Outside of Nintendo, Sony probably has the most recognizable cast of characters. The only difference between the two companies is that Nintendo managed to find a way to bring those characters together in a mascot/mash-up brawler called Super Smash Bros. It's been over 10 years since Nintendo first introduced that game series which has been a (pardon the pun) smash hit among Nintendo fans.
Obviously seeing the demand for such a genre, Sony, 10 years later, has decided to step up to the plate and offer their own mascot brawler for PlayStation owners: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Although it's clearly inspired by its predecessor, PlayStation All-Stars has already drawn comparisons and unfair criticism to Super Smash. While the core of PlayStation All-Stars is awfully similar to what we've already seen before, Sony and SuperBot Entertainment have attempted to tweak a few gameplay elements to ensure PlayStation All-Stars stands as its own, original entity. Unfortunately, not all of those changes work to the game's advantage.
The first major change is the use of the Super meter and each character's corresponding Supers. Whereas in Super Smash Bros. you fight to do damage to the other opponent and increase their damage percentage, in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale you are dealing damage to increase your own Super meter. Once filled, players have the ability to perform their character's Super, which is the only way to eliminate the opponent and score points. There is no other way to eliminate an opponent than by successfully landing your Super move.
Each character has three different Supers which can be earned by building up the meter. Once the meter is filled once, you have the option of casting your Super or continuing to build to the next level. This creates a fun, little meta game of sorts, with each player struggling internally with the decision to use their level one Super or saving for the next, presumably stronger Super. The problem with saving, however, is that you run the risk of missing with your higher level one and potentially wasting all the time you spent saving. Of course, if you manage to save until level three, you're almost always guaranteed a triple kill.
The core combat in PlayStation All-Stars completely revolves around the meta game of your character's Supers. Although it's easy to assume that the level one Super is the weakest, level two a bit stronger, and level three the strongest. However, that's not always the case. Certain Super's may better fit your playstyle and for that reason it can't be assumed that way. It's also for that reason that you can't really judge the balance of each individual character's Supers. What works for you may not work for someone else.
It all comes down to your playstyle and preference. Perhaps you prefer a quick, single-elimination playstyle; then simply save until your level one Super and then strike. Or perhaps you like to go for the big bang and would rather wait until your level three. The decision is all yours and this sort-of-mini-game is what makes the concept of Supers so intriguing.
With all that being said, there are some drawbacks to the Super concept. The main drawback being the lack of fear for taking damage. There's more fear when you have to worry about not only dealing damage, but taking it as well. In PlayStation All-Stars you can get hit a thousand times and unless your opponent lands a Super, you'll be completely fine. Getting hit in PlayStation All-Stars does nothing but help your opponent increase their Super Meter, but that isn't enough to really make you fear getting hit. Who cares if you get hit as long as you hit them first; it turns the game into a button masher and who can get their Super off fastest rather than a strategic fighter. The lack of a damage meter is probably the game's biggest setback, and it spreads far beyond the Super meter.
All of the stages in PlayStation All-Stars are interactive and pose some sort of threat to the player. This threat is subdued, however, by the fact that you can't be eliminated or even take damage from it. Sure, you may lose some of your Super meter bar, but it's so easy to regenerate that there's really no lasting impact. For that reason, it's hard to really care about the environmental hazards, but it is cool to see them wreak havoc during the match.
The same can be said for item pick ups. Since there's no risk of being eliminated, why bother caring? Sure, they can help you steal your opponents Super meter once you hit them, but like I said, it's so easy to increase your Super meter on your own that it doesn't really matter. Still, slapping someone does provide a certain amount of joy.
It may sound like I'm hating on the entire Super meter, but the fact is that it's still an enjoyable system. It didn't ruin the gameplay for me, because when it's all said and done, the real joy in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale comes from the ability to pick your favorite Sony character and beat the hell out of others. Kratos vs Nathan Drake vs Sweet Tooth vs Cole MacGrath? Sign me up!
Outside of the Super meters, the combat in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is fast and fluid. Although each character has the same basic move concept, their moveset and specialties vary greatly. Some characters excel at close combat, while others shine at a distance. From a personal standpoint, I believe melee characters (Kratos, Big Daddy, Nariko) have an advantage over ranged characters (Colonel Radec, Nathan Drake), but I'm sure those ranged characters will have their fair share of expert players. The important thing here, outside of character balance, is that each character feels unique and authentic to their original game.
From the more modern Dante to the lesser-known Sir Daniel Fortesque, the character roster in PlayStation All-Stars will appeal to Sony fans of all ages. Each character's voice, music, introduction, and related stage are all authentic to the games they are from. For each character, you are given a short single-player story-type arcade mode with various types of matches. You are presented with a brief introduction, loosely explaining why they are participating in the PlayStation All-Stars battle, a short cutscene with their rival, and a final cinematic. It's not much in terms of storytelling, but it's enough to get the job done.
Outside of arcade mode, there are plenty of other goals and challenges to strive from. You have individual character challenges, game challenges, online tournament challenges, and much more to keep you busy. Successfully completing these challenges will level up each individual character you play as, unlocking new introductions, icons, clothing and colors, and sidekicks. With 20 characters, there's plenty in PlayStation All-Stars for you to strive for and unlock. That's not even including becoming the best in the world via the tournament ranked seasons.
On the surface, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may appear to be nothing more than a clone and a gimmick, but beneath the basic concept of mascot-brawler, it offers so much more. A solid combat system coupled with an impressive cast of characters and a slew of unlockable challenges makes the game a fun romp with tons of replay value. For fans of Sony and the rich history of the PlayStation characters, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a must-have.