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Sony unveils PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and we go hands-on

You can almost see the relief coming from the Superbot team. Not only because they had the opportunity to show off a project that they’ve spent the last few years working on, but because they can finally stop denying the existence of a game that has been rumored to be on the way for a while now.

So to the great relief of the beleaguered and besieged developers, Superbot has officially unveiled its four player brawler, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.

“We’ve literally been bursting at the seams with excitement and anticipation for this announcement,” Chan Park, President of Superbot Entertainment announced with a smile.

The game is a fighter in the vein of the Smash Bros. series. That may not be an entirely fair comparison, but it is one that you will hear again and again, and there is a good reason for it. In a similar vein as the Nintendo hit, Battle Royale will feature characters drawn from the PlayStation universe, as well as a few unannounced third-party characters. It will also feature a combat system that pits up to four players against each other in a closed off area culled from famous PlayStation settings.

So far only six characters have been announced: Fat Princess of the PSN title of the same name, Kratos, PaRappa the Rappa, Sly Cooper, Sweet Tooth of Twisted Metal, and Colonel Radec from Killzone.

There will, of course, be many more characters in the final build, many of which will almost certainly seem like obvious inclusions once they are revealed, but for now they are being kept quiet. Regardless of where the characters hail, they will all feature the same lighthearted reimagining. Each will have a unique move set that will honor the characters and their histories, but they will also be balanced to make the combat fair. While no one doubts Fat Princess’ moxy, she probably wouldn’t fair too well against Kratos’ homicidal rages and penchant for ripping the heads off of enemies. Balance is key.

Each of the six characters being shown had their own styles and strengths. Radec, for example, is a ranged character that attacks with a rifle, but he can also hit opponents with melee attacks and a pistol at close combat. PaRappa uses kung fu mixed with a skateboard and a boombox. Sweet Tooth spits fire and drops mines. Each of the characters is unique, and they all have pros and cons.

Despite these specialized attacks, the majority of the combat will be spent close up with fists and kicks (and the odd chain of Olympus). But the action is frantic, and the characters are strong enough that focusing on a single enemy won’t work—you will need to keep moving, keep fighting, and keep mixing up the attacks.

In the demo that was on display at the official unveiling earlier this week, members of the press were given the opportunity to beat the snot out of each other for funsies. The game is still in a relatively early stage of development, but it is undeniably fun and addictive to pound on enemies, especially while wearing the skin of some of the most well-known characters ever to grace a PlayStation product.

After a few moments though, it became obvious that the game wasn’t necessarily about combat—the combat was simply a means to an end. In some ways it feels more like a race.

The combat is what you need to do in order to fill up the characters’ special attacks. Each character has three levels of special attacks, and each level offers a unique and devastating attack that can instantly kill off characters. When the bar is completely full, you can unleash a level three attack that can kill all the characters on the screen–in theory.

Characters can be killed through standard combat, but it is relatively rare and difficult compared to deaths that came through the specials. But with each character having a unique special attack, some characters will have an advantage over others. PaRappa can begin a rap that will kill everyone nearby, while Sly uses a camera-like view to focus on enemies and snap an image that ends them. Both are effective, but the PaRappa attack requires much less effort for a higher reward.

Of course, this was just one gametype of several that have yet to be announced. Battle Royale is an unfinished product, so balance can still easily be redressed.

On display along with the combat were a few of the many levels that will be available, which each have a connection to the world of PlayStation—usually more than one. One level, Metropolis, was taken from the Ratchet and Clank series. It, like all the levels, was a constantly changing selection of moving platforms, deadly gears, and shifting landscapes. Then halfway through the fight, a Hydra from the God of War series suddenly appeared and got into the action. And this was far from the only instance of mash-ups in the settings.

Some levels will have a deeper level of interaction, including the odd quiz, which appears on screen and asks you to answer by jumping on the platform with the correct answer or risk taking damage. Of course, you will have to make sure no one knocks you off when you do have the right answer. Oddly though, there is no way to knock enemies off of a level to their death, but each level does have certain items like a spear or a defensive bubble which can tilt the balance.

It is a daunting task for any developer to be handed the keys to the PlayStation cupboard and then tasked with creating a game that can emulate, and hopefully surpass a massively popular franchise on another system, but that is exactly the task given to Superbot Entertainment.

If you are wondering why the name Superbot doesn’t ring any bells, that’s because it is a new and independent company born out of Sony Santa Monica Studio in the same way that Journey developer Thatgamecompany came about. And it is a heavy burden that this new developer carries. The PlayStation pantheon of characters is a deep and storied one, and the task of respectfully adapting disparate characters is not a simple or easy mission.

The early build shows a great deal of promise. It is still rough around the edges, there are balance issues that still need to be dealt with, and a health bar would be nice, but the potential is obvious. Beyond the characters that will appeal to PlayStation fans, the brawler-style title will call out to anyone looking for a good party game.

So now the curtain has been lifted, and the rumors can finally be put to rest. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is official, and the Smash Bros. franchise has competition.