Go on Shoryuken.com and call Super Smash Bros. a Fighting Game in their forums. On second thought, don’t do that - you’ll eat an FC Shoryuken into Metsu Hadouken or an EX Seismo into Flame Kick or maybe the resulting debate might cause an internet explosion. Is Smash Brothers really a fighting game? A lot of purists don’t think so - purists being those who believe that the Fighting Games are -only- games set within an enclosed, simplistic 2D arena with absolutely no hazards or gimmicks whatsoever and has life bars and whatnot - this is in stark contrast to SSB’s percentage system, which increases per player as they’re hit and eventually causes them to become so ‘light’ that an attack will knock them off the sides or even top of the stage, and that’s not even getting into character specific weights, DI, etc! That’s a major part of what made it such a big draw - it was so simplistic, and yet had all the makings of a party game as it did something with the possibility for competitive play.
When Super Smash Brothers Melee came rolling around, I’m sure it surprised quite a good number of people when it ended up being a highly competitive game with an extremely solid tournament scene. Characters were fast and so was the play, 1v1 or 2v2 alike - Super Smash Brothers Melee actually ended up with a spot at the Evolution Championship Series, which was met for fighting games and fighting games alone. If there was anything that ever solidified Smash Bros. as a fighting game, it was that presence. Some call it a plain fighting game. Some call it a crossover fighting game, some an arena fighting game, all depends on who you ask.
Now, talking about Smash Bros. is fine and all, but this is an article about Playstation All-Stars, right? Well, people were already anticipating things from the very first rumors - perhaps Sony was going to put out its own version, and it’d return to the roots of Melee like many players wanted(see: Project M, a mod specifically to make Brawl more like Melee), and with there being outright developer mention on combos as well as a wide variety of moves, even now there are still some people who think that it will have a competitive edge and others who -want- it to, because it’s packing a roster of Sony characters in a game they could very well love the hell out of and would totally sink a ton of time into if given the choice! However, things aren’t quite as dreamy as that:
Oh boy, here we go - take a look at that screenshot. Of course you’ve seen something like that before, there’s pretty much no doubt in the world that Sony is doing their damndest this time around to really make a Super Smash Bros. clone that works. Every character has a double jump, a triple jump super, special moves, aerial dodges, spot dodges, rolls, blocking(sans Sly Cooper), and hell, there’s even each character’s Level 3 Super, which has a gratuitous zoom-in while something happens, invoking clear parallels to the Final Smash. This gets even more embarrassing when you look at particular ones, like Colonel Radic’s - it’s basically Snake’s with a chaingun, and Sly Cooper’s, which is… the same thing, with a camera! Fat Princess has a down-air attack that’s almost a perfect copy of Peach’s own -and- she’s got the hipcheck Peach Bomber move; heck, I’m surprised that she doesn’t pull out a soldier to defend herself for a few seconds. Parappa’s is probably the most ‘unique’ of all the known characters in regards to their Level 3 Supers, in which the screen gets the Parappa the Rapper UI and he shouts “I gotta believe!” and everyone on the screen dies no matter what.
That brings to mind one of the biggest deviations from the SSB formula this particular game is making. It’s not a life bar styled game, oh no… nor is it a game where you get most of your kills through knocking the enemy off the stage(in fact, with some stages this is impossible - Buzz’s Quiz Stage, the Underworld). Those who already know what I’m about to bring up know that this is probably the single biggest, most glaring flaw with Playstation All-Stars… if you are hit by a special, be it Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, you die instantly. That’s it. No DI, no saving throw, one teeny little nick and you just explode, ready to return in a few seconds to try and amass ‘AP’ to use your own specials to instantly kill your opponents. This is perhaps somewhat ‘balanced’ by the fact that no one can use Supers without a bar or above of meter, but even the AP system is horridly lopsided, and let’s talk why.
I believe that the AP/Special system is horrible because even at the very beginning it’s creating a gigantic, obvious disparity to the point where even non-tourneygoers are able to tell that the strongest characters are likely going to be those who have the safest, fastest Level 1 specials and can gain AP easily. For example, you can see such in many of the videos where Kratos uses his very fast and simple Level 1 to kill up to three enemies at once. Level 3s, as noted in an interview, take quite some time to stock AP for, and if you hit a certain level of AP, you cannot use any less than you have. You are stuck using whatever Level of special you’ve saved enough of the stuff for - this means that for the most part, it’s going to turn into a game about rushing to get Level 1 stocked, kill 1-2 guys, and repeat… perhaps a Level 2 with some characters(Parappa’s skateboard was lauded as ‘cheap’ and ‘amazing’.).
It’s basically like… Final Smash Playstation All-Stars, at least a little bit. Naturally though, it wouldn’t be a complete clone without items - the thing is, with the various times I’ve seen items used, I actually had to double back every now and again and make sure a character actually had an item on them and was using it - this is a problem. There’s already a bunch of explosions going on in the background(usually) as well as the stage itself(Radic’s various explosives, Sweet Tooth’s mines and Molotovs) and none of the items they’ve shown us so very have just really… distanced themselves as something whimsical, something with oomph. In Smash Bros. a Star made you invincible complete with accompanying music - a Hammer would play its theme as well and everybody ran away - the Sticky Bomb resulted in a game of tag. Playstation All-Stars just seems to have items that… you hit people with or shoot them with and that’s it. Sure, Smash Bros. has its fair share of such items, like the Beam Gun and Beam Saber, but it also had hilarious takes on such like the Home-Run Bat, complete with slow, drawn-out wind up and instant kill swing. Items are integral to the more ‘party-esque’ enjoyment of games like this, so to see them so plain and homogenized at the moment is sort of a downer… though I’m sure we haven’t seen all of them, and it’d be nice to be proved wrong.
Now, seeing as I don’t actually have the chance to play the demo of this game, you can take the following with a grain of salt as it’s merely narrow-eyes observation of all the source material we’ve been given thus far, but the game looks like a physics baby between Melee and Brawl, taking more after Brawl’s dominant genes. A ton, and I mean a -ton- of attacks seem to perform a clear knockup - and without the most fully present DI system of Smash Bros. since you don’t need to worry about ring outs in All-Stars, these are almost a stone’s throw from dial-a-combos as far as I can tell. You perform the full range of moves you can do as a followup, and they’re hit by them because they cannot DI/Tech in any direction and force you to followup. You get AP, end of story. Alternatively, you get hit, they confirm into a special, you die. Any character with a quick, safe confirm poke? Welp, guess you gotta prance around - except in a game like this such a thing is likely to result in some seriously nasty stagnation in gameplay, especially in above-average skill levels. It’d be like playing an even antsier game of Brawl. Sure, there’s still Guarding(unless you’re Sly Cooper, he just turns invisible), but whether or not specials go through Guards at the moment is something I don’t know, and it seems like it’s just going to make it even -more- of a defensive-play style game.
Here are two screenshots from All-Stars:
And to contrast, a screenshot from Brawl:
Look at that different in color palettes! One looks muddy as all get out, with characters models that are hard to differentiate from backgrounds, and even on what should be a colorful greenery stage, it still look like someone threw a filter on top of it. This is in heavy contrast to Smash Bros, which despite the various color palettes(grey/blue in Shadow Moses, blue/black in 1-2, even the browns of the Ground-type stage in Pokemon Stadium 2) has characters which actually go and stand out from the backgrounds no matter what. Sure, matching colors can sometimes make that a little hard, especially depending on your character, but that’s not the point - the point is that All-Stars has nothing to really make the playable characters really stand out in the foreground as part of the action, instead just making them seem the part of a whole together with the extremely active backgrounds they’ve been shooting for in this game.
Those who’ve seen the trailers/interviews already have surely spotted a glow around the characters sometimes, but that glow is indicative of your currentl level of AP, and in my opinion looks awful in the first place - I don’t want some muted rainbow neon in order to tell I’m ready to do a special attack, and it just doesn’t seem like it fits overall with all the blurry colors it’s already packing. Personally, in Brawl I’ve never really lost track of a character, even on the bigger maps where I’m not quite focusing on a wider area of the screen in order to keep my attention on my character better. Yet, already in All-Stars I’ve had cases where it just seems like one character off to the side looking to grab some AP or an item just briefly vanishes from view like they ran into my blind spot and out, and really, I can’t say I like that at all.
Now, there’s no lying that they’re still putting a good deal of oomph into the graphics, but aside the bells and whistles of specials or the Leviathan roaring at you, they do not really go easy on my eyes at all. Couple that with that somewhat-irritating consistently zoomed out camera except when all four characters are all bunched together, and it’s worse still.
Could this game be competitive?
If it remains on the path it’s currently on, probably not to any ‘serious’ degree. The lack of a consistent kill move, be it through careful comboing or otherwise unless you have enough AP to spare, is what really hits it hard. Brawl had a falling out in two parts from their ruleset arguing(and the community’s horrible self-presentation) and another due to the physics changes, tripping, and the presence of Metaknight with his five-jump ungodly safe recovery and nigh 1-frame kill moves as well as high speed and priority. It wasn’t as powerful as Melee competitively, and it certainly showed - that wasn’t to say it couldn’t be played competitively, but it lacked a lot of the oomph and excitement that its predecessor had going for it.
All-Stars’ remarkably bizarre deviation from the formula in order to distance itself puts a heavy wedge between it and the idea that it’ll ever be played competitively at high levels, and will likely be stuffed into the niche of ‘party game’ as many like to call the Smash Bros. series in the first place.
There’s no doubt that Sony Playstation All-Stars looks like a labor of love. Though Fat Princess(???) might be a slightly bizarre choice, the inclusion of Parappa the Rapper gives those excited for the game hope for other PS1 heroes or villians to show up to the fight, and others attest that Nathan Drake and Jak are basically all but announced. When I see stuff like that, when people get excited, well; I can’t help but get a little hyped myself. To me, it’s a little fun and a little challenge, a good balance - we don’t have to no items Battlefield 1v1 all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to have an actual duel, nor does it make the other modes any less fun as well. All-Stars’ modes have only scratched the surface for now, and without the full story one can’t just go and make -too- many assumptions about everything…. because a project like this has so, SO much potential that to see it reduced to something that barely anyone enjoys would break my heart. Competition is good for the soul - it makes companies strive to do their best in placing a product out for their consumers to enjoy moreso than just a simple, ‘stagnant’ kind of release.
I’ll certainly keep an eye on it and keep what I believe to be bad moves in mind, but I’m not the kind of fellow to just go SMASH BROS RIPOFF WILL BOYCOTT SONY SUX - I’ll at least give it a chance. It might even be fun.