In 2012, Sony released their own crossover fighting experience to rival Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale had several of Sony’s biggest mascots, like Kratos, Sweet Tooth, Jak & Daxter, Parappa the Rapper, and many more, duking it out on platform-based stages with up to four players battling at once.
There are countless PlayStation exclusives and plenty of third-party games that are associated with their consoles. Because of this, there are more than enough fan-favorite characters that could have appeared in this mash-up. Plus, being inspired by something as massively successful and popular as the Super Smash Bros. games in terms of gameplay should get people excited to play it. However, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale had a lukewarm release and received so-so reviews from critics and fans. This was a video game that was set up to be something great and unfortunately fell flat and was forgotten about. I want to explore everything that happened with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale to cause it to become such a tragically forgotten game.
I’ve been a huge fan of Sony’s exclusives since I was a kid growing up with the original PlayStation console, so I was particularly excited about PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Of course, I followed the game’s development very closely online and on social media once it was announced. It was a surprisingly wild ride for a video game development process with a lot of highs and lows.
For a project this large-scale and ambitious, Sony wanted their biggest and best subsidiary, Naughty Dog, to handle its development. Given the fact that Naughty Dog has created some of the most iconic first-party PlayStation games, like Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and Uncharted, this made a lot of sense. However, Naughty Dog was working on a secret project at the time that we now know was The Last of Us. Because Naughty Dog had their hands tied, Sony decided to form a brand new team called Superbot Entertainment. This was the first misstep in the game’s development. A team of fresh faces could be exciting and bring new ideas to the table, or it could devolve into an unprofessional nightmare.
This new team was led by Omar Kendall, who was chosen due to his history working on combat-heavy video game series like UFC and Backyard Wrestling. He was someone who could figure out character move sets and balancing. He was an ideal choice to helm a fighting game like PlayStation All-Stars. Superbot Entertainment was to be assisted by Santa Monica Studio, another subsidiary of Sony. The extent of their help, however, is a mystery. However, Seth Killian, who was once a community manager at Capcom and who co-founded the Evolution Championship Series (EVO), joined Santa Monica Studio to help oversee the game’s production. This was another name that added a lot of promise to the game.
Once the developers were chosen and the game’s production was finally announced, the time came for the first character reveals. The playable characters initially announced for the game included Kratos from God of War, Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, Sly Cooper, Parappa the Rapper, Colonel Radec from Killzone 2, and Fat Princess. This lineup was exciting due to the idea of playing as characters like Kratos or Sweet Tooth in a Smash Bros. style game. It was also exciting because of the idea being able to play as characters from such a wide variety of games, including classic ones and those that are more modern. Colonel Radec and Parappa the Rapper are from two completely different games and I would have never thought I’d see them both playable in a game together. However, this lineup also worried some gamers, as the lineup to advertise for the game included such an unheard of character like Fat Princess and Colonel Radec who isn’t even the main character in his series.
The core gameplay was later explained to the public. Super Smash Bros. uses damage percentages and launching characters off the stage, while traditional fighting games use health bars. Many fans were curious about what route PlayStation All-Stars would take. The way each match worked was that players would use various attack combos to build up their AP (attack points) meter. Once their AP meter was filled to either level 1, level 2, or level 3, the player could perform a super attack. Any opponents hit by these super attacks were KO-ed. Throwing an opponent would cause them to lose AP.
The use of traditional fighting game combos intrigued a lot of people since it’s something the Smash Bros. series has lacked in the past. However, even though this combat style is original, a lot of people were iffy on it, and for good reason. These super attacks are extremely satisfying to pull off, but they’re literally the only way to actually damage opponents or win a match. A player could pull off amazing combos, but if they miss their super attack, it was all pointless. If the game used health bars, then the opponent still would have taken the damage from those hits before the super attack. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually a ton of fun to play, but perhaps more people would have taken to it if this play style was just one game mode while the primary game used health bars of some sort.
At Sony’s E3 press conference, a full match of the game was shown off publicly. It was everything one could want in a crossover fighting game and it was truly magical. Move sets of several characters were in the spotlight, and they each played exactly how fans of their franchises would want them to play. It was definitely enough to get gamers excited to play it. Once the match was finished and Omar Kendall left the stage leaving fans wanting more, two more characters were announced: Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Big Daddy from Bioshock. These were the first two to be revealed since the game was first announced. Nathan Drake was expected, but Big Daddy was a huge surprise since Bioshock is a third party game. The reveal that third party characters will be included was huge, as it meant that the possibilities for playable characters were endless.
Another element of the game that was shown off during their E3 spotlight was how each stage would operate. One of the really cool features of PlayStation All-Stars was that even the stages were crossovers. Each stage was based on a location from a PlayStation game, but the stage hazards or backgrounds were mashed up with other games. For example, the Hydra from God of War attacked Metropolis from Ratchet and Clank. On one hand, it was a really fun detail that made the game feel even more like a mash-up. On the other, it could be annoying for those looking to just play on a stage that represents their favorite game.
It was exciting reading message boards about what characters people wanted in the game and seeing more and more characters be revealed. It was a PlayStation fan’s dream come true. However, all this speculation led to a large amount of the playable characters being leaked. In fact, it was the entire remaining roster that had not been revealed yet. There were names on the list that were highly anticipated, but if it was the whole roster, it was only about 20 characters, which is much less than what’s in Super Smash Bros. For a crossover game, you’d think there would be a massive roster. Not only was the roster small for the genre, but some major names were missing, like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Even Nathan Hale (from the Resistance games) wasn’t playable despite there being a stage and items from his series. It’s a PlayStation crossover game without some of PlayStation’s biggest mascots. This upset a lot of people, whether they were excited for the game or skeptical of it already. Plus, this major leak led to workers on the already small development team being fired.
Upon release, gamers realized that there wasn’t as much content as they expected. It may be a fun game, but there weren’t that many characters, stages, or game modes. It had also gotten out that the people at Superbot Entertainment didn’t listen to things that Sony had wanted. They had apparently wanted the subsidiary to add Abe from Oddworld, among other characters, to the game, but they never did. Sony was apparently even willing to pay Activision to have Crash Bandicoot appear in the game, but Superbot ignored these instructions.
Not only did they cut content for time, but they clearly released the game unfinished. There were several known glitches, like Ratchet appearing in the match results screen as a pair of floating eyeballs. The logos in the beginning of the game were just static, black and white images. Perhaps Sony rushed them too much? It’s hard to believe since they posted pictures of their crew playing Magic: the Gathering or goofing off on a regular basis.
After some of the minor glitches were fixed and some game-balancing was implemented, Superbot was disbanded and Sony cut all ties with them, leaving Santa Monica Studio to handle the DLC. Because of this huge mess that Superbot caused, not many gamers flocked to PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale like they typically do to Super Smash Bros.
The game also had its issues outside of all this, like the single player arcade mode having almost no story with forced cutscenes (that have no backgrounds) featuring their awkward rival system where each character had a single cutscene with their “rival” character before they fought. Of course, this is after Superbot Entertainment promised a detailed story line with a lot of dialogue.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may have had a rocky development, glitches, a lack of content, and a clunky title, but it’s actually pretty fun. The lack of ability to beat opponents without just hitting them with a single super attack prevents it from being a competitive fighting game, but it’s still a really fun party game and has a surprising amount of replay value. The combat feels satisfying, it features characters from a wide variety of video games, and celebrates PlayStation’s history including their indie and handheld titles. It was always exciting to rewatch character reveal trailers and build up my hype for it. I’ve had a lot of fun with the game on my own, online, and with friends. Having Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper, Cole McGrath, and Sackboy duking it out on the same screen is an absolute joy regardless of what else the game offers. There are people out there, including myself, who really want to see another attempt at a PlayStation crossover fighting game. The chances of that happening are unfortunately slim since PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale suffered from a lack of sales. There are rumors that Sony will revisit this idea for a PlayStation 5 launch title, so I’ll choose to remain hopeful.