Sony’s Latest Nintendo Rip Off
A video game preview of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
By: Lawrence Napoli
I am a Sony kind of guy despite this current generation’s dominance by the Nintendo Wii and its signature motion control. Sony never really believed in motion control as its own Six Axis system at launch was a mechanic quickly scrapped by software developers because it was just plain bad. Yet Sony could not take its eyes off Nintendo’s sales. Thus, Sony went the shameless route and made an all but exact copy of the Wii’s nunchuck controller in the Playstation Move. The Move may work better than Motion Control Plus, but there are 2 reasons why Sony’s copy/paste failed: 1) It was released way too late in the PS3’s life cycle and 2) It was not implemented extensively into Sony’s first part titles like God of War and Uncharted. Decisions like this explain why the Sony brand has fallen behind both Nintendo and Microsoft and I can’t help but think that had a more dedicated and focused effort in R&D as well as in the board room would have disallowed any corporate strategy that only focused on low-jacking the competition.
This looks good in theory, but haven't we seen this before?
And here we are, once again, Sony copying one of Nintendo’s unique innovations in a 4 player simultaneous fighting game that features some of the most recognizable characters in games. Of course, I’m referring to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Sony’s clone job in Playstation All-Stars. Without question, Smash Bros. has infused much needed vitality in the fighting genre over the years by incorporating a multi-player party environment that no other fighter has been able to reproduce. Playstation All-Stars is, for all intents and purposes, a verbatim reiteration that swaps Mario for Metal Gear and Pikachu for Parappa. No amount of classy yet cryptic commercials from Sony indicating 10/23/12 as some sort of “game-changing” date is going to convince me that the release of Playstation All-Stars should be noteworthy because an impressive ad campaign doesn’t change what the product is: a simple game that comes off as a quickie money-grab for the Sony brand at the tail end of it's current system's life.
Story and Setup
There’s no real story to speak of in All-Stars, but then fighting games never seem to make ANY effort to push the concept of “story.” (*Note: this is a not so subtle hint to software developers to maybe try this in future projects) All the player knows upon loading the Beta demo is that 6 Sony brand characters are selectable and it’s time to punch people in the face once the game starts.
The roster lineup seems quite diverse.
The player gets to choose from Kratos, the God of War, the Twisted Metal psycho Sweet Tooth, a formerly skinny Fat Princess, the stealthy Sly Cooper, Killzone’s Colonel Radec and Parappa the Rappa who hasn’t made a relevant cameo in anything since PS1. It’s nice to see some kind of visible scale between the selectable characters because it would just be ridiculous to see Parappa as large as Kratos, but I was somewhat surprised to see Sweet Tooth as the largest of them all (even bigger than Fat Princess). Although there were only a couple of stages available in the Beta, every stage will be interactive and ever evolving, thus requiring the player to not only keep his or her eyes on the 3 other players looking to pulverize them, but also the very real dangers from the level itself that can also knock you for a loop.
Sony will be the first to inform the gamer that the shear difference in graphic fidelity between All-Stars and Smash Bros. basically places these games on different planets all together. It is true that the background stages and interactive elements look very crisp and bright, but the fact remains that being able to see the whole stage at the same time in addition to every other players' characters requires a wide angle perspective that minimizes any appreciation for the character models themselves. Sure, there’s no difficulty in telling the difference between characters (unless everyone chooses the SAME character), but the only time the player will be able to get a good look at the avatar they chose is in the opening seconds before the match begins. Once the fighting starts the visual chaos of vibrant, fluorescent explosions dominate the screen. This makes it quite easy for the player to completely lose track of the character they were controlling.
Stages and explosions are quite pretty.
The sound effects are pretty standard fare for a cartoonish style brawler so there really isn’t much to talk about with the exception of voice over work. It does seem that Sony got the original VO actors to produce sound bites for their respective characters (which is great), but in game taunts between fighters are very minimal and often drowned out by the aforementioned “explosions” (which isn’t so great). It remains to be seen if All-Stars will incorporate a fully functional single player story campaign to take full advantage of some of the most iconic voices in video game characters. This would certainly be a great opportunity for the sound elements of this game to truly shine.
It’s always, always, ALWAYS about play and control and when it comes to the precision that most dedicated fighting genre players demand of tournament style 2D and 3D games; All-Stars will simply give those gamers headaches. Combos are easily broken by other players butting in on a 1-on-1 situation but cannot be affected by the player that is being juggled. Launching an attack after evading (hold block button plus directional) always seems to fail against rapid button mashing and the block button seems like an overall waste of time.
Button mashing is the ONLY order of the day!
The main reason for the uselessness of the block button is the lack of auto orientation towards the opposition that all 2D fighters enjoy. There will always be opposition on either side of the player in All-Stars, therefore blocking cannot be relied upon by holding directional control away from any threat. So yes, holding the block button will nullify attacks from the front, but there’s a million things happening on the screen that can hit you from behind, break the block stance and serve the player up on a combo platter for anyone else to enjoy. Staying mobile and mashing buttons is the best way to go in this game, regardless of the player’s choice in avatar.
Pulling off a special move or super combo is nothing like Street Fighter style directional swipes. They are as easy as pressing one button. Alterations in attacks can be achieved by holding directional control while hitting X, square, O, or triangle. Just like in any other fighting game, attack range and effectiveness is limited to the move set for each character and it is in this one aspect of gameplay where All-Stars deserves some recognition.
It either takes excessive skill or blind luck to consistently place first.
All the characters play with completely different styles. Certainly, the player can select any character and button mash his or her way to success, but Kratos is meant to be played as a juggling combo specialist, Sweet Tooth is a slower tank using explosives to set up combos, Fat Princess is a different kind of tank that does better on the ground than jumping all around, Sly Cooper is all about stealth (his block button turns him invisible!), Radec is THE long range combatant and Parappa is only for the most skilled players wanting a challenge because his attacks have the shortest range and is pretty useless in general.
I understand that this Beta was only a fraction of what the end game will involve, but it’s my understanding that expansions to this software will involve additional characters and having more options to do the same thing doesn’t seem too appealing. Sony is relying on nostalgia to drive this game’s sales which also explains the effectiveness of its ad campaign that follows right in line with the very popular “Michael Ad.” This game is not on the same level of greatness as its commercial and it would be downright highway robbery if Sony charges $59.99 for this frivolous attempt at originality.
Playstation All-Stars is a game that appeals to a much younger crowd that doesn’t have the same desire for story, control and overall relevance. It’s a pick-up-and-play experience that’s high on action, but low on sustainability (much like most of Nintendo’s Wii games today). The most reliable strategy to win in this game is to build your combo meter to level 3, use it to accumulate multiple KO’s and then play it safe until the match ends. It’s all very repetitive and bores me to tears. Although 2012 hasn’t quite delivered the hype that preceded some of the most anticipated games for this year, there are still some big hopefuls on the horizon in Hitman: Absolution and Assassin’s Creed III. Save you hard earned bucks for something like them and let Playstation All-Stars fade to black.