PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review

It’s never easy being the new guy.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a fresh face in a genre dominated by a single franchise. From its initial reveal, gamers instantly jumped on it as a “clone,” “rip-off,” and whatever other derogatory name could be mustered. The similarities are impossible to deny, but other games have tried to replicate the formula in their own way and have failed miserably. PS All-Stars, like its competition, has the backing of a major name in gaming, one of the “Big Three” as it were. If any game should properly challenge the throne, it’s PS All-Stars, and it does a smashing job of it.

Let me be clear: while PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale does bear some resemblance to Super Smash Bros., the two are NOT the same. Both feature fast-paced brawling action. Both feature a who’s who of characters from the annals of gaming history. However, that’s where the similarities stop. PS All-Stars brings plenty of new ideas to the genre, and while there will certainly be a learning period, fans should be able to adjust and adapt seamlessly.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in front of developer SuperBot Entertainment was making a battle system that was unique enough to be called their own while not straying too far from the familiar. The meter system they’ve developed more than fits the bill. I don’t have to worry about forcing my opponents off-screen anymore; now it’s a matter of building a meter and unleashing Super Attacks to get my kills. The meter has three levels, each producing a more powerful Super Attack, but giving me the option of three separate kill moves adds a bit more strategy to my battle plan. Trying to apply a Smash mindset to PS All-Stars will produce more fourth-place finishes than victories, believe me.

Fifteen years of the PlayStation brand are represented in the character roster, from the glory days of PS1 to some games that have yet to be released. God of War’s Kratos and Uncharted’s Nathan Drake are obvious selections. Some third-party guest characters join the fun, like Raiden from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Dante from DmC. More than anything, though, I love seeing faces that haven’t been around in a while, like Spike from Ape Escape, Parappa the Rapper, and Sir Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil. Current gamers may be asking, “who?” but I sure hope they go and do their research, because those guys come from some excellent games.

A total of 20 characters make up the roster, and 19 of them are completely original and unique experiences in battle. (The 20th is Evil Cole MacGrath, who takes the Star Fox “different but not different enough” approach. Lame.) Surprisingly, each character fights as if plucked from his or her respective game and dropped into PS All-Stars, which is amazing. Sly Cooper uses camouflage and disguises to confuse opponents. Sir Daniel, ever the coward, specializes in an attack-then-retreat style. Big Daddy runs people over and attacks with his drill. It’s like playing nineteen games at once.

The beautiful arenas that house these characters are SuperBot’s best ideas turned into reality. Each stage starts out representing one of PlayStation’s big franchises: the Dojo from Parappa The Rapper, San Francisco from Resistance, Franzea from LocoRoco, etc. As the match progresses, characters from other PlayStation games invade, creating a hybrid, “what if” scenario that makes these backgrounds even more enjoyable. The Helghast MAWLR is threatening Parappa’s hometown? Doctor Nefarious tries to take over San Francisco? A Metal Gear RAY in LocoRoco?  The hybrid stages are just as zany and awesome as they sound.

PS All-Stars does suffer from the same issues as other brawlers like it: it’s simply more fun to play in a party setting. Sure, the online mode means that I can log on and beat the snot out of whoever I want at any given time, but there’s just something about being in the same room with those I play against that makes games like this magical. Hearing the reactions, seeing the faces… it’s simply the best way to play. PS All-Stars’ single-player mode is enjoyable, and there are tons of things to unlock, but none of those are new characters or stages. It’s all ancillary stuff like new win poses and victory music, so there’s no real need to unlock it all.

Future games in this genre, either sequels to PS All-Stars or other games, need to figure out a way to make the game just as enjoyable to a single player as it is to a group of people hanging out. As enjoyable as these games are, they need to be just as much fun in every situation. A game like Halo 4, for instance, is known for its online matchmaking, but those who just want a good single-player campaign can get that, too. PS All-Stars doesn’t have that; its “story” mode consists of battles against random characters, a “rival battle,” the final boss, and intro and ending cutscenes that bookend everything. There’s not a whole lot to it. If only more fighting games saw the potential in their story modes like NetherRealm did with the latest Mortal Kombat….

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale set out to be Sony’s equivalent to a major competing franchise, and it’s a great success. There’s as much fun to be had here with the All-Stars as there is brawling with the Bros. The epidemic of “lackluster fighting-game single-player modes” continues, but that’s not enough to bring the whole ship down. Don’t let the first impression fool you, PS All-Stars gives an all-star effort worthy of any gamer’s time.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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