Sony's PlayStation Smash Bros. Has Won Me Over

I wanted to roll my eyes at Sony's apparent clone/rip-off/however-else-you-want-to-insult-it/take on Nintendo's Super Smash Bros.

OK, it's not hard to admit that I did roll my eyes at the thing when we finally got official details about the long-rumoured game a couple of weeks ago. But yesterday, I got to play PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and I just don't have hard enough of a heart to roll my eyes at it any longer.

The truth is, it's fun to be able to beat up God of War's Kratos with the one and only Fat Princess Fat Princess. When she, under my control, throws cake at him, how can I then say this game doesn't deserve to exist? I was having too much fun tangling with Sly Cooper and Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth while the level we were playing on transformed from a self-creating LittleBigPlanet stage into a Buzz quiz stage. When it was a Buzz stage, the LBP platforms became labelled with answers to PlayStation trivia questions. If you're standing on the wrong one when the timer is up, you're zapped out.

How could I hate this?

I told the game's director from development studio SuperBot Entertainment, Omar Kendall, that I'd been cynical when I first heard about the game. Him, too.

A better name? We've grumbled about the quality of this game's name. "It's a mouthful," Kendall admitted. "I really hope the community settles on a colloquialism quickly." One of his favourites sounds like "Sassber." It's the acronym for the game's real name, with a silent P. I'm not sure. Sounds too much like "Smash Bros" to me. What's wrong with its old code name Title Fight?

"I probably initially had some of that cynicism," he said. "When I first started working on the game one of my initial hangups was: 'How can I make this as different as possible?' And that's kind of a dangerous mentality to fall into, because that might not lead to the best decisions for the game… You become obsessed with, 'Oh, we did this [in a way] unlike that other game you love?' What sense does that make? It would be silly for us to purposely hurt the game just for the sake of differentiation. We try not to do that as much as we can."

As a result, Kendall and his team won't deny that Smash Bros. is an influence. They can't. This is 2D arena combat for four players, starring the all-stars of an entire gaming platform (plus unannouced third-party guest stars. Kendall says on that: "I don't think you could make a retrospective of the PlayStation universe and not have third-party characters.")

You want differentiation in your Sony Smash Bros.? You actually get some.

"The core gameplay mechanic is totally different," Kendall said. "There's no knocking dudes off of levels to score points. It's all about engaging, building your meter, using your super, scoring points." To explain more, the control scheme is similar to Smash Bros., with attacks mostly triggered by face-button presses combined with d-pad taps (oh, but jump's on a face button). But you dont' defeat enemies until you hit them with supers. You can't get a super without charging your super meter, which fills as you beati up the other characters and/or collect energy orbs. The supers let you do the kills. Level 1 supers are basic, like Fat Princess suddenly riding a fat chicken through the level or a guy from Killzone pulling out his sniper rifle. Level 3 supers, which require a lot more meter-filling, involve stuff like Sly Cooper grabbing a binocucom and essentially targeting and shooting all the other characters from a first-person perspective while the other players just have to run around and try to survive for a few seconds. Sweet Tooth's level 3 puts him in a mech (his level 1 straps dynamite to you back).

The characters feel refreshingly distinct. Sly Cooper, for example, can't block, but he's crafty. "Sly is an agile, sneaky thief," Kendall said. "If you think about the essence of what that character is, we wanted to retain his agility, his sneakiness, and that stealth aspect we felt would be really well-represented with a mechanic like invisibility. We didn't imagine him as a character who would get in the middle of things and mix it up, blocking and sort of covering." He can fight with his staff, electricity shocks and gadgets. Parappa the Rapper, will get you with his boom box, his skate board and his mic. Kratos has his chain blades and the barbarian hammer from God of War II. Each character has about two dozen moves, Kendall said.

There is a surface level of button-mashing ease to All-Stars. On my first session, I was able to pull off Level 3 supers in a five-minute match. I'm bad at fighting games! "I know people who can't do fireballs and uppercuts," Kendall said while maybe talking to one. "That's a very sort of fundamental thing that shouldn't be a barrier for people fighting things. We wanted to make sure we didn't have that kind of barrier." Combos, therefore, won't be what Kendall calls "physical challenges." He added: "It's more about understanding what the game can do and then doing it with your hands."

On the surface it's an easy game to play, but Kendall promises there will be depth. He is a fighting game person. He started his career in games working on the fighting game X-Men: Next Dimension and most recently helped craft the grappling in THQ's UFC games. SuperBot has a Super Street Fighter II Turbo machine in the office. That's what they play for fun. "I don't think we could work on this game without trying to add something that has the depth and longevity that we come to expect from fighting games," he said. "We hope we did well."

The game will have a singleplayer campaign. Think more Street Fighter than the most recent Mortal Kombat: character-specific story scenes connecting a series of fights, rather than one long lore-heavy narrative. The story mode, Kendall said, will explain why these characters are fighting (he wouldn't tell me).

In the weeks and months to come, Sony will reveal more of the first and third-party characters in the PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. We'll find out if developer artwork showing the girl from Ico is in the game. (No comment on that from Kendall). We'll find out which other icons of the PlayStation are in the game and, we'll find out how long any sceptics can resist the allure of the biggest heroes or villains from the PlayStations' biggest games punching each other in the face.


Comments

    I really don't envy anybody having to do write-ups of this one. The positive stuff comes through as free marketing and the negative stuff almost always invokes Smash Bros. Then any discussion about it ends up highlighting the latter's faults which this one can then perhaps fix. Nothing against the actual game, it just needs to hurry up and get here - Sony hype be damned.

    I love and still play Smash Bros regularly. When I first saw this, I was outraged, I mean, why can't Sony just keep doing Sony things, aka the big budget shooters, the GTAs, the violent butchery of people, vehicles, Space Marine like characters etc, and let Nintendo keep doing Nintendo things, aka the 'kiddy' stuff, like Mario Kart, Smash Bros... and other Mario games. I am really torn about this badly named game (Title Fight is so much better). I will almost definitely pick it up at launch, but I will still be muttering obscenities under my breath as I load it up in my PS3. It just seems so terribly terribly wrong and yet totally totally right at the same time. With Sony releasing what seems like another Mario Kart clone in LBP Karting, or whatever that ripoff will be named, it just seems like Sony have sunk to an all time low in the creativity department. Nothing Sony does to 'innovate' with this game will ever compare to the amount they've openly ripped off from Nintendo. I always like to joke that Sony copies Nintendo ideas (I mean, the move controller, the 6 axis motion sensing right after the Wii announcement, etc), but this game is the first time they've just come right out and almost cheekily said, hey, so we're ripoff cheats who copy others' game designs, but that won't stop you from buying our products. Sadly, and gladly, they're not wrong.

      They are wrong. I for one won't be buying it. Why bother when I can play Smash Bros?

        You two are acting like more Smash Bros style games are a bad thing. If anything this will help bring some new ideas to the table and hopefully get Nintendo to step up a notch for their next entry.

          Agree. What's wrong with someone doing a SSB game? it's like getting your nickers in a knot because some one made a FPS like Doom. It will help evolve the 'genre'. This game should be taken on it's merits, not just compare it to SSB? Plus lets face it, SSB hasn't changed greatly since the N64 version 13 years a go.

          Really? I mean Super Smash Bros brawl didnt really break the mold, but show me one other game that has this much fan service in it? They poured effort into it like crazy. Honestly for me, the only thing Smash needs is more characters, stages and the same amount of <3.

          Anything else really will just feel like a cheap clone unless it gets just as much fan service in my books..

    I still don't understand all this 'OMG Sony are copying Nintendo, so I can't like it or play it.'
    What the fuhh?
    Super Smash Brothers certainly didn't invent the genre, although it's by far the most popular game of said type. If you're going to follow that mentality, then you'll only ever be playing one FPS, one RPG, one driving game, etc for the rest of your life. Where do you think innovation and new ideas come from? From copying/improving other people's ideas! The same is true of any product.

    God forbid it might be an excellent game, and fill a gap in Sony's lineup. Must be all upset because it somehow impeaches upon your sensibilities. Even if it turns out to be rubbish, getting all pissy because they're 'copying Nintendo' is just childish and reeks of fandom.

      +4.

    As long as I can play as Cole, Ratchet or Drake, this game has won me over.

    I have no problem with the game in theory...but they could have at least made it look a little different.

    I can see why people are all "Boo Sony!" over this move, but I don't necessarily agree. From a marketing point of view, this game is an easy sell. A four-player manic fighting game featuring Sony mascots? WHy not? Just because Nintendo did it first, I mean, that's not reason enough not to make a "sure thing".
    Let's not forget the innovations Sony has brought to the table. Because Nintendo are putting more effort into the Wii-U's online service, does that mean we accuse them of ripping off Microsoft? There's a flow of ideas from all three companies to the others, and it makes our industry more diverse, innovative, and interesting.
    Anything that makes the companies that produce our collective obsession's life-source richer and more capable of delivering gaming to us I support.

    It's not like this is the first Smash Bros inspired game. Shonen Jump Super Stars (and Ultimate Stars) did this too - that was an awesome game, very similar in a lot of ways to Smash Bros, but the way you created your character roster and could swap in and out made it unique. Final Fantasy Dissidia did the same thing for the FF games to great effect, although Dissidia's gameplay was a massive departure. Capcom and Marvel have been doing this for years, albeit in a more traditional 2D fighter setup. So long as they don't completely clone the gameplay (or so long as they clone it really well) this will probably be awesome.

    It looks like an HD Smash Bro's with a Sony Lineup with some cool level twists.
    How can that be a bad thing?

    I honestly don't care if they directly copy the game.

    I do not current actively run a system that I can play Smash Brothers on.

    I do run a PS3.

    If Sony copy the concept and lets me play what is an awesome game-type on my PS3, what's the problem?

    The Move was obviously greatly inspired by the WiiMote, however, the Move is a far better peice of technology and far more impressive than the Nintendo version. Why is it a bad thing?

    As said above, if we're going to rule anything out for "Copying", we can only have one RPG, one FPS, one Racing series, and the other concoles can't copy at all.

      just reiterates how much more innovative Nintendo is compared to sony in terms of console gaming.

      No one can stop this type of 'copying' so its pointless to complain.

    PlaySation All Stars.... PSAS just forget the Battle Royal bit.

    Sony can do this all they want, but lets not forget where the credit goes to for games like this. After all there is quite a few things that Nintendo has done that sony has copied, analog stick (they added 2), rumble, a mario kart clone, motion control, (Yeah they may have had patents but so what, Nintendo were the first to introduce a console with it), touch screen hand held gaming, and now this (im sure there are others). Things like this just show how important Nintendo are to gaming and how innovative they can be (they arent always innovative ).

      i'd like to add that its nice to see they tried to do something different with the way to score points, that idea of filling your meter by attacking and then unleashing it to kill sounds very interesting and if you can hold it for longer you can do 'super' kills. Impressed they didnt just slap sony characters in a SSB game and be done with it.

      got to give kudos for that.

    It's got one thing SSB doesn't have: a solid online system. It will be a while until Nintendo even begins to match that.

    Although TBH this genre of fighting game is pretty crap, if it weren't for the Nintendo characters SSB would've followed suit, Ditto for this.

    I think the nickname should be "PSAS"... Pronounced Pizazz. xD

    I just can't care about this game till I see some Crash Bandicoot or Spyro... Fingers crossed they get a bit old school with it.

    People are right when they say that Nintendo are innovative. Their hardware definitely pushes things in new directions.

    People are wrong when they say Nintendo are currently innovative in Games. They have been relying on generally the same IP for the past 20 years. Don't get me wrong, I love Nintendo. But its a little unfair to bash Sony when they are rehashing a game that was brought out some 13 years ago.

    Just because Nintendo did it first. Doesn't mean it cant be improved on.
    Fact, the ONLY reason i have fired up my Wii in the past 2 years is to play SSB.
    Now ill be able to get the same enjoyment on a console i use infinitely more. And my wii can stay where it has been used more in the past few years, as a decorative bookend in my bookshelf.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now