After years of success with Nintendo’s Super Smash Bro’s on the Gamecube, you would have thought a clone would have reared it’s head long ago. With so many exclusive franchises available across all platforms however, it was only going to be a matter of time. Can this mashup of various iconic characters pull it’s own weight?
With so many varying characters on offer, an overall storyline was inevitably going to be tricksome. Therefore they haven’t bothered! Instead, opting for snippets of stories relating directly to each character. Upon your single-player journey, you’ll find that, depending on your character choice, you oddly have a rival. The story attempts to make sense of these, but why they’re there at all is beyond me! As you start the Arcade mode, you are ‘treat’ to a storyboard cutscene and a voiceover giving a brief background of the quest ahead of you. During the encroaching fights, the rivalry will make itself known near the end. To be honest, encompassing a rivalry felt forced and unnecessary, but at least they attempted to flesh out the single-player portion a little. Unfortunately, the ending videos are again, in a storyboard form but on the plus side, there are 20 characters to choose from (along with promised DLC) that all have unique endings. So that’s nice!
Now, onto the real meat and bones of the game! The objective of the game, as you may imagine, is to defeat your opponents, trouble is, you can only do that via special moves. Earning these is another matter, you’ll need to attack and be aggressive to earn AP (All-Star Points) which, once earned enough of, will eventually fill a bar. Each character has three distinctive levels of ‘Super’, increasing in potential power the higher the level. Once full, you have to make a choice, either save up for a more devastating move or attempt to score a cheeky kill or two with the less effective, easier to dodge lower levels. These are nicely unique to each combatant, often drawing upon the characters traits from their own universe. Some are inevitably more powerful than others, usually/hopefully offset by a less useful moveset! Matches are won via a kill limit, or a time limit, either way it’s best to get busy! Not an easy task when everyone and the environments are after you! Stages are dynamic much like it’s inspiration: Super Smash Bro’s, whether it be a giant God of War-esque Hades swiping at the players or a battle ripped straight from the set of Resistance. These environments are a living breathing entity in the fights; they can either kill you or alter the surroundings as such that it feels like a an entirely new stage is being rendered as the fight progresses.
The tutorial serves well to learn the basic combos of each character, however, as per usual in fighting games, not all are shown; it is best to experiment in the real world. There are also challenges to take on if you’re a fan of punishing yourself with increasingly difficult and addictive scenarios, reminiscent of Mortal Kombat’s Challenge Ladder, with a tad less brutal dismembering’s of course! Unfortunately, therein lies the only solo modes on offer, admittedly half the fun to be had in games such as these should be the multiplayer, yet with other fighting games offering alternate modes, it does feel a little lacking. Not to try to draw another parallel with Super Smash Bro’s, but that had other things to mess about with besides straight up brawling. This is more than a little disappointing seeing as the single-player fun can wear thin pretty quickly. There are unlockable playercards and skins to show off in multiplayer to help entice the player, but these are essentially par for the course in any multiplayer orientated game nowadays.
Fighter variation is great, no two characters feel the same, save for the odd inclusion of both good and evil Cole from inFamous. Each character has their own variations on attacks, such as Nathan Drake’s grenades and guns to rival Kratos’s bow; it’s nice to see the effort put in to mimic the differing styles. The roster is fairly comprehensive, if a little confusing at points. Bringing in the newer breed of hero’s from the Playstation brand is expected with the likes of Nathan Drake of Uncharted fame and Kratos from the God of War franchise. Some other, lesser known perhaps characters also make an appearance such as Fat Princess and Toro Inoue from Together Everywhere. These are nice to have, along with the third party hero’s such as Big Daddy and Dante from the brilliant Bioshock and Devil May Cry respectively. Some nice throwbacks from the past include a personal favourite of mine being Sir Daniel Fortesque, good god, I used to love MediEvil! In addition, not such a favourite of mine, PaRappa the Rapper; yes he still does some ‘rapping’ at least, you’ll all be glad to know! What I did find baffling, was the exclusion of some of the more arguably popular, big faces in the Playstation universe such as Crash Bandicoot, Lara Croft or any of the myriad of cast that Final Fantasy has to offer. I can only assume that acquiring the licenses to these characters must be quite difficult for some reason or another. Speaking of difficult, like all fighting games, this can take a long time to become proficient at. Simply jumping online will most likely get you destroyed, practice is needed to learn your preferred characters special moves, not all behave in the same way; the more experienced players will know how to avoid them and exploit your mistakes.
A massive achievement is the cross-platform play that the developers have implemented. Any combination of up to four PS3 pads or Playstation Vita’s can be used to play together. Whether it be online or all in the same room, uninterrupted, seamless play is impressive. Hopefully paving the way for future titles to also follow this route. It’s also worth mentioning that if you purchase this second hand, you will need to also buy the online pass to play online. Local play is unaffected by this of course.
Character models look great, transitions between moves and stances look a little stilted but in fighting games, that happens! All the models have plenty of detail suited to that character; they wouldn’t necessarily look out of place in their own games. All have their own mannerisms and gaits too, never mind each of the many specific Super moves dedicated to each character. A lot of effort has been put in to retain these individual characteristics of both the fighters and their respective stages; it’s great to see.
The music surprised me throughout, epic scores being played in the background of a warzone definitely worked to the games advantage. The sound effects and character voices are well suited to this type of game, and all work well accordingly. The only real gripe I have with the overall presentation of the game is that the menus are truly awful, plain and bland, these are completely devoid of any love and attention; this is in stark contrast to the rest of the games’ well-developed appearance. It’s a shame that this will be the first thing many people see; first impressions are difficult to break.
Despite the four player onscreen action, Super moves, dynamic arenas and cross platform antics all occurring at the same time, there wasn’t any hint of slowdown throughout my time with All-Stars; that’s always a benefit! I would imagine that this is an advantage of only developing for the one brand of console.
Should You Buy?
With all the good things to say regarding All-Stars, unfortunately there are some negatives to consider too. As this is very much a multi-player focused game, you aren’t going to get a lot of time out of it on your own without it getting repetitive due to the lack of modes. Arcade mode could have been fleshed out a little more and it might not quite have the character roster you expected. It would probably upset the balance of the game, but it would be nice to be able to score without using a Super. Without any health bars, you must rely upon successful attacks to build your meter towards a special move. It can be infuriating to be on the losing side, knowing that the more your opponent wins, the more it can start getting exponential. However, I suppose I should maybe just get better at it?!
Having said this, it might well be worth a buy if some of your friends are also planning a purchase. It can certainly be a lot of fun with company; if you like the characters, you’re sure to have a blast. Couch rivalries will be a-plenty! Comparisons are bound to be made with Nintendo’s big hitter but considering this is a first stab, it’s gone pretty well! It will very likely get a sequel, and hopefully some of these issues can be addressed, but in the meantime, I’m off to hone my skills!
Reviewed on the PS3, also available on PS Vita.