By Bryan Smith on October 19, 2015 at 7:00am
You know what’s really successful and most people like? “Super Smash Bros.” It’s an unconventional fighter that gets a lot of attention, and probably the only fighter that isn’t in a locked 1v1 fight to appear consistently at EVO. Even if you don’t like “Smash’s” fighting, the concept of Nintendo’s all-star cast battling it out and beating the snot out of each other makes for one of the best crossover events ever. So naturally the competition may want to throw their hat into the ring… which only leads to said hat being blown right back out.
Enter Sony and the PlayStation. They were pretty much the competition to Nintendo since Sega exited the console business and had a damn good lineup of characters alone on the first PlayStation- Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Cloud Strife, Lara Croft, and Solid Snake alone could have made for a stellar roster for a mash-up of characters. Two consoles later, and we have the PlayStation 3. Sony plans to have something to rival “Super Smash Bros.” and this could finally dethrone the Nintendo slobber knocker. We get “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale,” which… was forgotten about rather quickly.
So what happened? Nintendo had three consoles of character to work with, starting only with 12 mind you, and it became a wildfire. The same setup was prime for Sony to use their characters to make a bang of a game. What went wrong? Would you believe me that Sony didn’t get Crash, Spyro, Cloud, Lara Croft, or Solid Snake into the game? Yeah, five of the most important people who made PlayStation one of the must-have consoles of the fifth console generation didn’t appear. That might send off a few red flags first.
However, not having those characters isn’t the only reason why “PSASBR” didn’t exactly catch on… though it’s a big reason nonetheless. It’s a collection of problems that just hampered the fighting game. Initially, I pondered the idea of how would I fix “PSASBR,” but most of the answers would be “Be more like Smash.” Obviously trying to be more like “Super Smash Bros.” would be a better plan, but then it’d just be more of “Super Smash Bros.” clone. There’s something fundamentally flawed with “PSASBR” that, at its core, would be too difficult to fix without taking something important down. I believe a completely different approach would have benefited this game while strengthening what "Super Smash Bros." did that caused it to be a big success.
More Sony Characters That Make Sense
The roster for “PSASBR” is… more in the building stage than I would say a great start. Sure, a good portion of the characters chosen is great. Sir Daniel, Spike, PaRappa, Sly Cooper, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Kratos, Nathan Drake, and Sackboy are great choices, which serve to show the games that aren’t well known and good back in the day and the ones that are popular and keeping the Sony brand strong.
But then you have additions like Big Daddy, Twilight Fan-Fiction Dante, Zeus, Isaac Clark, and Evil Cole. Especially Evil Cole. Not to say that the characters don’t work- you can play and fight as these characters just fine. Their inclusion, however, comes off as a “that’s rather dumb” factor. In the case with Big Daddy, Isaac Clark, and "Twilight Fan-Fiction" Dante (yes, the black-haired one who swears a lot and isn’t the white-haired one who had been PlayStation exclusive for a while), they aren’t the faces of Sony. Keep in mind, this is Sony’s first attempt at a crossover game this scale. Nintendo has the excuse that they been Nintendo-only for their first two crossover fighters before adding in Sonic and Solid Snake. While Raiden is a good character, he isn’t a face for the PlayStation. Snake is, along with Regular Dante. I think that having Raiden and Twilight Fan-Fiction Dante might be a depressing reminder that “PSASBR” has these characters… while Snake and Regular Dante are elsewhere in more interesting crossovers.
As for Evil Cole and Zeus, you already have “Infamous” and “God of War” representation. Clone characters are frowned upon because there wasn’t enough time and effort to give another character justice. Evil Cole is barely any different, as in an extremely small amount of moves regular Cole doesn’t have. As for Zeus, we have Kratos already. We don’t need another “GoW” character when there are a lot of other characters that should be represented. Dart Feld from “The Legend of Dragoon” was planned to be in the game as DLC, but was scrapped because of low sales. Apparently there were rumblings that Abe from “Oddworld” and Ellen from “Folklore” were also planned, whether with the initial roster or DLC, but didn’t make it in.
So let’s have a recap- Crash, Spyro, Solid Snake, Lara Croft, Cloud, Abe, Dart, Ellen, and many more weren’t included in “PSASBR.” While we’re at it, let’s name several other games that could have made the roster better: “Silent Hill 1, 2, & 3,” “Gex,” “Croc,” “Parasite Eve,” “Fear Effect,” “Dino Crisis,” “Brave Fencer Musashi,” “Suikoden,” “Kingdom Hearts,” and “Shadow of the Colossus,” just to name a few. Sony, guys. This is a crossover event for the ages. Yet you only include 20 (24 including DLC) of your debatedly greatest games in as fightable characters. Not a great start off the bat.
Needs a Lot More Content
It’s astounding how quickly I got bored with going through the arcade mode. For the most part, the arcade mode, otherwise known as the story mode, is probably the thing that most players would gravitate towards, especially if online multiplayer isn't your thing. Outside of the arcade mode, you start to notice that the game is rather bare in terms of content and what to do. Sure, there’s multiplayer and challenge mode, but that’s about it.
Say that you’re tired of arcade mode or already did everyone’s story. Unless you have friends around who want to play the game as tirelessly as “Super Smash Bros.,” the multiplayer and challenge mode won’t do a lot to scratch any urge to play any more. Battles can get repetitive quickly and the challenge mode has you do rather specific moves and combos that don’t really lend themselves to being all that useful in actual combat with normally functioning AI or human players.
Comparatively to “Smash,” there are several things to do outside of a single player arcade mode or standard multiplayer. You have breaking target modes, all-star modes, getting item modes, event modes that pit characters in unique and cute scenarios, and more. The stuff I unlocked, aside from characters and stages, didn’t impact costume unlocks, backgrounds, victory songs, intros, outros, taunts, and the like. That’s not the case with “PSASBR,” as you have to unlock those with experience points… which take extremely long to get in the first place. If you’re going to use Kratos to fight with in the beginning, you’re going to see that winning/losing animation and fanfare every time until you unlock something new.
Combat, Content, and "Charm" Are Too Repetitive
I don’t think I hit a level of irritated monotony in a fighting game as quickly as “PSASBR.” About five characters into playing arcade mode, I began to lose interest in seeing more because of how repetitious things got in combat. All you ever do is beat the crap out of enemies and try to use a Super Move to kill your opponents. Ring-outs don’t really matter as they just take AP from fighters. Stage hazards act the same way as well. Combos may be impressive to do, but getting the kill for can fail more likely than not, making any progress you do be in vain. A fight can go on for long minutes of fatigue where nothing substantial happens if a Super Move isn’t used properly. I’d like to add that the fighting is basically the same for arcade and the multiplayer. There really isn’t much of a difference other than fighting with people online/friends/AI.
Remember what I said about unlocking fanfare, taunts, intros, and the like for characters? They get repetitive quickly too because you only have those to work with. That generic “PSASBR” victory tune drove me up the wall because I had to hear that over hundred times as I went through arcade mode with the characters. Getting a theme that actually goes with the character was a sweet, divine break from the tune I heard more times than I’d care to admit. Unfortunately, some of these different intros, victory poses, and stuff tend to get repetitive too.
The one thing that “Super Smash Bros.” doesn’t usually suffer from is that a good portion of the characters don’t continuously speak. It’s more short grunts, yells, and quick, snappy gestures that are maybe less than a second to an actual second. “PSASBR’s” characters are chattier. Take Jak and Daxter for example. Jak is usually quiet, which is respectful. Daxter, however, does talk a lot and can commentate on the fight. When the two do their first level Super Move, Daxter always says, “Ooh, that’s the stuff.” Dependent on how often that Super Move is used, you’re going to hear “Ooh, that’s the stuff” a lot. Things like this make characters like Big Daddy and Sir Daniel more tolerable because they don't speak save for their grunts.
The stages also get repetitive, especially when there’s a time limit. Playing arcade a lot, you’ll come to know the Dojo extremely well. So well, you come to know when Chop Chop Master Onion kicks down the walls, chases a drone from “Killzone,” grows big and defeats the drone, and finally says something encouraging to the fighters like “I’m so proud of you.” The sad thing about the stages is that they always follow the same pattern when they crossover. “Super Smash Bros.’” stages, if the stages move or change, try to keep things interesting as not to repeat too much or have something happen randomly. I hate to sound like a broken record, but “PSASBR” is more monotonous with the stages.
Story Needs Better Contextualization and Implementation
The concept of a greater power out there for these characters to want and seek out is good on paper, but then they try to implement it into their own canon without making the character too overpowered for the their own story. In the case of Twilight Fan-Fiction Dante, Kratos, and Nariko, they see the “great power,” fight others to get it, and once they get it, they just go right back to their storylines. Fighting these other people doesn’t shake them up whatsoever. In fact, their stories they have stops for a split second and begins again like they never left to begin with. Kratos shrugs it off and screams more promises of death to his Gods of Olympus like he never left, beginning “God of War 3” as if “PSASBR” didn’t happen. In other endings, characters just show off the new power they got, like PaRappa’s ending, but more in comedic ways than anything else.
To me, this is just lazy writing. The writers want Sweet Tooth to contemplate gutting Fat Princess because she ate his ice cream, but they don’t want to ruin their source material and want to play it safe. At least with “Super Smash Bros.,” we get the match-ups because FIGHT! Captain Falcon just so happens to Lucina, Chrom and Robin. Nintendo understands that there really doesn't need a particular reason for the dark lord Ganondarf to fight a happy Yoshi- it just happens like that. The trailers for "Super Smash Bros." also show some form of continuity, as the heroes tend to stick together and fight off villains like in the case of Bowser Jr.’s reveal. “Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s” story had a, though rather hilarious in hindsight moment seeing how unsuccessful the peripheral was, tearjerker where R.O.B.’s race of robots were basically eradicated. R.O.B. is the last of his kind, and that at least sticks when “Super Smash Bros.” for Wii U/3DS came around, as seen in the Boxing Ring stage. “PSASBR” wants to act like both something happened while nothing happened.
The frustrating thing that I see is that they had an idea of how to approach it without some half-attempt at a story to play it all safe. The rival cutscenes, just about one of the few that most people can agree are great, show interaction! Sweet Tooth is minding his own business with his ice cream, but Kratos destroys it because he thinks Sweet Tooth is a villain. FIGHT! The Little Sister claims Sack Boy as her new best friend, angering Big Daddy. FIGHT! (which is also hilarious as the Little Sister still fights for Big Daddy). Zeus mistakes Isaac Clark's comment of "Necromorphs" as using Hades' powers. FIGHT! Those are entertaining. We needed more of those, but were relegated to only two per each designated rival. I think the great power thing plot should have been dropped and just have dimensions bleeding over- that's it. Short, sweet, and more clever interactions to boot.
The Game Needs to Be Less Copied from Smash
How about we lay down what we have here with “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” overall, shall we? Sony wanted to try and be something unique while banking off of “Super Smash Bros.’” success, which didn’t succeed the way Sony really wanted it to. The combat is very similar, though with an added button for different attacks. Up to four can knock the snot out of each other from different Sony (and third-party) titles. However, with the lack of content and characters, decent relevance to each other being in the same place, and the overall repetitiveness of it all, the “Super Smash Bros.” series is just a better series. To which, Sony should have thought of a better way to try and one-up Nintendo’s crossover fighter.
Think of this- “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” tried a bit too much to be “Super Smash Bros.” with very little to offer. Remember the stages and how they tried to crossover with each other? Sony should have gone, “How about instead of putting two stages into one, why not make the crossover work with all the stages?” That would have made the repetitive nature fade away fast. You think that a stage will act one way and then POW! There's something completely new.
The best thing “PSASBR” could have done is to try and do something new in the fighting genre. For "Super Smash Bros.," no one's seen a fighting game act like it does. A 2D fighter that has you punching fighters off the stage or into the sky. That's unique and wasn't done before (or done well enough if there was any attempt prior). Most of Sony’s characters (save for maybe Crash) really haven’t been on a 2D plain. “PSASBR,” if it really wanted to stand out, should have been a 3D fighter. The PlayStation, alongside the Nintendo 64, paved the way for 3D gaming. I think Sony should have capitalized on that feat and made the next evolutionary step that “Super Smash Bros.” didn’t make. Think “J-Stars Victory VS,” but more refined by Sony’s hands. “PSASBR” should have challenged “Smash” out of its comfort zone to make something new. Instead, “PSASBR” tried to piggyback off of “Super Smash Bros.” with very few differences to offer.
It pains me to make this kind of criticism on “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale,” because I love crossovers. Sony has some of the best characters and could have made an epic crossover fighter. It also frustrates me that things fell slightly apart for this game with DLC and all future content scrapped, characters fans wanting to see not getting representation. Things just didn’t go to plan, either due to poor planning or lack of grand vision. I hear some rumblings that Square Enix didn’t want any part of this game, and judging how rarely the game gets talked about, I think I see why that may be the case now.
Would I like to see a future attempt to make a better crossover game? Absolutely. These characters are just waiting to meet up with others. I guess time will tell when Sony tries again.
Would you like to see another attempt from Sony with more characters or do something else completely in terms of crossovers?