The Fault in Our PlayStation All-Stars
Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!
I can recall my excitement following the announcement of PlayStation All-Stars. I had been a huge fan of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series (I still am), and played a metric crap load of each title that had been released. For several years before the game’s announcement, I believed Sony would be capable of creating a game similar to Super Smash Bros. due to the PlayStation’s collection of memorable characters. Learning that this idea I had in my head was actually happening made me really hopeful for the possibilities. The resulting title PlayStation gave to its fans was great — until you started to see the faults in its design.
The most exciting facet of PlayStation All-Stars is the cast of characters being composed of memorable PlayStation characters. When I had imagined this game being created, I only had a few characters in mind including Kratos and Crash Bandicoot. Most of my expectations had been met even, but there were loads of surprises as the cast was being announced. A few of the characters that surprised me the most were Sackboy (Little Big Planet), Fat Princess (Fat Princess), and Parappa (Parappa the Rapper). These aren’t characters I would have expected to be in a fighting game, but they fit perfectly for a PlayStation mash-up fighter.
While the roster is pretty well constructed, the issue the game had was the limited expansion. The game was not successful enough, due to poor sales, for Sony to warrant more DLC content. If you check the All-Stars page on the game’s website, the four DLC characters the game did get are still labeled as “new”. There are plenty of characters that could have been added to the roster beyond those four, including one Bandicoot that fans were looking forward to and was missing in action. One can hope that a (highly unlikely) future sequel will do a better job at adding characters the fans want, if only as DLC.
The control scheme used in PlayStation All-Stars is slightly different than the one employed in Super Smash Bros. The game makes full use of the Dual Shock 3, and ensures that each function has its own button. This is a lesson that the developers of the LEGO games could learn, but that is another topic. Instead of being reliant solely on two attack buttons, PlayStation All-Stars makes use of three attack buttons, and a separate button for super attacks. I enjoy this more than the two button control scheme of Super Smash Bros., because it gives the developers more room to add interesting attacks, and gives players more possible attack options during a match.
The issue I have found has nothing to do with the control scheme itself, but with the purpose of the normal attacks during a match. In Super Smash Bros., each attack deals an amount of damage to its target, gradually bringing the attacking player closer to their goal. Additionally, these same attacks are used to achieve the player’s goal. This is not the case in PlayStation All-Stars. The expanded attack options provide players with various tools to work towards a player’s goal, but the only function that can achieve the end goal of a match is the super attack.
I’ll elaborate further in the next section.
Getting into PlayStation All-Stars for the first time was really exciting. I didn’t know which character to pick first, there were so many choices. I eventually made Nathan Drake my main character, because his move set was unique and varied. After playing the game for some time, I started to realize some of the faulty points of the gameplay. Those points I will divulge here.
The first problem I have already mentioned in the previous section; the three attack buttons are only a means to an end. Each character possesses a super meter that is filled by landing normal attacks, and players can build up to 3 levels of super meter. The super attack button will execute a different super based on how many levels of super meter have been built up. This could be anything from an amped up attack to a powerful buff granted to the character being used. Now, this leads us into the second and most important issue with the gameplay.
The only way to score points in PlayStation All-Stars is to hit an opponent with a super attack (as stated here). This is troublesome for various reasons. Not all supers are created equal. Some supers are more difficult to execute than others. Reaching the second or third levels of super meter can take a lot of time and still yield nothing.
Playing as Nathan Drake opened my eyes to the awkwardness of the game’s design. His first level super, where he launches a propane tank in an arc and explodes it with a gun, is the hardest to execute. It requires incredible timing in order to kill enemies with it. However, as a player gains levels with Drake, his supers become progressively easier. This makes sense given the time required to reach the third level super, but it forces players to ignore the painfully difficult supers so they can actually get some kills.
The downside to this whole situation is that PlayStation All-Stars doesn’t offer the same level of enjoyment that playing Super Smash Bros. does. Everything in SSB works together to achieve the same goal of knocking enemies out of the stage. The normal attacks in PlayStation All-Stars are unsatisfying, because they aren’t serving the same purpose that normal attacks do in SSB. Had the game been designed more like Super Smash Bros., the game would have likely done a lot better. Sure, the idiots of the internet would have just called it an SSB clone, they did so anyway, but it would have been a better experience than what was offered.
PlayStation All-Stars had a lot of potential to be an amazing game. It had an awesome cast of characters, interesting thematic stages, and the controls created a good foundation for compelling matches. The one decision that killed its chances was the decision to center the gameplay around kills via supers only. This forced a lot of the expansive move sets of the characters to lose purpose, because they didn’t do anything impactful. This one design choice made it seem like the developers were being different from Super Smash Bros. just for the sake of being different.
I am still hopeful that a PlayStation mash-up game can work. I believe that a PlayStation 4 release of this game could be amazing with the right direction. There is a good foundation here, but the core mechanics would have to be drastically modified to alleviate the failings of the current system. Plus, a lot has changed for PlayStation since the release of the first title. There is a smattering of new characters that can be added to the roster of a sequel to PlayStation All-Stars. Only time will tell if Sony is willing to take the risk or make that effort.
What did you think of PlayStation All-Stars? Would you like to see a sequel released for the PlayStation 4? Do you agree that the combat mechanics were poorly designed? Join the discussion below.
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War Fist out.
Posted on January 27, 2016, in Game Design and tagged Blogging, Fighting Games, Game Design, Gaming, LEGO, Nintendo, PlayStation, PlayStation All-Stars, Sony, Super Smash Bros, Video Games, War Fist, WiiU. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.