Despite what you might think, SuperBot Entertainment’s PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale is far from being a Super Smash Bros. clone. The Sony brawler made its debut on the PlayStation 3 and Vita this year featuring some of the most recognizable characters in the PlayStation Universe, including Ratchet, Nathan Drake, Jak and Daxter, and Sackboy, all duking it out across several themed stages and using a unique super attack system that allowed each player to reach different levels of finishing moves in order to score kills in a match. It’s a great game anyone can approach and have fun with, making it one of the more accessible games within the fighting genre.
But like any game, it was not without its fair share of problems. And since it’s likely we’ll see an eventual follow-up to Battle Royale, here are five things I’d love to see in a second installment.
BETTER STORY MODE
I know, I know, fighting games are not widely known for having robust or interesting stories. But the arcade/story mode for PlayStation All Stars felt a bit disjointed, like something that could have used a bit more time to fully develop and flesh out.
What do I mean? For starters, let’s get some animated cutscenes in the beginning when introducing a character instead of still shots with a voiceover. Using stills felt oddly like a cop out, and taking the time to flesh things out would have really lent a quality feel to the game’s overall presentation. On top of that, there’s an opportunity here to add in a quirky and unique story that explained exactly why all these characters were fighting to begin with, instead of simply giving us a taste of each character’s backstory or personality in the beginning of their campaign. There were a few times the game hinted at a “tournament” or “gathering” in their introductions, but it never bothers to go further than that.
The arcade mode itself needs a bit more depth to it as well. Many of the stages tended to repeat themselves on a regular basis as you played through each individual character’s story. You’d always start at the dojo from PaRappa, move on to Sly Cooper’s Paris level, and eventually wind up at Ratchet’s level, Hade’s Underworld from God of War, or the stadium from Twisted Metal. Sure, they rotated every now and then, but I still managed to get sick of playing the same stages over and over during my time with it. Either a bunch of new levels need to be introduced, or the game needs to do a better job of randomizing the stages. Stages are one of the most unique features of Battle Royale, and it would be great to see more of them.
Finally, the end boss needs to be something more original than an odd, cuboid purple face laughing and slamming down on you with its gargantuan chin, only to throw more game characters at you to fight immediately after. The boss fight was the same at the end of everyone’s arcade mode, didn’t make sense or have any continuity whatsoever, and wasn’t challenging. All you had to do was defeat 1, 2, and 3 opponents with supers, get slammed down on by the face, and hit it enough to kill the boss and get to the end of the character’s story.
There are a lot of great bosses from various games in PlayStation history. Can we not just draw from one of those? The hydra fight from the original God of War was fun and could fit in really well here. Dollface makes an appearance in the BioShock Infinite themed level of Columbia. Being that she’s dangerous and massive, she also could be used as a boss fight to challenge the player. The boss fight in All Stars didn’t make sense and was more of the same brawling you’d already been sitting through for several rounds. It was fun and satisfying enough, but it definitely would benefit from a bit more polish the second time around.
A MORE VARIED ROSTER
Don’t get me wrong here; the roster for All Stars was fun to use and had a pretty wide variety of characters that appealed to players of all types and styles. But for all it did well, it still managed to feel somewhat lacking. With so many different and fantastic exclusives in the PlayStation stable, why did we have obscure characters like Sir Dan, but not Cloud or Sephiroth, whose game helped the PS1 rise to prominence as the definitve JRPG console in the 90′s? And while I love, love, love the inFamous series, I can’t find a good reason to put an evil and good Cole McGrath on the roster as two separate playable characters. While they did have somewhat different move sets, they still managed to feel similar. Surely, we could have had one Cole with supers that showed off his good and evil side and cleared up some room for a different character.
And it doesn’t stop there. They might not own the rights to him, but Crash Bandicoot needed to be in that game in one form or another. Spyro would have been a nice addition, a Chimera from Resistance could be really fun and different, and maybe something could have even been worked out to bring Sora from Kingdom Hearts or Snake from Metal Gear Solid into the mix.
Like I said, the roster for the game was great, and I applaud bringing some of the most interesting characters from PlayStation’s history in. But there were some glaring omissions in there that needed to be addressed.
The Super System in All Stars really helped make that game feel as interesting and unique as it is. You don’t merely dole out damage in All Stars in order to win. Instead, inflicting damage on other players helped fill up a super meter on your HUD that, when full, allowed for a level 1, level 2, and level 3 super attack that scored a “kill” on another player. After the counts were recorded, the player who ended the round with the highest number of kills was declared the winner.
I loved the super system in All Stars. It was clear and concise, and I always had a solid idea of what my character was capable of doing or what situation I was in. Contrary to popular belief, the goal was not necessarily to always work your way up to a level 3 super and use it to wipe everyone off the map. Instead, there is a fair amount of strategy involved in knowing when and where to use level 1 and 2 supers in order to score more attainable kills to add to your count, and I loved the times I had to figure out exactly when to save my attacks and when to use them.
Supers also did a great job of paying homage to each individual character’s background and personality by incorporating something the character did or was associated with in their respective games. Ratchet uses his various and powerful weapons to blast players into oblivion, Murray body slams opponents for Sly Cooper, and Nathan Drake tumbles a temple pillar over to crush any enemies in the way.
Supers were fun to experiment with and use, but I felt like I encountered some slight balancing issues with each of them. Ratchet’s level 1 super attack was incredibly powerful, while PaRappa’s required you to be practically on top of the other player in order to score a kill. Ranged supers tended to be more useful and powerful than those that took place up close, and it felt somewhat inconsistent and frustrating in its implementation. Better balancing that allows each of the characters to have level 1, 2, and 3 supers of equal power and ability would help to make each character more accessible and allow for players to have a more fair chance at victory in a match.
EVEN MORE STAGES
As said before, one of the best parts of PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale was the game’s various stages that combined the best of two different Sony franchises in an attempt to pay homage to each of the respective games.
The stages were great. They offered environmental challenges, were aesthetically interesting, and fit the game’s overall goofy vibe. PlayStation All Stars is a fun, lighthearted game about seeing Sackboy beat up on Kratos. At its core, this is an odd concept that wouldn’t work in any other form outside of a brawler in the same vein as games like All Stars or Smash Bros. Because of that, the stages felt like a great addition and helped play up the game’s ridiculous nature very well.
In the next game, I don’t want anything about them to change outside of one thing: I want more of them. They were interesting and fun to be in, and I can’t wait to see what other hybrids they can dream up and put into use for the second All Stars. Seeing the Patapons come in behind Hades was awesome, and having a chance to see a whole new set of stages and mixed themes is something I can definitely get behind in All Stars 2.
Have any other additions or things you’d like to see in the next game? Share your thoughts in the comments below!