PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Hands-On Preview

Fighting game fanatics love crossovers, as well as games that pit their favourite characters against each other. That’s why Nintendo‘s 1999 release of Super Smash Bros. became such a phenomenon, making it a no-brainer that folks would express their interest in a digital release that would pit Sony‘s impressive stable of unique creations against one another. After all, who wouldn’t want to pit Kratos against Sly Cooper? They’re about as different as you can get when it comes to video game protagonists, which sets the tone for a rather creative battle.

After well over a decade of hope, the above-mentioned fans’ dreams recently became a reality when SuperBot Entertainment and Sony Computer Entertainment‘s Santa Monica Studio announced their collaborative effort, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Pitting a large assortment of Sony‘s stable characters against their peers, it’s expected to become a must buy title for both the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, and is already stirring up lots of talk. Then again, that’s to be expected when a project embues years of collective hope.

I recently got a chance to sit down with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale at a preview event in Toronto, Ontario, where four playable characters and one map were made available for demonstration. That hands-on action centred upon a Jak and Daxter themed map where a small island became an arena and players fought to stay where it was dry. Those who ended up falling into the watery depths below were not penalized with death like in Super Smash Bros. though that doesn’t mean they were in the clear. Falling down meant having to swim away, or jump over, an angry fish whose dinner plans involved munching on PlayStation-themed flesh.

Before we go any further, I need to be honest by mentioning that I’ve never been much of a fan of the fighting genre, though that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them. Over the years, I’ve played many different iterations, and have enjoyed some of them. However, the genre has never hooked me, and hasn’t kept me coming back for more very often. Only the odd game has managed to do that, and even the Super Smash Bros. franchise hasn’t swayed me out of the lukewarm opinion region. For that reason, I was skeptical about how much I would actually enjoy playing this brand new IP. Though, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was.

What became apparent from the get-go is that, while PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale uses the same genre design as the aforementioned phenomenon, it’s not a direct clone by any means. Thankfully for those like me, it’s a tad slower, meaning it’s not going a mile a minute and is easier to get into. The action knob is still turned up high, but the mechanics truly seem tighter, and the game’s jumping mechanics seemed to have less float to them. Those were things that made me happy because I’ve always felt that Nintendo‘s stable fighter was a bit too over-the-top.

Due to limitations, only four characters were made available, including a Colonel Radec, PaRappa the Rapper, Sweet Tooth and Sly Cooper. Both times I played against my peers, I was left with Sly, which was fine. His animal qualities worked well with my play style, allowing me to jump around the environment and land attacks from above. He controlled well and had a good arsenal of attacks, which were complemented by some fluid jumping mechanics. Combining aerial maneuvers with ground-based attacks allowed me to play with confidence, despite having never played the game before.

The above-mentioned action played out over a design that tracks players’ points dished out and attacks taken. However, there was no indicator as to who was winning during each fight, which is something that didn’t make a lot of sense. We had to wait until the end of the fight to find out who won, which added suspense, but will surely become annoying for those who purchase the game and put hours into it. Hopefully something will be implemented in the future, so that we can figure out who’s winning at a given time.

When I first sat down, I instinctually thought that the meter located at the bottom of the gameplay screen represented each character’s health bar. That assumption was wrong, however, as the blue bar actually represents stored energy. Players can fill and store up to three of them at one given time, allowing them to unleash amazing special attacks. As expected, filling one bar grants you the use of a basic special, while the moves get better and more deadly as more full meters are added in. This adds a nice layer of strategy to the experience, as one must always worry about losing a life, since special meters reset to zero whenever someone perishes. Though, respawns allow for another opportunity to work towards a super special.

After playing two competitive rounds of this much-anticipated brawler, I must admit that I left feeling more optimistic about how much I will enjoy the full title when it’s released. There’s a good game here, and it’s quite a bit of fun, especially when friends play together. I got lucky and had a chance to sit down against some of mine, making the final result much more fun to look forward to. Thankfully, I ended up winning one, although the downside is that I did so because I was hit the least. My poor Sly Cooper avatar didn’t get into the fray as much as the others, and also fell down into the depths a few times, leading to a rather unfair victory. Though, I’ll take it, because it’s not often that I’m victorious at this type of game.

Now that I’ve fully described my original mind space and overall opinion of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale‘s preview build, there’s one thing that stands out to me as its most telling aspect. That would be its accessibility, allowing it to turn a non-genre fan into an interested combatant. If it won me over like that, then fighting game gurus will certainly enjoy what is sure to become on of this holiday’s most sought after PlayStation exclusives.