With a longstanding roster of diverse characters, ranging from Jak and Daxter, to PaRappa and Kratos, it only makes sense Sony would eventually bring them together to mercilessly fight each other. PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, a fighting game very much in the vein of Nintendo's Smash Bros. series, represents Sony's attempt to take advantage of their catalog in an uncharted way... Sorry about that. While far from an original concept, All-Stars introduces some different ideas to the tried-and-true Smash Bros. formula, with varying degrees of success.
First, let's get the basics out of the way. All-Stars allows up to four PlayStation characters to fight each other inside arenas designed around those same franchises. By using directional moves, players aim to deal damage, gain points, and ultimately, outlast their rivals in battle. After playing five or six matches, it's very apparent the game's similarities to Smash Bros. go beyond its high-level concepts. Combat emphasizes movement, ranged attacks and unique powers over complex combos. Sound familiar?
That being said, comparisons to Smash Bros. begin to end when you look at how All-Stars determines score and damage. Instead of trying to knock opponents off screen, players fill their super-move meters up (by engaging in combat) to initiate critical hits. These meters have three layers, with increasingly devastating effects, that adds an extra element of strategy into the mix. It's an interesting idea, but based on our admittedly short time with the game, I'd say the original Smash Bros. approach is a bit more fun and intuitive.
Alongside Nintendo, Sony is one of the only companies with a deep enough roster of characters and universes to support an endeavour like this. Announced characters include but are not limited to: Nathan Drake, Sly Cooper, Sweet Tooth, Fat Princess and BioShock's Big Daddy. While we can definitely expect other Sony stalwarts to join the party leading up to launch, it seems third-party characters will make up a significant portion of the roster as well. It's not as cohesive a lineup as what players are accustomed to from Nintendo, which creates some interesting possibilities - the idea of PaRappa fighting Nathan Drake hasn't gotten old.
All-Stars also takes a slightly different approach to its stage design, wherein each battleground incorporates elements from two franchises - e.g. LittleBigPlanet mixed with Buzz, or Ratchet & Clank teaming up with God of War. The LittleBigPlanet-Buzz arena was particularly intriguing to me, because the environment changed in realtime using Sackboy's creation tools, as well as pausing the action periodically to ask players Buzz-type trivia. There's a great deal of opportunity for developer SuperBot to be creative here, so stay tuned.
Ultimately, some balancing issues notwithstanding, All-Stars appears to be a well-executed take on the Smash Bros. approach to branded brawlers. Whether you're playing on PlayStation 3 or Vita, there's a lot to look forward to from Sony's gaming catalog this fall when All-Stars is scheduled to hit stores shelves.