Back in 1999, Nintendo had an idea that ended up launching a huge series. They took iconic characters from many of their first-party franchises, and threw them into a 2D brawler called Super Smash Brothers. Featuring characters from across the Nintendo universe, it spawned three sequels and has become a largely popular game for casually fighting with your favorite characters. Ever since then, Sony fans have wondered if they would ever get their own game in this genre.
Santa Monica Studios, the developers behind the iconic God of War series, answered that wonder with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Released both on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Santa Monica’s game brought together 24 characters across the PlayStation Universe and pitted them in platform-friendly 2D stages, not so different from the stages of Super Smash Bros. With characters from franchises like Twisted Metal, Metal Gear, God of War, Bioshock, Devil May Cry, and more, fans were started to look up. How is the game? How different is it from Smash Brothers? Here is our official review of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale for the PlayStation Vita.
The storyline of a cross-over fighting game. You know, some cross-over fighting games don’t even have storylines. The new Super Smash Bros isn’t going to have any story scenes at all. PlayStation All-Stars, though, has a story, and its there, depending on which character you’re using in Arcade Mode. Each character is different and faces a different character in their specific journey across the stages and worlds, but the base is the same.
The plot of PlayStation All-Stars is basically set up as there being a gathering of warriors in a distant land. There is a strange power that everyone is after, and they have to fight their way through others to get to the keeper of this power. As I said above, each story is a little different. At the beginning and ending of each character’s Arcade Modes, there are scenes describing what they are doing there and what their own goal is. The objective is the same, but each character has different motives for doing so. Raiden will be there for different reasons than Kratos.
As far as the mashup of characters is concerned, this game packs 24 characters from several different franchises. You’ve got Kratos from God of War, Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, Nathan Drake from Uncharted, Raiden from Metal Gear, and even Kat from Gravity Rush. There are a lot of iconic characters from the PlayStation Universe here, and many of them are fan favorites. Do note that four of those characters were not in the original game and must be bought on PSN as Downloadable Content.
The only downside to this is that not all of everyone’s iconic PlayStation characters are here. Due to licensing issues or other reasons, characters from the PlayStation One era, like Cloud Strife, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, and more are not present here. This is unfortunate, but this is the case when you try to make a cross-over game. There will always be someone fans want in that don’t get in. All in all, it’s a good roster for the first game of the series.
Battles take place in a 2D arena. Well, maybe that’s not the best terminology to use. It is a side-scrolling fighting game, but the visuals are actually in 3D. All of the environments characters, and effects are in 3D, but with a 2D perspective. You are thrown into an arena, which are mostly fairly small to not lose track of you or others, with up to three other characters, and your goal is to get a high score by getting kills on the other players or, in case of Team Battle, the opposing team.
The only gripe we have with the gameplay is the zooming. Sometimes, when the camera zooms out and characters are across the stages and arenas, it’s hard to find your character. I’ve found many cases where I am playing and suddenly lose sight of my character amid all the chaos going on on-screen.
Getting kills is not like it is in Super Smash Bros or other fighting games. In PlayStation All-Stars, you have to use Super Moves to get kills. You cannot earn kills or points by knocking someone off a ledge or anything like that. Each character has three Super Moves, depending on what Super Level they’re at. You increase the Super Gauge by attacking the enemy. When attacks strike and hit, you earn AP, which fill up the gauge. Then, once you get to a Super Level, you can unleash one of those abilities.
Super Moves come in three levels and whatever level you are on is what you will unleash. For example, if you’re at Level 2, you will always use a Level 2 Super Move when you trigger the command. You cannot choose to do two Level 1 Supers instead. Also, Level 3 is a special move, more like a Finishing Move, where the stage enters into a cinematic and the stage, or even characters could morph and change while this move is being played out. These are huge references to characters’ games, like Kratos gaining the Blade of Olympus or Raiden hunting enemies hiding under Cardboard Boxes.
There’s a multitude of different type of attacks, from light and heavy attacks to throws. You can string combos together with these in the game, but the game is set up in a way that it feels more casual than other fighting games. You won’t be burning your thumbs off playing this, as you may with games like Mortal Kombat or Tekken. The combos in PlayStation All-Stars are easy to learn and are light on the combinations.
Another thing of note is that each characters playing different. You can’t just pick up a new character and use the same combos as you did with your previous one. They each play similarly to how they play in their original games, and have different combos and abilities.
Game Modes range from Solo Play, Tournaments, Versus Matches, along with Customization. Solo Play has Arcade Mode, the Tutorial, Trials, and Practice Mode. Arcade Mode is Story Mode, where you take a character through a string of fights, leading up to their Rival Battle as well as the Final Battle and ending to the Story. The Tutorial is a small set of tasks with PaRappa the Rapper that teaches you the basics of the game.
Trials are sets of tasks both for General and for each Character. They have Time Limits on them and have tasks and restrictions about them, mostly helping to teach you to do different things in each fight. For example, one Trial has you only able to gain AP for kills with the Triangle Button’s moves. Another example gives you unlimited Level 1 Super Moves and you can only use those to get kills. Finally, Practice Mode is where you can put a character in a stage with AI to practice combos.
Tournament is the first part of the multiplayer of the game. That is one nice thing about this game. This game has Cross-Play. This means that when you go Online with the game, you are having matches with not only PlayStation Vita players, but also PlayStation 3 players. Tournaments run in Ranked Matches, Quick Matches, and Leaderboards. Ranked Matches pairs you with opponents that are based on their Rank for the character they’re using, trying to pull like-skilled players together so you don’t have a bunch of people who have been playing the game for months with people who just picked it up today.
Quick Matches are matches with random people, but you can set what kind of match you want, like 2 vs 2, Free for All, Stock-based, Kill-based, etc. They aren’t based on rank, so you can go in with just about anyone. Finally, the Leaderboards are the stats of everyone who plays the game online. Wins, Losses, Titles, etc. Everything is there and is on the online network.
Versus Battle is where you invite friends from your PSN Friend List and have matches with them. While you can still invite Friends to matches in Tournaments, this mode is set specifically for matches with friends. This also goes in both Wi-Fi and Ad Hoc Mode, which means you can play with players in the same room as you without needing to go Online.
Finally, we have Customization. You have a profile that is shown when you play online, which can be decorated with Character Icons, Backgrounds, and Titles. These are unlocked as you play throughout the game. When you use a character and complete a task, you increase their rank. As you increase in Rank, you unlock Customization for your Profile and the Character. Characters can be customized by aspects of them that are unlocked as you increase rank. For each character, you can unlock Costumes, Intro Animations, Outro Animations, Victory Music, and Taunts. If you want to unlock everything in the game, you’ll need to get all characters to Rank 300.
There’s a lot to do in the game. The Online Community is still very active, so there’s still much to do online. The game, by itself, with unlocking everything, will probably last you at least 15-25 hours, if not more. There is a lot to do.
Controls are made easy on the Vita. First off, you don’t have to worry about relying on the touch screen for fighting your enemies. While there is one part of the game that requires touch, it’s not a huge part of combat. When items appear across the stages, you can tap anywhere on the Touch Screen to pick it up if you’re standing next to it.
Movement is handled with either the Left Analog Stick or the D-Pad. Personally, I prefer using the D-Pad for movement, but either one works well. Jumping is done with the X Buttons and you can do a double-jump, which will be key to reaching some platforms of the stages. Attacking is done with the Square, Triangle, and Circle Buttons. Each one of those buttons has different moves, when combined with a D-Pad button and also different ones if you’re in the air. Select uses your Taunt. Throws are done with the Right Analog Stick. The L Button guards against attacks, and the R button activates your Super Move.
The control configuration is pretty easy to figure out. The hard part is just remembering what combinations of buttons do what, and what it does for each character you use. It will take time to learn even a single character to the point of performing well in Online Battles, but once you get the hang of it, things get very easy very fast.
This game looks and sounds beautiful, and those looks are somewhat of an interesting factor of the game. The developers had to make the game just like its PS3 incarnation so it could support online play between the two platforms, though the Vita version really does look different.
At first glance, the two games look identical. The character models look mostly fluid and smooth. There are some jagged edges every so often, but for the most part, the Vita game looks just as fluid and beautiful as its PS3 counterpart. This is a clever disguise. If you, for example, take a screenshot of the game and zoom in, you will see that the character models are actually much lower-quality than from the PS3 version, but with the way the camera angles work, it looks and plays beautifully.
The sound and music is a very interesting aspect of the game. Nearly every track has memorable music from the stage it is on. Also, because each stage is a mashup of two different franchises (There is a stage with Patapons attacking Hades from God of War as well as a stage pitting Metal Gear Ray against the Loco Rocos), the music often alters between those franchises. You will hear the iconic themes of franchises like Uncharted and God of War, along with the rhythmic beat of Patapon and more. It’s the same quality that is found on the PS3 and is done very well.
As far as how the game play, it plays well, for the most part. The gameplay is fluid and smooth, but the load times can get on some people’s nerves. When you’re loading a stage, trial, online battle, or anything else that takes place in an arena, you will be waiting a little while. Each load time takes roughly 10-20 seconds or more, which can get frustrating, after awhile.
All in all, PlayStation All-Stars is one of the easiest fighters on the Vita to pick-up-and-play. The load times are disheartening, but with 24 characters, an active online community, and an easy-to-learn fighting system, this is a fighting game that can even get non-fighting fans hooked on using their favorite characters.
The PlayStation Vita Review Network rates PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale an 8.5/10.