So the PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale beta is available for PS Plus subscribers, allowing me to spend some time with SuperBot Entertainment's much-anticipated crossover fighting game. As I am seemingly one of the only people who jumped to defend Sony's answer to Super Smash Bros., I was admittedly quite excited to get my hands on a preview of it, even if it was only a beta version.
First thing's first, let's discuss the elephant in the room: yes, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale shares many similarities with the Super Smash Bros. series. In fact, I spent my first couple of games under the illusion that I was playing SSB, bouncing around the stage attempting to attack my enemies as if I were Kirby, coming unstuck as I slowly began to realise that the fighting mechanics of All-Stars differ quite substantially from its Nintendo cousin.
Like SSB, the controls are simple to understand, yet deceptively deep. I spent my first few matches running hopelessly up to my opponents and button-bashing, and while the results were reasonably effective, getting a firm handle on the controls meant that after a short while I could effectively pull off an impressive looking string of attacks, which also brings me to the first major difference between All-Stars and SSB: combos.
All-Stars unexpectedly has 'traditional' fighting game leanings, and while you won't be pulling off any Killer Instinct-esque huge combinations of moves, you will be surprised at just what you can do with the basic controls. As Kratos, I pulled myself towards my opponent with the Blades of Chaos, laying into them before sending them plummeting to the floor, where I then continued my attack. It's nothing that will see it being entered into the next EVO tournament, but it's just enough to give All-Stars its own identity.
The six characters available in the beta – Kratos, Parappa, Fat Princess, Sweet Tooth, Colonel Radec and Sly Cooper – are a good representation of the variation we should expect in the final product, but there are some balancing issues. As it stands, Killzone's Colonel Radec is notably overpowered, with long range attacks that span the entirety of the stage and powerful close combat attacks, while it's difficult to imagine anyone favouring Fat Princess in the roster in her current cumbersome state. There's still time for SuperBot Entertainment to tweak the characters before retail release, of course, though it's unlikely that Colonel Radec will be anything less than an irritant to fight against, unless they completely alter his move set.
Another problem is the camera. The two stages available in the beta are quite large in width, and the camera is forced to zoom out in order for all four players to be in clear view. This makes it difficult to keep tabs of your whereabouts on the stage (especially in matches where two or more players have chosen the same character) and I was often mistaking myself for another player, when in actuality I was being punched in the face on the opposite side of the arena. Many will claim that this will just add to the zany fun, but I'd strongly disagree.
But the key difference between All-Stars and SSB is the Super Attacks. Rather than attaining victory by knocking your opponents off of the stage, in All-Stars you must instead fill up your Super Meter, which will then allow you to perform a special character-specific attack that will wipe your foes off of the battlefield. The Super Attacks come in three levels which do varying degrees of damage: the first will likely only defeat one enemy, the second has the potential to wipe out multiple enemies but requires a certain degree of skill to do so, and the third at the very least will defeat all of your enemies, with the potential to wipe them out a second time after they respawn. It's initially quite disconcerting playing a fighting game where you're not dealing any chip damage to your opponents, but deciding whether to use your second level Super Attack with only 40 seconds in the match to go, or to wait and hope you'll make it to your third level Super Attack, gives each game a nice tactical edge.
My time with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale's beta has led me to believe that my initial impressions of it may be right: it's a fun, if flawed, four-player brawler that will provide the perfect stop-gap until the next Super Smash Bros. arrives, or a good alternative for those who won't be investing in a Wii U.
The PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale beta for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita is available to all North American and European PS Plus subscribers NOW. It will be available to everyone else on October 24th, and finishes on October 30th. I played the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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