On the surface, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale seems like a rip-off of the Super Smash Bros. series, but on closer examination, key differences arise. The two games’ premises are largely the same: take characters from a major gaming company’s franchise, and make them fight with each other in arenas inspired by the games. This premise has been extremely successful for Nintendo as evidenced by the fact that Super Smash Bros. Mêlée was the best-selling GameCube title (with 7 million copies sold worldwide) and Brawl is Nintendo of America’s fasting selling title. Royale has not achieved the same commercial success, having only sold about 380 thousand copies worldwide since its release on November 20, 2012, making it by all counts a flop.
The first issue with Royale is no fault of Sony’s: there simply aren’t as many PlayStation-exclusive titles from which to draw great fighting characters. Royale features many characters who make sense in the context of combat, like Kratos (from God of War) and Dante (from Devil May Cry). However, there are also characters who make little sense to have in a fighting game. Royale features characters like PaRappa the Rapper, a character from a rapping game.
All characters are taken out of the context of their own franchises, but Royale attempts to rationalize them with opening and closing cut scenes. These cut scenes feature voice acting that is generally on par with the standard set by the characters’ preceding titles. The audio plays over a series of images that are meant to enhance the scenes’ dramatic effect. These individual images are of high quality but are disappointing without animation to accompany them. It would have been nice to have full animation, or at least have motion comics to make these scenes feel like they weren’t just tacked on.
More confusing is the fact that near the end of arcade mode, there are fully animated cut scenes that involve characters from different franchises confronting each other. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for this discrepancy of style.
The main gameplay of Royale takes place in Arcade Mode, in which the player selects a difficulty, Hero (easy), Legendary (medium), or All-Star (hard), and a character. After the opening cut scene, combat begins. The first of these fights are each three minutes long with a score tallied (+1 for each kill, -1 for each death) one on one fight. There is no onscreen indicator of scores, making it difficult as a player to know who is in the lead and by how much.
After a few of these rounds there is a race to three points, which features a score tracker. These battles can feature up to four combatants, and while each character is clearly marked, the fights often get chaotic if they are spread across the arena. This is remedied when all fighters are close together, but that rarely happens. At the end of arcade mode, there is a fight against a final boss, which involves killing characters in progression and then hitting the giant face named “Boss.”
The gameplay itself is well developed and original. Each character hits (or shoots in the case of a character like Ratchet) to gain the attacker AP (All-Star Power). Each hit does not directly damage the enemy, and there is no way of killing people by knocking them offstage like in Smash Bros. The collected AP goes into a bar that builds up three levels of power. Each power is used to kill opponents. In general, each character can kill one adversary with the first level, which are actions like Drake blowing up a propane tank on an opponent. In the second level, one can kill two opponents. In the third level, things get chaotic as a character can eliminate with single hits—for example Sweet Tooth becomes a giant robot that can stomp and shoot its way to victory.
After the completion of each battle, each player is awarded by leveling up. Unlike in most games leveling up does not make your character more powerful or give him or her new moves. Instead it unlocks new outfits and other “swag” to show off for online gaming. There is also a disturbing lack of unlockable characters—instead one must buy them as DLC (downloadable content). I found that this dampened motivation to keep on playing the game.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an entertaining and original game, but it fails to live up to the standards set by Super Smash Bros.