The Game Usagi Krew was able to play a round of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PSABR) on the PS3 with two human players and two CPUs at E3. Sir Shiggy opted for Kratos and I chose the newly announced Big Daddy while the CPUs played as Nathan Drake and Sweet Tooth. The game mode that we played was the same one showcased during the Sony press conference where you can only get points by killing other players using special attacks that are built-up during the general brawling. Each character has three levels of specials, but it takes so long to build up a level 3 special that no one used one during our play session.
Compared to the genre-defining all-star fighting game Super Smash Bros. Brawl, what we played of PSABR didn’t stack up too favourably. The combat in PSABR is generally slower-paced than that in Brawl (which was in turn slower than Melee), and this can make it feel unresponsive at times. Having the game-type focused on special moves basically eliminated defensive gameplay and any worry Character balancing, which is always a very contentious issue in any fighting game, also felt off. Playing as the lumbering Big Daddy, I spent most of my time being juggled around in the air by Kratos and Drake. When Sir Shiggy’s Kratos was focusing his attention on me, my Big Daddy could hardly touch him without being sent flying. It may have been due to the fact that the game isn’t due out until Q4 this year, but keeping track of your progress during the game was also an issue. All that each player had along the bottom of the screen was their special bar showing their progress to earning the varying levels of special attacks — at no point were you aware of the score. This may have been a developmental choice rather than an omission, but either way I felt that it really hampers gameplay when you have no idea who is winning. The winner is even more thoroughly obscured through the fact that it’s pretty hard to tell at a glance what characters have specials stored or even whether or not they are currently using a special. Reviewing the footage we took of the game, I was able to see that players with Level 1 specials stored have a mild white glow, but when we were actually playing the game it may as well have not been there at all. In Smash Bros. and other fighting games, the screen actually zooms in on a player when they activate a special to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, a mechanic like this in PSABR would go a long way to streamlining the gameplay. Items were much more rare in PSABR than they are in Smash Bros. games and had some interesting effects. There was one blue glowing orb item that changed our Hades level background to that of Patapon, adding an arrow-dodging mechanic to the Hades-monster-avoiding mechanic already in play as well as a yellow forcefield item that protected the player and an RPG gun that did what they do best, shoot RPGs.
Our first taste of PSABR didn’t leave a terribly good impression and this could be either a warning of worse things to come or just a circumstantial occurrence in a gameplay mode that is still rough around the edges. If the combo-centric mode in its current form ends up being the primary game mode in PSABR, then its hard to imagine people not comparing it unfavourably to the percentage and ring-out based gameplay in the Smash Bros. series. Hopefully, SuperBot Entertainment will take to heart all of the issues experienced with the demo at E3 and use them to make the game more robust and more favourable in comparison to the other games in the genre. As the game’s release date draws near and more characters/maps/items/modes are announced, you’ll be able to see for yourself if you think the game is worth a purchase. The CrossPlay features including save-file transferability between the PS3 and PS Vita versions of the game are indeed compelling, but if the core gameplay mechanics don’t measure up being able to take the game on the go will basically become a moot point. We hope to play PSABR again as its release draws nearer to see if it can pull its metaphorical socks up or if it’s doomed to dwell in the realm of fighting game mediocrity.