Looking For Hits: All About All-Stars

On the latest episode of Looking For Hits, a weekly discussion between PlayStation LifeStyle’s Managing Editor Sebastian Moss and Game Revolution’s News Editor Daniel Bischoff, we talk about the reveal of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, whether its name is terrible (hint: yes) and what all the recent game announcements mean for Sony’s E3.

Now that it’s real and we’ve seen it for ourselves, what do you think about PSASBR?

Daniel Bischoff: I think that All-Stars is a no-brainer. It’s almost a stupidly obvious move for Sony to make. With the stable of characters they’ve built since launching in 1994, many of us are left wondering why exactly it’s taken this long to developed a clone.

Still, I want to point out that with genres like the brawler and the kart-racer, there’s really no way to make it your own aside from a few small tweaks. Battle Royale is taking the necessary step away from Smash Bros by focusing on meter instead of raw damage figures, but the UI and overall style make that a jarring change for long time Smash Bros fans.

Sebastian Moss: A mash up of all your favorite characters is always what every fan dreams of – just look at how big The Avengers is. Of course, the question is whether you’re actually a fan of PlayStation characters – I am, so I’m excited (although I’d love to have a cross-platform SSB title with Nintendo’s, Sony’s, Microsoft’s, Marvel’s and DC’s characters). I’m worried that they’re a new, small studio, so they might not have the skills to create a truly fine-tuned fighter, but I’ve always been pessimistic.

I was particularly impressed at the backgrounds that mixed franchises, but the graphics did seem a touch dated. Once the full roster is revealed, I’ll be able to really work out how excited I should be.

Is PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale a clone or a rip-off of Super Smash Bros. like a lot of people say?

SM: I think that it’s clear that from a visual perspective it clearly borrows heavily from SSB, and it sounds like it too. The idea of getting all of the platform holder’s IPs and pitting them against each other is also from SSB. So that’s all ripped off and borrowed – at a casual glance you’d think it was a rather impressive mod. Luckily, from what I’ve heard from PMC, the actual gameplay is a bit different, so they have made enough improvements for it to shine as its own.

DB: Nothing is true, everything is permitted. This industry is built on rip-offs. Is All-Stars a rip-off? Absolutely. I can’t tell you how much this game looks like a Super Smash Bros. clone. Is the gameplay different? Sure, different enough. That’s the key to being a competitor in the same space.

How does the game really compare to Super Smash Bros.?

DB: As I said before, there are differences between All-Stars and Smash Bros, but they’re subtle. That’s not to say they’re not impactful. The meter usage is a huge change, and the fact that you can’t ring-out your opponents will change the way battle flows from one fight to the next.

Yes, the UI looks far too similar, and even the announcers and moves can feel like a ghostly image, but gameplay wise there’s enough different here to put All-Stars in a different camp…. Whether you find that camp more enjoyable or not will really be dependent on your time with the game.

I honestly don’t like the lack of ring-outs and I don’t like knowing how close I am to being killed. With no damage meter, it seemed far too random for my tastes. These high-action, intense brawlers need to be explicit and there were a few cues that I sorely missed in my time with the game.

SM: You’ve covered the gameplay comparisons pretty well, so I’ll just focus on how they’ll do commercially. This won’t be able to match SSB (and I don’t think Sony expects it to), as none of their franchises are anywhere near the sales potential of Nintendo’s.

Sony sucks at marketing, and that’s something I’ve talked about on PSLS before, so there’s no point going into detail, but the simple fact is their marketing is terrible. And they don’t spend very much on it. That’ll be a problem when All-Stars is released as it is a new brand. Sure, it has tons of brands in it, but if the average consumer (who sadly doesn’t read this site, or keep up to date with game news) casually glances at a GameStop shelf or whatever, they won’t immediately see that their favorite brand is a part of it. They’ll probably think it’s something like PlayStation Move Heroes, which was just terrible.

Do you think that PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a good name for the mash up?

SM: It might grow on me, but no it’s not a good name. Obviously it’s not the end of the world, but it’s too long, and the acronym – PSASBR – is terrible. I’ll call it PlayStation All-Stars, but that’s not the most informative title for anyone who doesn’t know what it’s about.

The big issue will be marketing, the simple fact is that casual gamers won’t always pay full attention to ads, so short, simple titles are often best, not a long mess of words that don’t adequately explain what the game is about. Thankfully, once you’ve bought the game, you only have to see the title when you load up, and then can ignore it. It’s not the worst thing ever, but I do wish it had been something else.

DB: Sony doesn’t have a mascot like Mario. Sony can’t call the game “All-Stars Battle” and stick Nathan Drake on the cover and know that consumers will instantly recognize it as a PlayStation game. That said, the name could be worse.

Could it be a lot worse? Hell no. This one is pretty bad as it is, but Sony’s made a habit out of names that sound terrible at first. Of course, we’re all very used to “Vita” now aren’t we?

With the recent reveal of LBP:K, GOW:A and now PSASBR, do you think Sony has much up their sleeves for the PS3 at E3?

DB: The problem with E3 is that you never know what will rise to the top of the frothing masses. Maybe Sony doesn’t have anything else for the PS3 at E3. My guess is they’ll have a lot to talk about for the PlayStation Vita. With the Wii U and Xbox 360 sticking the PS3 with heavy competition, my guess is that the Vita will be Sony’s bread and butter this holiday season.

And that’s OK. I’m mean, look at this week and weekend. All anybody is talking about is Sony and these games. There’s no way they could get that kind of attention during E3. It’s better to have released this information now and been the center of attention for it.

SM: Yeah, the Vita will definitely take center stage at the show for another year – it has to, sales are rubbish and all its most exciting known games are behind it. So we’ll see Ass Creed, COD Vita and some new stuff, but I’m hoping we’ll see some more PS3 stuff. There are a lot of unannounced PS3 games still to come, so it’s just a question of which ones will be announced. GOW’s just been revealed, so I’m not sure if we’ll see Santa Monica’s other game, but I’m hoping for Guerrilla’s next title, something decent from Sony London at last and maybe Quantic Dream’s latest title (although it seems a bit soon since Kara). Plus, there’s always a lot we haven’t seen about The Last of Us.

Next week, we’ll be on Game Revolution to discuss the biggest multiplatform news, and back here the week after.