PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Preview
So. How much should we pretend you know about Nintendo? Obviously you know about Pokémon. Even your grandma, who nervously pokes your HDTV in fear when Killzone 3 is playing before hiding behind the sofa when explosions light up the screen, could pick out Pikachu in an anime-infused line-up. But what about Mario Kart? Or Super Metroid? Or, most importantly, Super Smash Bros?
Because if you have any sort of familiarity with Nintendo’s crossover series, you’ll no doubt have already felt the pang of familiarity glancing at the screenshots here.
The colours are toned down and Kratos now poses where Kirby once stood – he’s the one that looks like a testicle, non-Nintendo fans – but there’s no denying that Sony has cast its roving eye afar for the inspiration here.
But hey, if you’re going somewhere for inspiration, why not go for the best games? And Sony is one of the few publishers with a rich enough history to pull off this crossover character fiesta.
The confirmed faces thus far: Fat Princess, Parappa, Sly Cooper, Sweet Tooth, Colonel Radec and Kratos. Interesting and obvious point to note is that they’re all Sony-owned characters, as you’d expect, so the likes of Cole MacGrath, Nariko, Jak, Daxter, Nathan Drake, Gabe Logan and perhaps Nathan Hale wouldn’t surprise anyone.
What will be more interesting is to see if Sony finds a way of bringing back its two biggest mascots from the PlayStation era – Spyro and Crash Bandicoot.
Activision now owns both licences for those characters, so Sony has some interesting legal hoops to jump through to bring those characters back, although Sony has confirmed that third-party characters will appear. We shall have to wait and see.
Speculating is a big part of the fun – Ratchet! Clank! Sully! Lara! – but let’s talk about the characters that have been confirmed. The most important thing is how their fighting styles wildly differ.
The stumpy-limbed Parappa can only fight at close range, where he uses kung fu moves passed down from the legendary Chop Chop Master Onion – where is he in All-Stars Brawl, by the way?
Conversely, Colonel Radec is all guns and gizmos, awful at melee range but lethal at a distance, where his firepower can take effect as he takes pot shots with his sniper rifle. It’s a classic close-range versus long-range fight – think Zangief vs Dhalsim but with kung fu and guns.
So nothing like Zangief and Dhalsim at all, thinking about it. Bad example. Plus those two never had to deal with the added threat of the two other on-screen characters, such as Fat Princess or Kratos, crashing the party.
Even a quick glance is enough to scream ‘Super Smash Bros!’
Fat Princess is another character who is best up close, but she has the extra advantage of summoning minions to help her out. Wizards fling fireballs so Fat Princess can compete from range, even if she lacks the raw damage output of Radec from the same distance, while sword-wielding soldiers can be summoned to distract opponents as she waddles into range.
As for Kratos, he’s the all-rounder – spears to poke opponents from mid-range, blades to chop up anyone who gets past the spears, shield to block those who manage to find their way past both.
Those after something different could pick Sweet Tooth or Sly Cooper. The former has brutal strength for a simple ground-and-pound style, with the distinctive touch coming in the form of landmines he can drop.
This leads to an interesting playing style of dropping landmines, then battering the opponent from their other side, slowly hitting them towards the primed explosive.
Weirder still is Sly Cooper, who doesn’t have the universal ability to block but instead turns invisible, allowing him to sneak around the chaotic map undisturbed.
It ties in with his thief lineage, but it also means Sly Cooper players have to approach matches in a completely different fashion, as the inability to block means you have to pick your battles carefully.
Each level is a mash-up of two games: here, God Of War 3 and Patapon.
One final distinctive touch is the most important. There’s an AP bar at the bottom of the screen, which fills up as you land attacks. This grants you three levels of a super attack and, most importantly, it’s the only way to score points.
Pressing R2 will unleash your super attack and what it is depends on how much meter you’ve built up. Parappa does a fairly simple spin kick at level 1, while at level 3 he breaks out “I gotta believe!” which works as a smart bomb attack.
Also worthy of note: Sly Cooper bombing enemies from above, Fat Princess riding around on a giant chicken and Sweet Tooth transforming into a giant truck, Transformers-style, to fire missiles at those standing before him.
Our own favourite? Colonel Radec flips into FPS mode, as we’re treated to Killzone-style looking down the barrel of a gun as you rattle machine gun fire onto vulnerable players.
What all this means is the focus of All-Stars Brawl is on meter management and keeping a close eye on AP bar – both your own and those of the other characters, so you know when they’re about to become a giant, screen-filling robot threat.
Will you harass your opponents with endless level 1 supers or build up for the monstrous level 3? Will you back off from other players with level 3 and hope they waste that meter on nearest opponents rather than you? Will you team up with other players to stomp on those with more meter?
Some levels will have walls, others will have drops and deathtraps.
SuperBot Entertainment recognises that AP meter management is key to success, and so weapons such as rocket launchers or the Hedgehog Grenade from Resistance can reduce AP meter.
For example, the Spear of Destiny from God Of War will fall from the skies on the Hades stage, and if you pierce another player with it, their meter will plummet as AP orbs explode out from their body. Smart.
Likewise, some characters can boost their own AP meter with moves – Parappa can summon AP orbs with his boombox, but the downside is that anyone can collect them, so Parappa has to guard it from roving opponents.
All-Stars Brawl is an interesting project. It’s a great project for Sony to show off its rich back catalogue – check the Dreamscape map inspired by LittleBigPlanet and Hades from God Of War – while Nintendo has proved that the concept of crossover fisticuffs works.
But can Sony do enough to ensure this goes from ‘interesting’ to ‘Jesus flippin’ H Christ this is ESSENTIAL’ on the want-o-meter?