The Super Smash Brothers series is one of Nintendo's most successful multiplayer gaming franchises thanks to its fast paced four player multiplayer, cast of colourful characters, and enormous amount of content. So it is to be expected that other games will try to ride off or emulate its successful formula.
Games such as Ninja Turtles Smash Up! and Digimon Rumble Arena failed to live up to the high standard the series has set, but now Playstation Allstars has stepped to the plate. The question is, will it fall by the wayside like so many other competitors of the revered series or will it be worthy of its all-star title?
The first thing to mention is that despite the similarities of four player brawling multiplayer, Playstation All Stars despite drawing clear inspiration from Nintendo's Franchise differs from Smash Bros in everything but its periphery. It doesn't have the same accessibility or finesse as its competitor but it does attempt to create a more technical, complex experience. I'll be judging this game based on aesthetics, gameplay, and presentation while comparing it to other fighters.
Aesthetics and presentation:
The Super Smash Bros series lends its visual appeal to a strong art direction and bright color palette with its characters rendered with the same art direction, Playstation Allstars' graphics by comparison are a bizarre mishmash of varying styles from the ultra realistic Nathan Drake and Kratos, to the bizarrely cartoonish Parappa the Rapper and Fat Princess. Though, this is not necessarily a bad thing because it gives each character its own distinctive flair. The stages also reflect this mishmash in some humorous ways – such as the deceptively pleasant and simplistic Locoroco level being demolished by a Metal Gear from the Metal Gear Solid series. This gives the game a unique tongue in cheek humour that isn't found in many fighters today. Unfortunately, these aesthetics do not translate well to the menus – they are merely serviceable and bland.
While many critics would immediately dismiss Allstars as a Smash Bros clone with characters swapped out, both games function very differently. While Smash Bros can be picked up and played by just about anyone, under its chaotic exterior Allstars' offers a much deeper and technical experience that is comparable with many mainstream fighting games. The roster consists of twenty playable characters from a variety of Sony's nearly twenty year long history and each of them play and control differently. Unfortunately making a game more complex is not necessarily a good thing, some of the characters moves, while easy to perform, have such awkward hit detection and controls that it makes you wonder why they are even there.
The best part I can say about Allstars' combat system is its originality. Superbot took a great risk with removing health bars from the formula altogether and instead landing hits on opponents build your characters' AP meter. When the meter is full you can unleash a special attack which is the only way to score kills, but with more AP you can use stronger special attacks that are more reliable. Learning to evade these attacks and time them correctly is paramount to playing the game well, though it can be frustrating for newcomers.
Unfortunately while the multiplayer modes are solid and addictive the same cannot be said for the single player. Players will only have access to a very easy arcade mode (that I completed on the hardest difficulty with no experience) with a very loose story told through static images and voiceovers.
Like any fighting game on release, there are also clearly some balance issues: Kratos is too powerful and has an easily pulled off chain grab that is very frustrating, Big Daddy has a spammable ground pound that raises his super meter and stuns the opponent for far too long, etc. but hopefully these issues will be resolved in future patches.
PS Vita owners will be very happy to hear that the PS3 version of the game also includes a downloadable version of the Vita Port, and the game can be played cross-platform. It's an astounding feat that no other game has yet achieved.
Playstation Allstars is a solid fighter with a few design issues that may not make it not as much fun to play as its Nintendo counterpart but overall offers a deeper, more technical experience that will hopefully foster a strong community of players and potentially a competitive scene. I give it a recommendation.