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If there had to be one exclusive game Sony is pushing hard this holiday season, it is their new fighting game, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Developed by newcomer Superbot, this title has got the obvious comparisons to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. franchise ever since it was first shown off earlier this year. Eager fans have been getting their hands on the game at various conventions and closed betas, but now there is a public beta available for everyone to try out for this week. It has been out for Playstation Plus owners and folks with a Vita for a week, but everyone else has access to it today. From what I played so far, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is an interesting take on the Super Smash Bros. formula, but different enough to be its own game at the same time.
The public beta has six playable characters, of which they're the first batch of characters that were announced. Kratos from God of War has been the popular choice of the bunch due to his balanced playstyle of attacking from both close and far ranges. Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal is the slowest of the six characters because of his size, but can deal big damage up close. Radec from the Killzone franchise relies heavily on long range weaponry as he can snipe opponents from the other side of a stage. Parappa the Rapper (my personal favorite of the six) uses his skateboard and his martial arts skills to take out the competition. Fat Princess can summon minions from the game she was on to help her against the opposition. Lastly, Sly Cooper can turn invisible for his block ability and uses his friends from the Cooper series for help too.
The modes are pretty light in this beta for Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. There is a tutorial to get players started with the basic controls and then there’s the online multiplayer. Four player free-for-all and 2v2 team battles are the currently available bout options, with two stages to choose from as well. One of the stages is the Ratchet & Clank Metropolis stage with some God of War stuff thrown halfway into the fight - a Hydra comes in to can attack the characters and there’s also some moving platforms to diversify the stage. The Hades stage has the big god randomly attacking the environment and then Patapon can come to bomb parts of it as well. The stages in general do a good job of not being one-dimensional by changing dynamically throughout the fights.
At first glance, the core gameplay does look very similar to Super Smash Bros. with four characters simultaneously on-screen fighting each other, but Superbot was able to make this game not feel like a clone of Nintendo’s fighter by coming up with separate mechanics. The goal of the game (at this time) is to rack up the highest kill count and not die frequently within a time limit. The only way to kill in Playstation All-Stars is by using supers, which I’ll talk more in a bit. Players gain meter by attacking other characters and collecting AP orbs that come out at random times. Items are also spawned randomly from rocket launchers, Hades swords, and a stun bomb. Attacking with these items can cause opponents to lose meter. Other than those reasons, the items don’t really make a big impact with the core fighting since most of the characters have their array of ranged attacks as their normal moves to use to gain meter.
The biggest difference between the two games is the super meter system. All characters have a meter of up to three bars to use three different types of supers. Level one supers are more up close and usually take out one or two opponents if timed correctly. Level two supers are less risky than rank 1 supers as they can kill two to three opponents with ease. If you’re able to stock up all three bars for a level 3 super, these have a cinematic startup and an even higher percentage of killing more opponents. Kratos, for example, busts out his Blade of Olympus and wrecks shop on the opposition for a certain amount of time. Parappa raps out a song in his level 3, clearing the whole screen of characters. Meter management becomes a crucial part of the fights since some supers by specific characters aren’t worth it to use and you’ll eventually need a gameplan of how to rack up kills. By personal experience, some characters’ level 3s are worth it to use, but if the character has a good level 2 super, it's better off using that for less meter to score kills.
I like the different ideas Superbot decided to go with for Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale from what I played of this public beta. Sure, the game is still going to be heavily compared to Super Smash Brothers, but Superbot’s take on the formula is actually different and refreshing for this style of a fighting game. The core gameplay is fun and the developers did a great job keeping these characters faithful to their own games. The supers system is both simple and deep with some strategy of which super rank to use at certain times. It is unfortunate that the public beta is limited to six characters and two stages, but it is a beta to make sure the netcode works properly and it does for the most part. There will be matches at times when there is only two or three players on-screen and the other character(s) won’t show up at all in a four player free-for-all game until the results screen. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is coming out on November 20 for the Playstation 3 and Vita with Cross Buy support, meaning you only have to buy it once if you're planning to get both versions. The game is shaping up to be a worthy free-for-all fighter for both casual and hardcore audiences.