I have always loved Super Smash Bros. and it’s the one game that has always made me miss having a Nintendo console. However I have always loved the idea of Sony doing something similar. So many characters to choose from, so many ideas, and it’s finally here! The two games are not the same at their core. Is the idea the same? Sure, but anyone that gives both games a shot will quickly learn they are two very different experiences. Which is a good thing, we get to see a very awesome game with very creative ideas. At its core, PlayStation All-Stars is a stellar fighting game about some of the most iconic characters in the industry.
The game boasts 20 characters that cover all of PlayStation. The leaders like Drake from Uncharted and Kratos from God of War will battle upcoming icons like Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet and Cole from InFamous. Only 20 characters is a bit shocking with some of the really wanted icons not making it into the game though. People obviously wanted Crash Bandicoot and Spyro (or other classic characters), but they were not included. This makes certain characters like Fat Princess and Toro questionable calls for the roster.
Yet this is something I hated from afar too. I didn’t want to touch the game because Snake (Metal Gear) wasn’t included, and the lack of Crash Bandicoot makes the purpose of the game feel incomplete. However I was wrong because the characters they did include actually make you like them more. Raiden replaces Snake for Metal Gear and this is upsetting to a MGS fan like me because Raiden annoys us. Yet Raiden is my top played character, I already almost maxed his level out and this game has made me want to go pre-order MGS Revengeance. The way the game is made makes these choices seem reasonable, since they all have perks that work perfectly in the gameplay.
Each character is extremely balanced with the entire roster, it honestly is something we never see often. There isn’t one character that absolutely dominates anything as there is always a weakness in some regards. People might think Kratos feels overpowered, but if you play a few games against him you learn how to get around him. Everything is well balanced and every player will find someone they prefer to play as. You will really enjoy experimenting with all the characters and finding one that suits your playing style. Once you get comfortable with one, you will find another that is fun to play as well.
Each character is also very unique, and I haven’t seen a single character that feels like a re-skin of another. Even the evil and regular Cole (InFamous) are two very different characters. Evil Cole is more swift and up close, while regular Cole is more of a distance fighter. I keep finding cool littler perks about each character as well, since they had to do something more than throw a bunch of people with guns in an arena. Drake utilizes actual game elements for moves, so he will hide behind a wall for cover, or have a bunch of rocks fall down on top of characters. Toro will change clothes in battle and this will let him have different moves mapped to your controller.
All of this blends well as the purpose of the battle is to land hits and gain “All Star Points” which lead to a “Super.” Each character has 3 levels of super attacks. The first is a basic attack that last about a second or two, the second level is a bit more powerful and normally has a range across the map, and the third is the ultimate super where your character will transform and obliterate the map. The weaknesses of each character can be anything from being powerful, but slow, or gaining their “super” fast, but it’s hard to use and land a hit.
There can be any combination, and the only thing that feels questionable is restricting supers when that is how you win games. This is where PS All-Stars sets itself apart from other brawl games, and it will take some getting used to, but it’s entirely worth it.
The cool thing about PlayStation All-Stars is the fact the levels are a roster of their own. They are not scenic views similar to some games, they are literally mashed up scenes right from games themselves. I am still finding cool things to look at, and several times I’ve caught myself pushing a character into the wall while staring at the environment. You have anything from PapaRappa owning the giant machine from Killzone, or Metal Gear destroying a Loco Roco level. The level designs also allowed Superbot to include games that were left off the roster. Resistance didn’t get a character, but my favorite level is based on the San Francisco level from Resistance and there are several weapons you can pick up that are from Resistance as well.
Most of the levels evolve and change as the game goes on which is neat. In the Resistance level a flying vehicle will crash into the playing field and alter the side of the map. In Dreamscape it’s basically LittleBigPlanet building the level as you right, and then Buzz will come out and start quizzing everyone. In Aldens Tower you will have to start climbing at certain points of the match to get to the top, which is a great nod to Sly Cooper and InFamous.
The Single Player Is Lacking
The game is split up into three sections. You have tournament which is ranked games online against anyone. Versus is playing against anyone you invite to your game, and AI bots. Lastly you have solo section which is sadly lacking as the entire game is completely slanted towards multiplayer.
In solo play you have practice modes etc which will help you learn a specific character rather well, but overall its Arcade mode that you will want to play. Here you will pick a character and go through his story, and by doing so you will learn a bit about how to play the character better. Normally these are fun, but it’s a bit simplistic and easy, let alone lacking a story.
The overall boss is Polygon man and I want to go out of my way to say this is the absolute perfect boss for the game, absolutely awesome! However there is nothing to make him better. Those of us that know who he is think he is neat, and those that don’t will still think he is cool. However why is he here? What does he mean he “never lost till now?” None of this is explained, and you don’t see him till the very last battle.
I know, this is a brawler and story isn’t entirely important, but there could have been a really awesome story here that is entirely missed. Each character will introduce themselves with a short story and create their own little agenda as to why they need to fight all the other characters. Midway through they will meet their rival and a funny little scene occurs. Then they beat Polygon Man and finish the story by saying “well I didn’t reach my goal, but I have this power.” Once again the power is hardly explained beyond a blue glow. I just would have preferred more story to each character, make it a bit more funny or something because what was there was highly entertaining. So far Jak and Daxter facing off against Ratchet and Clank has been the most entertaining for me.
A ton of effort went into the core of the game with the fighting that the single player feels unpolished. The “cutscenes” are simple images placed together with voice overs to talk about the story. The meeting between rivals is basic animation on the level. Once again there are great ideas brought about, but it’s never further developed and it just makes you want more. I’m sure Superbot will be making another game, and this is where I’d like something to be improved. If they up the single player experience then this game will be nearly perfect.
The Online Saves The Day
Online is the most important aspect of the game, and it’s built up extremely well. You can play PS3 and have Vita users in the game, which is awesome. You can easily set up party games, and adjust any of the settings you want. You can play free-for-all or 2-vs-2, mess with the clock, change out the items, stop the environment interruptions, or do whatever to make it your own game.
The online portion also has ranked tournament mode. Here you play through seasons, and at the end of the season your highest ranked belt is saved, but the stats are reset for the next season. This is great way to let everyone have a fair shot to be at the top at one point or another.
My only gripe about online play is how some players already found some easy exploits. For example the Helghast character from Killzone has distance attacks. Players will sit on the edge of one level maps and just “camp” there. (funny how camping from a shooting game affects a fighting game) It’s annoying, and since All-Stars takes out the edge of the maps and health system, there is nothing you can really do. In some maps you can knock them off, but overall they just get thrown to the other side and then keep doing it. Superbot said they are paying attention to how people play, so it will be interesting to see how this is repaired.
I will admit that you do need to be a PlayStation fan to truly enjoy this game. You don’t need to be a die-hard fan from the PlayStation One days though because Superbot did an amazing job of covering all three generations. There is a great recognition of all the icons, and this feels like a great celebration of everything PlayStation has to offer. One thing you have to be afraid of when doing something like this is respecting everyone, and I believe they did that well. Even the much loved Insomniac has a big impact on this game. Lastly they thank the fans at the end, and that just makes the entire experience wrap up in a neat little bow.
Will some fans be angry their big icons didn’t make it? Yes, but give it a shot because a lot of the “new” characters are placed nicely into the game and you will become fans of them as well. Plus Superbot has DLC planned! Plus if you are still trying to say this game is a direct clone to Super Smash Bros, please stop and actually play the game. They are two very different experiences.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5
The fighting system is almost perfect and that alone took a ton of effort to build. The Super system is an awesome and fun twist, and the nod and respect to each franchise is astonishing. The only thing really holding it back is the lackluster single player experience.