Friday, July 16, 2021
Hello, and welcome to our semi-regular series of features known as “They Should Bring Back…” where we take a look at some of the franchises we’d like to see pick themselves up off the mat for another round. This week, we’re looking at PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, a game that attempted to emulate Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros series with a PlayStation spin, but ultimately failed to make an impact.
Even nine years on from the release of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, it's difficult to pin down exactly what caused the game to underperform in the way that it did. The concept was simple, really - take Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros series, and make the PlayStation version of it. With some genuinely iconic characters like Kratos and Ratchet & Clank, combined with deep cuts like Sony mascot Toro Inoue and Ape Escape’s Spike, as well as some solid mechanics, the blueprints for success were seemingly all present and correct. But the game didn’t manage to set the world alight, commercially or critically. However, with companies like Nickelodeon expanding into the platform fighter genre once again with All-Star Brawl, I think it’s high time Sony took another crack at PlayStation All-Stars.
For one, you need only consider some of the new characters that have come out of PlayStation’s development pipeline in the past nine years, to realise that the potential for a sequel is greater than ever. Since the release of PlayStation All-Stars in 2012, the entire PlayStation 4 generation has come and gone, and Sony put a strong focus on new IP during that time. While the original game’s roster was padded out with some odd third-party inclusions, like BioShock’s Big Daddy or DmC’s Dante (not exactly what you’d call PlayStation icons) a new game in the series would have no need for such filler.
Aloy from Horizon; Astro Bot from Astro’s Playroom; Jin from Ghost of Tsushima; Rivet from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart; even everyone’s favourite mascot, Knack, would be a welcome inclusion. And that’s only the most obvious picks - you’ve got potential for characters like the hunter from Bloodborne, Ellie from The Last of Us: Part 2, the slayer from Demon’s Souls, Atreus from God of War, Miles Morales from Spider-Man, The Messenger from Tearaway, Sir Gallahad from The Order 1886, Deacon St. John from Days Gone, or one of the racers from Destruction AllStars. Sony’s studios have been busy over the past decade or so, and that could help make a PlayStation All-Stars sequel a far more enticing prospect.
It’s not just about the characters, though, even if it can sometimes feel like it is, considering how Nintendo fans react to Super Smash Bros. announcements these days. No, a far more compelling argument is that PlayStation All-Stars was actually really good fun. Each character’s move-set was thoughtfully created with their game series in mind - Uncharted’s Nathan Drake creating some waist-high cover, or Ratchet cycling through a series of suitably over-the-top weapons. While Sony did try to separate the game from Smash - and succeeded in some ways - the foundations were similar, and it all worked well. All-Stars’ unique mechanic of using special moves to take out an opponent, rather than knocking them off the edge, was an interesting new take on the genre, to boot, and there’s plenty of room for improvements to the core gameplay.
I think that’s what’s most galling about the lack of a sequel, so far. So few games nail the landing on their first try, and a second title has the chance to improve on everything the first game did, removing and tweaking those areas that didn’t work. PlayStation All-Stars never got that golden opportunity, and I’ve no doubt in my mind that a sequel could be a significantly better game than the first, with a developer at the helm given the chance to expand and improve upon what came before.
Where PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale fell down, after all, was in its presentation and lack of content. There were plenty of characters to play as, of course, but outside of multiplayer, there was barely anything to do with them outside of a barebones Arcade Mode. More than a fighting game, Super Smash Bros. has always been a love letter to the history of Nintendo, and that was one thing that Sony didn’t quite get right with All-Stars. You could see glimpses of it; in the crossover stages, which mashed together elements from two games in cool ways; or in the small amount of short cut-scenes offered, which pitted two rival characters against one another. But it was missing elsewhere, and as such, the game felt a bit hollow. However, we’ve now seen that Sony is capable of this. PlayStation 5 launch title Astro’s Playroom proved that the platform-holder knows how to celebrate its storied history, with collectibles, Easter eggs, and a huge sprinkling of love and rose-tinted nostalgia.
It wasn’t just the game’s shortcomings that contributed to its failure. There just wasn’t much of an appetite for platform fighters (better known as ‘smash clones’ back in 2012) outside of the Super Smash Bros series. However, that’s not the case anymore, with games like Brawlhalla, Rivals of Aether, and Brawlout succeeding alongside Nintendo's behemoth. The Smash modding scene has also continued to grow, meaning there are even amateur developers out there that PlayStation could bring in - people who have been creating stages, balancing characters, and tweaking mechanics to create an experience that even exceeds what PlayStation All-Stars did before.
I love PlayStation, and I also love Super Smash Bros. PlayStation All-Stars had the potential to combine these two things to create something great, but it didn’t quite live up the expectations of fighting games fans or PlayStation fans. The quality of Sony’s first-party output has only increased in the intervening years, however, and I’ve got no doubt in my mind that a new game in the series could succeed, both as an engaging title, and as a sales success. It’s about time Sony brought back PlayStation All-Stars for a modern audience, and made it the love letter to PlayStation that it deserves to be.
Friday, July 16, 2021 @ 02:32 PM
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