3 and Vita with little lag or slowdown.  During one tournament match I did experience a frustrating disconnect that caused my teammate and the final opponent to run uncontrolled to the end of the stage.  When the game finally reconnected I was met with a game over screen and my chosen character Dante doubled over in frustration after being defeated by the creepily cute Toro.  PSVita players are also put at a slight disadvantage during matches.  With the lack of a second row of shoulder buttons, Vita users must not only stand over a weapon but also tap on it using the touchscreen to pick it up.  While the opening is merely a fraction of a second long hardcore players should be able to take advantage of this minor pause in the action, so those looking to be truly competitive will stick primarily to the PS3 version.

Speaking of the PSVita, the Cross-Buy feature of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is both a blessing and a curse.  The game is just as addictive and polished on both consoles, but character progression and item unlocks are not synced across platforms.  After completing most of the challenges for characters like Kratos and Cole McGrath on the PSVita, I’m not looking forward spending time doing the same thing on my PS3.  All of the item unlocks are purely cosmetic in the form of new costumes, player cards, and minions unlocking items in both versions of the game are more of an annoyance than a necessity.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an enjoyable pleasant surprise.  The fighting engine is solid, the characters are unique and balanced, and the entire experience is less derivative than the game trailers have led me to believe.  The single player story is weak,but the abundance of practice and training modes give players plenty of opportunity to practice their skills before batlng others online.  As a PSVita owner, the Cross-Buy and Cross-Play features are an absolute deal maker for me even though my characters and item unlocks are not shared across platforms.  PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a must have game for the PS3 or PSVita and especially for gamers who own both.  Now if you’ll excuse me, my tuxedo wearing Sweet Tooth just got challenged by Sackboy. To Battle!!!

  • THE GOOD: Well balanced, polished gameplay.  An abundance of practice modes for competitive players.
  • THE BAD: No data syncing between the PS3 and PSVita.  PSVita players are at a very slight control disadvantage.
  • THE UGLY: Watching badasses like Kratos and Raiden get their butt kicked by Fat Princess and Sackboy

Score: 9.5/10

James is a complete gaming geek that moonlights as a guitar player for local Miami rock band phoenix/NEBULIN. When he's not rocking out onstage he can be found on PSN and Xbox Live as Anxiety83. You can also follow James on Twitter @anxiety83

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