Ah Sony, Microsoft and Bizarre Creations release Geometry Wars and you release the Pixel Junk Shooter series with Q-Games. Nintendo releases the Wii mote and Sony releases the PlayStation Move.
|Wiggle! Waggle! Shake!|
All of this pandering for Sony critique aside, it can safely be said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We can also only assume who worked on what first by release date which isn't entirely fair. We never truly know who started researching what first and it usually isn't brought to light in discussion.
Now onto Sony's latest emulated release, PlayStation All-Stars. Yes, it is very similar to Nintendo's Super Smash Brother's series. It is actually a dead serious clone of the Smash Brothers formula. The problem here is that Sony might of been better off copying everything from the game play. Sony's internal dev team, Santa Monica Studios along with SuperBot Entertainment decided to make some subtle changes to avoid a total clone.
The issue here is that I would assume they were pressured to live up to Smash Bros. What this means is that the game is really barren in terms of content because they didn't want to take too many risks. Trying to completely copy Smash's trophy and sticker collecting or various other features might have come out poorly.
We can also assume that they didn't have enough development time to include a lot of extra features as well. Basically, working with what was released, we have All-Stars which comes off as a very vanilla clone of Super Smash Bros. Instead of completely copying everything that keeps Smash Bros interesting or implementing a risky new diversion to the game, All-Stars decided to simply release a game that uses the same game mechanics in a single and multi-player environment.
As it's been mentioned before, it's sad because this whole project seems like a squandered opportunity. While some may argue their distaste over the PlayStation Move controller, Sony did actually design a device that was much more accurate than the Wii Mote. Did they take risks? I can not fairly say, I can say that most of the games appeared as simple clones of Wii Sports/Mini-game experiences but again, I've only seen a handful of demos.
|It's sad that Snake didn't even want to show up to the party|
Now back to All-Stars. Content-wise we are looking at a game with 20 playable characters and around 14 levels. Single player and local and online multi-player are included. There are also events. You know how Smash Brothers has those fun events where odd things happen such as fighting a giant Donkey Kong or killing a Pikachu with only the PokeBall item? Yeah, well, Sony simply has events based on simple aspects such as getting a certain amount of KO's against a random character for a set amount of time based on difficulty selected. It works but it's extremely pointless. I can imagine that it gives your character experience points.
All-Stars solution to the trophy and sticker collection is an experience and level up system that accompanies each character. As you play with each character in single player mode, you gain XP that levels up your character. I do not know if XP is gained from multi-player. As you level up your character, new costumes, intro and outro music, as well as taunts are unlocked. There are about 3 options for each category for each character. Considering that the first option of every category is unlocked for the get-go, there really isn't much to see here.
Single player's adventure mode is painful to experience. I say this as understandingly as possible but Sony did not create a fun atmosphere with this game. Story mode is basically an arcade mode ripped right out of Mortal Kombat. It is a literal 1 vs 1 match that hosts random opponents and continues to climb up to a four player free for all. For each character there is a short cut-scene that depicts a loose idea of why the character is in the game or simply, what they want to accomplish. I played the story mode with Big Daddy, Fat Princess and PaRappa. The latter two were interesting and followed their games atmosphere perfectly. I was interested to see what the Big Daddy cut-scene would offer as I heard that Kevin Levine directed it. It consisted of a comic book style 50 second long clip of a Little Sister asking a Big Daddy to follow her down a hallway. That was it.
Near the end of story mode is a short, and for most characters, chintzy clip of your character meeting some random opponent and discussing some hammy reason why they must fight. For example, PaRappa met up with Spike from Ape Escape and was instantly deemed a threat. A short dialogue exchange was held where Spike informed PaRappa that he must be working for his enemy and PaRappa states that he can not be put into Spike's net. PaRappa stands there and says "you gotta believe!", oh man.
The last boss is Polygon Man. I actually enjoy Sony's take on the master hand boss. It's a risk that logically makes sense as Polygon Man was the first and original PlayStation mascot before he was dumped in favor of Crash Bandicoot and PaRappa the Rapper. Polygon Man actually spouts his dialogue that he would have used for his E3 presentation way back in 1995. It's a cool homage to a some-what rich history Sony can have. Nothing remarkable happens during the battle. Fight some pallet-swapped AI characters randomly chosen and smack Polygon Man's head when he rams into the stage.
A large thing of note has to do with the game play. For the most part, the input system works the same as Smash Bros except for one major game mechanic retooling. With All-Stars the KO's occur when there is a stage event that harms the player in a vicinity or allows them to fall down a gap and an opponents power meter attack. I won't use the game jargon as I'm not familiar with it.
For the most part, Smash Brothers has the same mechanics except the power meter is a damage meter. Each character has a percentage of how much damage they have received and the higher the number is to 999%, the more likely the character will be knocked away by an opponents attack. All Stars sullies that idea and takes away the chance for redemption from a power meter attack. If you are hit with a level 1 power meter attack, you will be KO'ed. If you are hit with a powerful attack in Smash Brothers, you will probably be fine.
Game-play is basically changed from Smash Brothers complex evasion, priority, power, defense and recovery aspects of each character to All Stars simple question of who has the biggest area of attack for their power meter attack, preferably the first tier attack as it takes less time to build up to. You build up your power meter up to levels by simply making any contact with an opponent with an attack. The game is literally broken down to who has the best range for their instant KO move and who's attacks gain power meter juice the fastest.
Once I started getting into the story mode grind I became so angry while building up my power meter only to have the move squandered as the AI opponent jumped away from it's arc perfectly. It was frustrating that I could wail on all three AI at once with Big Daddy's drill and they would still bounce harmlessly around. Combos essentially become useless as the opponents get back up and continue to fight over and over. Don't get me started on the damn overtime because the AI outsmarts my every power attack. It was an endless power level grind to level 3 to simply continue on hard mode.
A final note on game play is that Sony also opted out of making moves smash-able. In Smash Bros you can literally "smash" the joystick in the direction of your attack and unleash a more powerful variant of the move usually performed for that direction. As far as I can tell, this is not present in All Stars and I can imagine it was not included to differentiate from the "smash" aspect of Smash Bros.
Characters and stages are simply static at this point. I was excited to play through some story mode sessions to see what I could unlock and was sorely disappointed. Besides the character extras you unlock, there is nothing that occurs when beating the story mode. Increasing difficulty only results in more XP points for your character. Honestly I was interested in character customization at first and thought it would be perhaps a good solution to Smash Brothers sticker system. The fact that simply playing one campaign with a character unlocks most of the content in each tier is a huge buzz-kill along with the fact that the last remaining item in each tier is unlocked after getting 4 or so more sessions in for each character.
My last impression is on the stages. I feel awful, on one hand I criticize Sony for not branching out and trying new mechanics and yet again, it comes out so terrible in execution that it seems an exact Smash Bros clone would have been better received. Most stages do not rely on bottomless pits for environment deaths. While playing the one or two that did I found myself cursing the damn recovery moves for some characters as I tried to claw my way back up fast moving ships and those damn platforms in the Jak level.
Metal Gear Solid themes are revealed behind the Patapon level. Hot Shots Golf golfers appear in Jak and Daxter's level. This idea I think is interesting and something that Smash Brothers doesn't do but honestly it just doesn't work. I'm focusing on what's happening on the playing field while avoiding shit in the background such as missiles that are flying towards me. PaRappa's level is hilarious and meshes nicely with the Killzone mech. The Little Big Planet stage is interesting until the Buzz theme emerged. Honestly I burst into tears laughing at how awful it was. I recognized the series from boxes I see at local game stores but it just seems so hammy. Sony doesn't have a lot of highly received franchises but c'mon, Buzz quiz games?
When we look at Sega releasing a kart racer with around 25 characters we have a problem. I understand that yeah, they don't need to do much in a kart racer meaning that more characters can be released but honestly, how many more sword users do we need in All-Stars? Where is the quirky-ness? I'm glad the DLC characters are from some different franchises such as StarHawk. I'm not glad that the characters are free for only 2 weeks but I guess I have to expect that these days and I can honestly only speculate as to whether Nintendo will follow the same idea for the new Smash Bros. Characters have always been included on disc for Smash Bros so I don't see that being an issue thankfully.
It's sad that Sony couldn't find a fit for Gran Turismo in a stage, MLB: The Show, Syphon Filter, Eye Toy,
Motor Storm, Spyro and Crash, Gex, and the ass load of RPG games that populate the system. Most of the games that the system is popular for are third party but still, Sony should have allocated a large budget for them to nab some great franchises that could accompany the likes of Dante and Big Daddy.
Have a look at all of the untapped potential here, who cares if it isn't totally popular, it's Sony, it's part of the history:
Referenced from the ever wonderful Wikipedia
In all, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an extremely long name. Perhaps they should have made an exact copy of Nintendo's/ Hal Labs Smash Bros game in hopes of catching every good aspect. Sony's first foray into this field is a decent attempt that isn't awful but certainly isn't worth full price. It might be a fun party game to play while waiting for someone to get their Wii or GameCube from their house. This game fell short of sales expectations and SuperBot Entertainment suffered massive layoffs while Sony severed ties with the developer. Hopefully Sony doesn't give up on the chance of making a second-iteration and hopefully they can give it another go. I really want to see that Gran Turismo stage!