It’s hard not to compare Sony’s PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series when you just look at them. They’re both 2D fighters, they both feature characters from their respective company’s most popular franchises (with a few extra fighters from third-party titles thrown into the mix), and they both allow up to four players to battle at the same time.
But once I played PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PASBR) at Sony’s booth in the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), I saw that that’s where the similarities end. The biggest difference between the two titles (honestly, between PASBR and just about any other fighting game) is that PASBR doesn’t track how hurt your character is. It doesn’t have a health bar like Street Fighter II or a number representing how damaged your character is like Super Smash Bros.
Instead, connecting with an attack fills up a bar for special moves, similar to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter IV. While performing a super attack in those titles just does more damage than a normal one would, however, the special attacks in PASBR are your only means of defeating your opponents. Connecting with a super move will instantly destroy the recipient. Defeated players respawn after a short wait, and the person with the most kills after the time limit expires wins.
You can fill the special meter up to three times and progressively make the move more powerful. Nathan Drake, the protagonist from the popular Uncharted series (recently announced as a playable character), throws an explosive gas tank for his first-level super. It has a short range and a small explosive yield. PaRappa the Rapper, the star of the musical series of the same name, can use his third-level super — which cuts away to him doing a little song and dance number — to kill every character on the screen.
This means that an aggressive play style is mandatory for victory. While defensive strategies are often the most important in traditional fighters, you need to constantly attack the other players in PASBR in order to fill up your super meter so you can get kills. Getting hit with normal attacks, meanwhile, doesn’t penalize you at all. In fact, even taking damage will fill up your bar (much more slowly than if you were doing the attacking, of course). PASBR does have a dodge button, but I was always too busy trying to unleash as many barrages of punches and bullets as I possibly could to worry about trying the maneuver.
This leads to frantic, fast-paced gameplay that even Super Smash Bros. would have a hard time competing with, at least in terms of mayhem and speed. The lack of strategic, defensive play may turn off those who prefer their fighters to be more skillful and methodical, but players looking for simple, multiplayer fun will have an easy time enjoying the crossover craziness.