McGinnis: New fighting game pits Sony icons against each otherWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Most folks my age grew upon a combination of Nintendo and Sega systems, but my personal love of video games began in earnest with the release of the original Playstation in 1995. I didn’t consider myself a true gamer until I began playing titles like “Crash Bandicoot,” “Metal Gear Solid,” “Wipeout” and more.
This intimate familiarity with the Sony brand from that point on kinda makes me the ideal target audience for the new brawler “Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale.” A collection of iconic characters from every era of Sony consoles, doing battle in wild, over the top brawls? Count me in.
But don’t think that nostalgia is the only drawing card, here. Despite the great (if gimmicky) idea behind its existence, the simple fact is that “Battle Royale” is also a top-notch fighting game on its own merits. While it draws heavily from Nintendo’s wildly successful “Super Smash Brothers” franchise, the developers at Superbot Entertainment have crafted a tremendously entertaining brawler.
The concept is dirt simple. Up to four Playstation icons combat in a 2-D battleground, with wildly over-the-top attacks and weapons at their disposal. There are no complicated button sequences to remember for each fighter. Every attack is accomplished by simply hitting a single button and a direction to execute.
It sounds simple, it is, but there’s more to it than that. The goal is to rack up points through basic attacks to earn “super moves” that knock out your opponents. The more power you save, the more devastating the moves available to you. This opens up a ton of strategy related to when and how to unleash your super move to its best effect. The structure is easy enough that new players can just mash buttons and have a ball, but it’s not shallow as a result.
Of course, the fact that these brawls are occurring between such a wide variety of persona is a big part of the appeal. Superbot has rounded up a collection of 20 of the most memorable characters from Sony history. And not just modern characters like Kratos or Nathan Drake — the developer has taken care to include classic characters from every era of the brand. Playing with Parappa the Rapper or Sir Daniel from “MedEvil” is not only fun, but a wonderful tip of the hat to nostalgia.
That feeling carries over into the battle arenas, which are also designed to bring a smile to any experienced gamer. Each area is built around an individual franchise, emulating the look and feel of a classic game perfectly. But as the battle progresses, a shift occurs, and another game begins to impose itself on the first one. This creates weird, fun hybrid levels where, say, “Jak and Daxter” meets “Hotshots Golf,” or “Patapon” meets “God of War.” The result are arenas which are almost as fun to watch as they are to play in.
The game comes with robust online modes, with tournaments and worldwide rankings to compete in. Online matches run smoothly and without noticeable hiccups, as do local matches played against friends on the same console. Though the game’s single player modes are fun, this is a game designed to be played against others.
It also comes with a great deal for owners of a Vita, the new PlayStation portable system. As part of Sony’s “Cross Buy” program, those who purchase the PlayStation 3 version of “Battle Royale” get the Vita version for free via download. Better yet, the Vita game is excellent, playing identically to the PS3 version — seemingly nothing has been sacrificed in the trip to making the game portable.
Against all these pluses, pointing out the few weak points that “Battle Royale” has seems like nitpicking, but they’re definitely there. While looking for vignettes to tie together this ludicrous premise is likely insane, the still-frame story lines that accompany each character’s single player journey seem half-hearted, at best. The game camera zooms out to keep all four players on screen at all times, even if they’re on opposite sides of the arena — this can make your own character easy to lose track of sometimes, if you’re not careful.
But at the end of the day, “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it brilliantly. A terrifically entertaining fighting game, a lovely tip of the hat to history, a title that most any age can play and enjoy, but one that also rewards strategy and skill. Add in its almost limitless replay value and the bonus of the free Vita version, and this one is a no-brainer buy for most any Sony gamer.