Monday, October 22, 2012

3RM @ NYCC 2012: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale


I will admit, I was quite curious when I first heard about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.  I had been wondering if another of the big three companies could bring a collection of mascots together and somehow merge them cohesively into a single product, whether as a fighter or otherwise.  Having played some of the game at New York Comic Con, I have to say it does a good job of making a competent fighter, with a couple concerns here and there.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a mascot fighting game in which up to four characters known to the PlayStation brand fight each other in order to be the best mascot around.  These characters range from the heroes on the original PlayStation (Parappa the Rapper and Sir Daniel Fortesque) to the newest characters on PlayStation 3 (Cole and Nathan Drake).  A multitude of third party characters are also in the roster, including Raiden from the Metal Gear Solid franchise and the new Dante from DmC: Devil May Cry.  Those looking to see Kratos and Nariko finally get into an all-out brawl will get their wish with this game.  The playable characters are not the only ones fighting for supremacy, too; the environments usually feature two worlds blurring together in the most cataclysmic ways.  Who wants to see Hades’ underworld lair become colorful and attacked by Patapon warriors?  I know you do.

What makes Battle Royale so different compared to other fighters is how points are calculated in-game.  No player has a hit-point bar, but instead, each character has a power meter which fills as the he or she lands attacks and collects items on-screen.  When the meter is filled up, the All-Star can use a special attack, and anyone who is hit with said attack will be defeated, earning the character a point per opponent felled.  Those who want to get points quickly can use level 1 special attacks, but as the power level rises, the attacks become much more destructive to ensure more points in the end!  My concern with this score system lies with balance of the special attacks, but I suspect the guys at SuperBot will be able to wipe this away when the final game arrives.

In my playtime, I got to try out Sir Daniel and Parappa, and both felt fairly different.  Sir Daniel’s sword attacks and alternative weaponry felt slower compared to the more active Parappa's punches and kicks.  At times, it felt like the attacks were a little slow, making landing them a little less effective, but when I got a few good hits in, the opponent was definitely feeling it!  Furthermore, fighting characters whose special attacks were at-the-ready made me a bit paranoid; what a worse way to go than have someone use a special move just as you are about to make a move on them.  Hitting characters with the special attacks themselves required a bit of timing and precision, too, because if you are hit mid-attack, you lose the ability to use it again until you fill the power meter once more.  Needless to say, halfway through the match, strategies have to change from straight brawling to tactical fighting.  All the while, the background shifts and occasionally attacks the stage, and even with only a handful of items, there is quite a bit of activity to be had.

There were a couple issues I had in-game that might go away with future playthroughs.  I was too used to pressing up to jump that on more than one occasion, I ended up punched in the face as a result.  Also, using items did not really have much impact in a match as I expected, and the button placement for using said item seemed oddly placed.  Then again, with three face buttons dedicated to various attack styles, I can see how it ended up on a shoulder button.  Also, I feel that the presentation of the game is a little too simple for a game featuring everyone from the PlayStation world in it.  Perhaps when I see the final release I will shake that off, but right now it feels a little patched together for one reason or another.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale comes out this November, and I look forward to having my rear-end handed back to me by Kratos again and again.



Being the first massive crossover fighter using PlayStation franchises, I knew I had to try out PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale for myself at Sony’s New York Comic Con booth. Playable for both the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 3, I choose to play multiplayer on the PS3 version. For my hands-on with the title, I chose Uncharted’s main man, Nathan Drake.

The game has a number of similarities to Super Smash Brothers. Besides the crossover of characters, All-Stars is also a 2D fighter where up to four players battle each other using special moves, items, and the environments themselves. However, All-stars also changes up the formula resulting in some major gameplay changes. The biggest change being that instead of getting points by knocking the opponents off the stage, players get points by hitting other players with special moves, which were acquired by doing damage in combat. These special moves come in three different power levels. While a level 1 special move might only strike right in front of the player, a level 3 special might instantly kill everyone on the screen, although it takes a lot longer to reach that level. Since it takes time to fill the power bar, players must decide whether it is better to use more low-level powers or save up to reach more devastating attacks higher up. Each of these moves varies from character to character; for example, Drake’s level 2 special had me push over a large column, which defeated anyone crushed beneath it while Parappa’s level 2 had him riding on a skateboard along the stage. This new game mechanic forces players to rethink their battle strategies as you need to battle in order to increases your specials while avoiding other people’s specials. It definitely changed my battle strategy.

Besides the special moves, there are also the normal moves needed to increase one’s power level. Having three buttons and four joystick directions, each character has an abundance of moves that reference their respective titles. Some of Drake’s moves were rather basic like throwing a grenade or shooting a handgun. However, there were also more unique moves such as Drake falling through ruin floors and having it collapse on the people below or going across a zip-line, shooting an automatic weapon along the way. The multitude of moves added variety and creativity in battle, but it also meant it was more difficult to learn the new move sets. Also, depending on the move or character, sometimes the moves seemed to lag or lacked the umpf one would expect from the attacks. Drake’s punch seemed to hold back a moment before actually hitting the other players. This might be because of character animations or it might be a way to create balance between the fast, weaker characters and the slow, strong characters. Since I only got points for specials, in the heat of battle it was difficult to tell if I was even making a dent against my opponents. This is something that more playtime might overcome.

The stage I battled on was LittleBigPlanet’s Dreamscape stage which started out empty and flat but quickly added platforms, trees, and other elements together, making the battle much more interesting. One unique feature the stages of Battle Royale have is the mix-up mechanic in which a stage is infiltrated by another franchise's characters or world. Once the LBP stage was filled, the announcer from the Buzz! series appeared in the background and asked us a question. We then had to stand in the right place on the battlefield corresponding with the correct answer, and although I got the right answer, I could not figure out what my prize was. This mixing of franchises has me intrigued to see what other mix-ups happen on the other stages.

Everything in the game runs smoothly and the animations are handled nicely as well. The only thing that stands out is how separated the characters and stages feel. Since PlayStation franchises range from fun and colorful to dark and dreary, placing them all together creates a sense of disconnect between them, but that might be what they wanted to evoke, in the end.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale has obvious similarities to Smash Brothers, but with a completely new roster of characters, moves, and levels along with a completely different goal to victory, it comes out acting like a different title entirely, as it should. The mixed-up stages and multitude of special moves should allow for All-Stars to create a unique experience for PlayStation fans everywhere. The only issues are that some moves feel slower than they should and it is hard to tell if you are doing anything in combat when the only thing that matters was using your special moves. A unique premise, I would like to see how it turns out when it comes out on November 20, 2012.

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