After months of speculation, many have wondered, is PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale its own fighter, or is it just a Super Smash Bros. clone?  Can all of these disparate characters really work together in a fighting title?  Questions like these have been swirling ever since the announcement of Sony’s mash-up of many of its marquee titles.  In the end, the first question should not really matter (the answer, for the most part, from my time is “no”).  Despite the jumbled amalgam of mascots, Battle Royale‘s disconnected roster provides a host of worthy combatants that offer reasonably deep mechanics and – most importantly – are a joy to watch battle.

Choosing one of Battle Royale‘s 20 characters, players can venture into single-player campaigns for each combatant, local and online multiplayer or trials that test your skills as a fighter.  The fighting mechanics at first may seem shallow, but there is actually a deep system to take advantage of for this style of brawler, if you take the time to explore the mechanics.  Matches can be timed, based on number of lives, filled with items and traps or based only on characters’ attacks.  Traditional timed matches put an emphasis on acquiring points through kills, with a successful kill netting you two points and a death costing you one.  Don’t expect to simply ring out your opponents, however; each character has three super moves that can be employed by acquiring orbs dropped by opponents.  The only way to obtain these globes of energy?  Mercilessly pummeling your enemies to build up the super meter.

Smack, shoot and slam your way to the top against a varied and colorful cast of characters.

During each match, you’ll have the option to use the one and two level supers more frequently to rack up kills on a smaller scale, or save up for a level three super to unleash true carnage on the battlefield.  Deciding which strategy to employ entirely depends on your preferred character.  For example, Toro (the adorable little cat North American players may be less familiar with) will successfully defeat all opponents with his level three, but can earn no more than one kill for each opponent.  Big Daddy, on the other hand, floods the entire stage with his level three super, and I find myself racking up anywhere from four to six kills.  Even still, it may make more sense to use a level one, such as Ratchet and Clank’s RYNO V spray gun, which can demolish several foes while the “Ode to Joy” plays in the background.

This level of depth demonstrates just a part of the complexity that separates Battle Royale from its oft-compared fighting brethren.  I also found it more rewarding to stick with one character and become proficient in his/her/its move set rather than hopping around from franchise to franchise.  If anything, Battle Royale becomes better the more you play it and learn how to conform to its mechanics.  I discovered it to be far more fruitful to use the entirety of a character’s available attacks rather than merely spamming a handful of combat options.  Whereas a casual fan of Smash Bros. can often survive by spamming a character’s special moves, I enjoyed the variation Battle Royale incited me to employ.

Kratos may be surrounded on all sides, but don't count the god of war out just yet.

Though I would remain diligent in my training with a core group of characters, the entire roster offers more than enough unique fighters to choose from that players of all techniques should find a favorite.  With only one true clone in the bunch (Cole and Evil Cole), whether I wanted to use a slow-moving behemoth like Big Daddy, the lithe blades of Raiden or any of a host of other character types, I enjoyed testing the limits of each character.  They all jump in different ways, react to walls in varying fashions and run across each stage in enough unique manners to make most fighters enjoyable to control.  Granted, some characters are quite overpowered – Kratos truly playing like a god amongst his mortal foes and Ratchet’s low-level supers can be as devastating as the level three’s of others – and a few long-range attacks can appear easily exploitable.

Initially, these gaps in power can mar an otherwise fun experience, but Battle Royale wants you to train and improve, and I often found solutions to these problems in many matches.  That is not to simply sweep aside the balancing issues – hopefully SuperBot Entertainment will solve some of these issues – but rather to imply that Battle Royale requires a bit of patience to become truly rewarding.  Some fighting fans may be familiar with this notion, but with the incessant comparisons to Smash Bros., which is far more accessible from the get-go, it bears repeating.  Battle Royale melds some of the great aspects of that Nintendo brawler and more traditional fighting titles, despite its presentation suggesting otherwise.

Ratchet and Clank's supers may be overpowered, but a skilled player can outsmart the duo.

And that presentation may be Battle Royale‘s weakest link.  While I found the fighting engaging, deep and addicting, jumping into the fray is anything but those characteristics.  Menus are barebones and can take a surprisingly long time to load while navigating between pages, and the purported story mode fares just as poorly.  The “Arcade Mode” option allows players to choose a fighter and run through a series of encounters with them as they fight to take down an ultimate evil from Sony’s past.

Stories are introduced and culminate in still artwork with snippets of voiceover, with the only other included scenes being when a character takes on its rival in the roster.  These scenes are over in a flash and provide little context, particularly if you are unfamiliar with one of the included challengers.  I liked the idea and would have liked to see more in these campaigns – with so many clashing franchises, the situation was rife with opportunities for comedy and wacky narratives, but other than the cutscenes between rivals (which can still be confusing when characters like Big Daddy and Sackboy are paired up), SuperBot missed out on an exciting chance to entertain players.

Sackboy will feel right at home on the LittleBigPlanet level until Buzz invades with his quizzing ways.

Though I came away disappointed by this lack of content in the campaign, Battle Royale is filled out with enough meat. I have only grown to enjoy the fighting system more as I continue playing, especially after quickly leaving the arcade mode behind.  Characters level up the more you play and win with them, reinforcing the game’s idea of sticking with your favorites, unlocking costumes and minions (mascots who cheer on your special attacks) as higher levels are attained.   There are trials to complete, and online matches are built in either single bout or tournament-style formats, providing an incentive to continuously explore that space.  Stages embrace the game’s culture of fusing ideas together, combining two franchises into one battleground.  The Uncharted level “Stowaways” is a true highlight, particularly when BioShock Infinite‘s Songbird joins the mayhem, and other areas like the LittleBigPlanet/Buzz!: Quiz World stage take ingenious cues from their inspiring series to make for hazardous matches with another level of complexity.

Battle Royale wants you to stick around, and though its short-lived single-player may not pull that goal off, the bulk of other options kept me coming back for more, and will for quite awhile.  Sony’s fighter does not need to be compared to its mascot-brawler brethren – it is its own, fun title, mired by a few problems I found myself forgiving time and again as I returned for just one more match.  And when I enjoyed watching Nathan Drake push a temple column onto Nariko, Jak and Fat Princess in the middle of BioShock‘s Columbia, how could I not?

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Deep fighting system incentivizes learning a character’s entire move set
+ The many disparate franchises surprisingly, and thankfully, mesh well on the battlefield
+ Addicting fighting experience made richer by the many unlockables/leveling system
- Presentation is barren, with sparse menus and long load times
– Though gameplay combines these franchises well, the story components miss a big opportunity to do so
– Balancing issues can initially be a turnoff

 

 8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was developed by SuperBot Entertainment and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.  It was released on November 13, 2012 for the MSRP  of $59.99. A copy was provided to RipTen for the urposes of review.


For those who purchase the PlayStation 3 version of Battle Royale, a copy of the PlayStation Vita version will be included.  Whether you obtain the handheld iteration in this fashion or simply pick it up, do not worry that the title will be a dumbed-down version of the console game.  The Vita Battle Royale includes all of the content of the PS3 version, for better or worse.  FIghting is still as fun, and because the game mostly relies on the face button, the experience, for the most part, is quite comparable.  Unfortunately, balancing issues persist, the presentation is again disappointed (and, on a personal level, less appealing to look at on the Vita with the color palette switches), and an additional worry or two arise.

Because of the smaller screen, it can be more difficult to follow the action when the camera is pulled much farther back than on the PS3.  Picking up weapons can also be a nuisance, as you have to tap the touchscreen rather than clicking a button, and when every second of combat can count, hesitating on the controls can cost you a precious life.

Yet despite these problems, Battle Royale is still a fun romp on the handheld, and the ability to play between PS3 and Vita versions is a nice bonus for those lacking controllers or simply accustomed to one play style over the other.  The PS3 version is superior on the whole, but if you’re dying to take the game on the road, it is a smart investment if you need a fix of Sly Cooper bashing Sweet Tooth with his cane wherever you are.