Yeah, I know, the game came out almost three months ago. I got it for free in a bundle a while back and have been debating selling or keeping it. I’d played Play Station All-Stars Battle Royale before and figured it was alright. The other night, some friends and I decided to finally open it up (negating resale value) and beat each other up.
Virtually, that is.
Now, way back in the Nintendo 64 days (mid-90’s, early 00’s), Super Smash Bros. came out. In it characters from various Nintendo games could, well, fight. It made a great party game: Yoshi, Link, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong going at each other was always a great way to kill time. I tell you this because comparisons between it and All-Stars are inevitable. Both are four player fighting games with characters drawn from across their platform.
And here’s the thing: All Stars isn’t Smash Bros.
All-Stars is to Smash Bros. as the PS3 is to the Wii: the supposedly ‘more mature’ counterpart. All-Stars takes its cues from more technical fighters (like Street Fighter or Marvel VS Capcom). See, Smash Bros. has two attack buttons: one normal, one special. All-Stars has three attack buttons and accompanying it with a direction (or without one) yields all sorts of different attacks.
This sort of style works fine for traditional fighters where the arena is just that: an arena. But in All-Stars where, like Smash Bros., the arenas consist of several (sometimes moving) platforms, you’re often moving and avoiding the three other players coming at you to focus on precise move input. There’s little more frustrating than thinking your character is about to run and gun but instead stops dead right as your opponent hits you.
This is made only worse due to there being no parallels between characters for most of these moves: what makes one character do an uppercut could make another fire a shot across the stage. You can’t button mash and it can take several rounds to become familiar with a character. There’s no encouragement or incentive to play as anyone else once you’ve mastered one.
And guess what? It gets even more complicated. The only way to kill an opponent is by using a Super. How do you use a Super? By filling up your AP Gauge. How do you do that? By beating up your opponents. Like the moves, there’s no telling what one character’s Super will be. Nathan Drake throws a propane tank a few meters and shoots it, but Sackboy hits anyone right next to him. Spending one third of the match filling up your meter only to miss the shot is not only frustrating, but adds an all too high level of randomness to a supposedly ‘serious’ game. Look, Smash Bros. had a completely unique way of accessing damage and All-Stars couldn’t copy that, but surely there was another way?
That said, Superbot and Sony tried hard to make a fun fighting game and they succeeded for the most part. They put effort into recreating the characters (Nolan North voices Nathan Drake and Richard McGonagle showed up to voice Sully in Drake’s Arcade story). Sure, we can nitpick over the exclusion of certain characters (for the record, they’re working hard to bring Crash Bandicoot in as DLC), but All-Stars isn’t actually a bad game. Most importantly: It’s fun. I get to play as Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, a friend of mine can be Jak & Daxter from the games he grew up with, and another friend can go Twisted Metal on us with Sweet Tooth. Even if we’re not that good at the game, we’re still having fun. It’s not a perfect game, but that’s alright.
At the end of the day All-Stars is not Smash Bros. They’re different games that both take the mascot fighter idea and run in different directions with it. All Stars is a different game, less casual, but still a great game to play with a group. All Star’s biggest problem is that it’s not Smash Bros. Accept that, get used to the different gameplay, and you’ll have fun.
Writer’s note: Who would I want included in the game as (free!) DLC (besides Crash)?
- Snake (Metal Gear Solid)
- Cloud, Squall, and/or Lightning (Final Fantasy)
- X and Zero (Mega Man)
- Ezio (Assassin’s Creed)
- Commander Shepard (Mass Effect, because why not?)