Can’t Quite Reach All the Stars

“PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” is Sony’s direct answer to Nintendo’s “Super Smash Bros.” While many would love to have a worthy alternative to “Smash Bros.,” “PlayStation All-Stars’” high barrier to entry limits its appeal to only determined hardcore players.

On the surface, “All-Stars” and “Smash Bros.” look very similar to each other. Instead of picking your favorite Nintendo characters, “All-Stars’” roster hosts 20 characters from both first and third-party franchises. “All-Stars’” unique roster contains everyone, from popular characters such as Nathan Drake and Kratos to obscure favorites like Fat Princess and Parappa the Rapper.

Aside from Good Cole and Evil Cole, the roster’s biggest strength is that every character plays differently from each other. Also, unlike “Smash Bros.,” “All-Stars’” roster can be expanded and refined through DLC and patches, which is great to keep the game feeling fresh and fair.

While “All-Stars” and “Smash Bros.” are similar in that they have four iconic characters get together in an arena to battle it out, the objective of each game is different. In “Smash Bros.,” each character’s attacks increase their opponent’s damage percentage, which makes it easier to knock them out of the arena. In “All-Stars,” regular attacks build up a meter used for a super attack that is the only way to knock out your opponents.

This one decision, more than any other, is what makes “All-Stars” a far more difficult and less accessible game than “Smash Bros.” In order to succeed, you need to be both intensely familiar with your character and more aware of the spacing between you and your opponents so you can land your super attacks.

The real problem with the super attack system is that the game isn’t fun until you really understand it. When I started playing “All-Stars,” the game was not really clicking for me, as attacks just don’t have the same immediate impact they do in “Smash Bros.” Even when I landed my super attacks, I still wasn’t having fun.

It wasn’t until I decided to stick with just one character for a few hours that I began to appreciate “All-Stars’” intricacies. I was surprised to find that “All-Stars’” characters actually have combos to master like a traditional fighting game. While even the most complex combo is relatively simple, using combos makes the combat feel engaging.

Thus, the weirdest thing about “PlayStation All-Stars” is that it is really held back by trying to be both simple and complex at the same time. The game just isn’t very fun until you put in the time to learn it, but if you do try to learn it, other problems arise.

The worst offender to “All-Stars” enjoyment at high-level play is the stage design that constantly evolves. The layouts of the arenas are constantly changing and new stage hazards are constantly introduced mid-match. In addition, this madness is on top of items randomly dropping and causing more havoc. Both can be turned off, but by default, the game is far too distracted from what makes it fun.

It is safe to say that “Smash Bros.” is a dorm room staple for many people. Nearly anyone can pick up the controller, mash buttons and have a good time. As a result of the high barrier to entry, I don’t think “PlayStation All-Stars” has the same appeal. Similarly, hardcore fighting game fans also have better alternatives such as “Persona 4: Arena.” While I have come to enjoy “All-Stars,” and I’m going to continue playing at least on Vita, I find “All-Stars” hard to recommend.

Final Rating: 3/5