One would have expected Sony to release a mascot brawler many years ago given the depth of its first-party line-up and large number of PlayStation exclusives. While it’s taken a while to come to fruition, the platform holder has finally produced a rival to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series with PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, a brawler that features an excellent cast of characters and dynamic stages inspired by some of the most iconic franchises in PlayStation history.
The first point worth mentioning is the immense quality of PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale’s PS Vita port. Bluepoint Games (God of War Collection, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection) handled the conversion, and somehow managed to achieve almost perfect parity with the PlayStation 3 version of the same title. The game’s graphics are only slightly pared down on the PS Vita and look fantastic running at 60 frames per second and at native resolution.
PlayStation All-Stars’ menu design has been completely overhauled for the PS Vita and features a far more attractive layout than the PS3 version, along with touch screen support. The only real criticism that could be levelled at the PS Vita port is that the characters appear very small when four fighters are duking it out in the larger levels. It’s difficult to imagine how this issue could have been overcome without changing the original level design, however, or leaving some characters out of the field of view.
PlayStation All-Stars on PS Vita also boasts Cross-Save, Cross-Play and AdHoc support so your progress will always be consistent across both versions of the game, and you can challenge your friends on PS3 or local PS Vita players who have their own copy of this title.
Battle Royale’s character roster consists of twenty well-known names, including figures from both first-party and third-party PlayStation franchises such as Uncharted (Nathan Drake), God of War (Kratos) and Heavenly Sword (Nariko). There are even some characters from multi-platform series such as Big Daddy from BioShock and Heihachi Mishima from Tekken.
Meanwhile, stages are typically mash-ups of two franchises featuring destructible elements, item pick-ups, and dynamic hazards including a hail of spears thrown by a Patapon army! These levels are not only great tributes to their source material but also pack a powerful punch from a visual perspective, with plenty of small details to admire if you pay close attention.
The gameplay in PlayStation All-Stars is surprisingly technical for a mascot brawler. Each character has a range of moves, combos and throws, with the direction buttons serving as modifiers. You can also block or evade attacks on the ground or in mid-air, and successfully landing attacks on your opponent or collecting AP orbs that sometimes appear in a stage will build up a Super meter consisting of three levels. Performing ‘Supers’ is how you knock out your opponents in PlayStation All-Stars, so you’ll need to be strategic about when to use them and how much to build up your meter before unleashing a Super attack.
Different characters’ Supers have different ranges so you’ll need to position your character correctly in relation to your opponents otherwise your attack will miss and a considerable amount of AP will drain from your meter. Obviously Level 3 Supers are a lot more destructive and far-reaching than their Level 1 counterparts so it often pays to build up your Super meter to Level 2 or Level 3 so you can increase your chances of knocking out multiple opponents.
PlayStation All-Stars’ modes are somewhat limited, with the majority of the singleplayer modes dedicated to mastering characters’ move sets and learning the ins and outs of gameplay. Arcade mode features a basic story arc for each character along with a ‘rival’ fight and boss battle. Unfortunately the casts’ opening and ending cut-scenes are merely slideshows with a bit of narration, and each storyline is ultimately forgettable albeit mildly entertaining at the time.
Multiplayer is where the heart of the PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale experience lies, but it’s definitely preferable to battle against friends online or locally because the game doesn’t have a lobby system or allow you to create matches if you’re going to be playing with strangers. The online matches I played had impressively low latency, but finding ranked and unranked games was a slow process that was compounded by the lack of any sort of lobby system. It would have been great if I could have seen which games were available to join, but sadly this feature is conspicuously absent from PlayStation All-Stars.
PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale is a commendable effort for Sony’s first foray into the mascot brawler genre. While the game’s modes don’t offer anything that hasn’t been seen before, its lasting appeal was always going to be its multiplayer component that has been optimised for playing with people on your friends list or in the same room as you. PlayStation fans will find a lot of masterful tributes to their favourite franchises in PlayStation All-Stars, and this is ultimately what elevates the game above the competition from a pure nostalgia point of view.