PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)

Sony’s Super Smash Brawl All-Stars Royale with Cheese.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (2012)When I learned of the existence of today’s game, I scoffed.  I had no interest in playing this game.  Well, that’s not necessarily true.  I actually have had interest in playing this game many times before, and I’ve enjoyed playing.  Problematically, I enjoyed playing these games when they were called Super Smash Brothers.  But this time PlayStation was doing it.  I still only decided to play this game because I have a somewhat underused Vita and my roommate gave me a code that would get me this game for free.  Consider yourself endorsed, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, developed by SuperBot Entertainment and SCE Santa Monica Studio, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and including the voices of Eric Ladin, Sean Pertwee, Tim Phillipps, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Unshô Ishizuka, Josh Keaton, Max Casella, Sanae Kobayashi, Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson, Jennifer Hale, Nolan North, Dred Foxx, Quinton Flynn, James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Stephen Fry, Stephane Cornicard, Kevin Miller, Marc Silk, J.S. Gilbert, and, of course, Mario.  No one is going to read through all those names to see that one joke.

…story…Hmmm…  Well, a while ago, a company made a game called Super Smash Brothers because they had been around long enough and had enough iconic, exclusive characters that a game could justify it.  Years later, another accomplished company took their few iconic exclusives, added some exclusives no one gives a shit about, and acted like another character or two were exclusive, and pretty much jacked Smash Brothers blatantly.  And you use those characters to reach the end and beat a disembodied head to make your character glow blue in his epilogue.

You will find that the biggest problem I had with this game is that it is Smash Brothers.  It is so blatantly and unforgivingly Smash Brothers.  I feel like I will use the word Nintendo in this review more than I will the word Sony.  I felt like the credit sequence was so painfully long because they also had to thank everyone involved in Super Smash Brothers.  It lasts like a half hour!  I could bust through the story in less time than I could the credits.  And to refer to what it had as a “story” is true exaggeration.  Every character, no matter how different, hears that something is happening where characters from different worlds are collecting.  They go, they fight, they have a brief, one-stage-long rivalry with a character, and then they fight a disembodied head.  Winning gives them some sort of power that makes them glow blue, in the still-frame ending movie, and then a half hour of credits.  And the final boss was so disappointing to me.  The disembodied head has nothing to do with any Sony product I’ve ever experienced.  It DOES have something in common with a certain Nintendo product that ends with a pair of disembodied hands and polygonal, colorless versions of the other characters in the game.  I will eventually remember the name of that game.  But I believe Sony missed a huge opportunity to make the final boss Kevin Butler.  That would have been fucking perfect!  …SMASH BROTHERS!  That was it.

I was vaguely surprised to see that Sony had actually pulled off a fairly strong set of characters for their Smash Brothers rip off, but they cannot justify it nearly as well as Nintendo could.  Kratos, Nathan Drake, Cole MacGrath, Sweet Tooth, someone from Killzone, Big Daddy and Dante (neither of which are Sony exclusive, by the way.  And didn’t Bioshock originally come out as an Xbox exclusive?), Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, PaRappa and Nariko (why does anyone remember these two?), Raiden (the least favorite of all Metal Gear characters, since Nintendo already had the most popular), Sackboy, Sly Cooper, Sir Daniel Whogivesafuck and Toro Whatthehell from Huh? for Red October.  I lost focus near the end.  I started wondering if Xbox could pull this off.  My research pulled up Marcus Fenix, Master Chief, Blinx, Alan Wake, Joanna Dark, the Viva Piñata characters, the dude from Condemned (which admittedly might be a little dark for a Smash Brothers rip off), and no, they can’t pull off this kind of game.  Of course, they might be able to pull it off if they add in characters that are not exclusive to Sony (such as Big Daddy and Dante) or if they actually had the audacity to make Cole into 2 different characters, justified by being a good and an evil version of the same character.  Hell, I guess Microsoft could pull of this kind of game.  There are like 10 different Carmines in Gears of War, and they could always have Master Chief and crestfallen Master Chief.  And, strangely, the characters I enjoyed playing as most were the ones I didn’t know or didn’t give a shit about.  I liked Sir Daniel from the game I can’t even name because I gave all of my shits away to the orphans in Africa.  I liked the strange cat thing, Toro, from whatever the fuck crazy Japanese thing it spilled out of, partially because he felt like this game’s version of Kirby.  I even liked playing as Nariko.  Certainly more than I liked playing as her in the game she came from.  I kind of defaulted to Kratos most times, because I wanted a character that played well that wouldn’t embarrass me.  I liked the Big Daddy too, but watching a Big Daddy get suplexed by Sackboy is not something I endorse.    I do endorse beating the crap out of PaRappa, especially when he keeps shouting about how you’ve gotta believe.  Believe this, PaRappa: I hate you.

The gameplay in this game was as good as it was a few years back on the Nintendo, but they again failed to live up to Smash Brothers.  The biggest problem was that beating up enemies served no good purpose.  In Smash Brothers, you beat people up because weakening them makes them easier to knock out of the level.  There is no ring out in PSASBR.  In other fighting games, you beat up your enemies to take their life bar down to zero.  There are no live bars in this game.  You beat people up to build up super moves, and super moves are pretty much instant kills.  So, basically, your ability to win is only as good as your character’s super move.  Kind of takes a little bit of the fun and strategy out of it.  There were other issues, like how annoying it was to double tap on the screen to pick up an item instead of just pressing a button to do it, but I think I hate most games that force touch screen use on you.  The big problem I thought of in regards to playing this game is I don’t see any reason to do it.  With Smash Brothers, you did it on the big screen on a console that could support four players simultaneously.  On my Vita, I play alone unless I want to go online (which I never really do).  Of course, this game is also available for the PS3, so I might have liked it more that way.

Graphically this game was fantastic.  Sony will always have that over Nintendo because the decision makers in Nintendo really have gamers figured out.  But this graphical improvement comes at a cost.  The load times between levels are awful, and really take you out of the pacing of the game.  You play a level, taking three minutes tops to beat it, and then you can put the Vita down and go get a sandwich waiting for the next match to start.  The levels are also nicely designed.  They start off as one person’s level and, over time, get invaded by a character from another game.  Like playing in Ratchet and Clank’s Metropolis and having the Hydra from God of War pop out of the ground, or having a Metal Gear slice its way into the Patapon level.  The game was musically delightful, but there was a problem with my game and the sound at first, but I don’t really fault the game for it because it was patched while I was still playing it.  And after that, I got to listen to the music from Uncharted from time to time, and I am always ready for that.

Of all the categories that this game comes second to Nintendo in, there is one category that Nintendo could never touch Sony in: trophies.  Sure, one could argue that Nintendo did not do a Trophy or Achievement system, but that feels irrelevant.  The trophies in this game were super easy, and not even very time consuming.  It’s not much more complicated than beating the game with all the characters and using their Level 3 Super Move in their own level.  Then just grab Toro, go online, and get an easy triple and double kill with his Level 3 move that seems to kill everyone on screen no matter what.  Easy Platinum.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a decent enough game that was ripped off wholesale from Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers, and without very much by way of improvement.  Their characters aren’t nearly as iconic and the gameplay feels pointless and unsatisfying in comparison.  But, this game is not without its charms.  If you don’t own a Nintendo system, if you’re looking for an easy Platinum trophy, or if graphics are more important than gameplay, I could see there being reasons to play this.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t have paid money for this thing, and I wouldn’t be able to recommend it to you.  PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale gets “Super Brawl Brothers” out of “Melee.”

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inFamous 2 (2011)

Nobody Had More Humanity Than Cole McGrath

I had put off finishing it for a while but, after getting the Platinum trophy for Uncharted 3, I decided I’d go back and finish inFamous 2 to get my Platinum trophy for that. My memory of the Good storyline may be a little foggy because I finished that back in June, but I certainly remember the Evil storyline. So let’s take a look at inFamous 2, developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Cole McGrath (Eric Ladin) has spent the entire course of inFamous preparing for the arrival of the Beast. As inFamous 2 starts, we get right into that battle and get our asses handed to us. We barely manage to escape Empire City with our long-time friend – and recent betrayer – Zeke (Caleb Moody) and NSA agent Lucy Kuo (Dawn Olivieri) to a town called New Marais, which is in no way affiliated with New Orleans. Here, Cole and Kuo meet up with Dr. Sebastian Wolfe (Michael Ensign), who has a plan to make Cole stronger using a device called the RFI (Ray Field Inhibitor) and Blast Cores. But, an explosion at Wolfe’s lab spreads the Blast Cores over the city. Cole must collect the Blast Cores before the Beast makes his way down the coast to New Marais. Along the way, Wolfe gets killed, we meet a crazy lady with fire powers named Nix (Nika Futterman), we try to over come the control of Joseph Bertrand III (Graham McTavish) and his militia, Kuo is kidnapped by Bertrand and given ice powers against her will, and we make some decisions that will make you either good or evil and affect the outcome of the game.

This is a pretty good game that just barely misses excellence. It’s an open world action-adventure game with similarities to Assassin’s Creed in that you can go anywhere and climb buildings at will. Then you throw in some electricity super powers and you get you some inFamous. I would say the problem with the controls, especially when compared to Assassin’s Creed, is that the wall climbing doesn’t always work that well. Climbing the building in Assassin’s Creed is so smooth and realistic, whereas this game is just a bunch of awkward jumping. I also found there was a couple complications in combat, like how it would take you using the circle button to dodge as you using the circle button to take cover against a wall that then gets you shot and killed. These problems were not super drastic or anything, but when this game will inevitably draw comparisons between it and a game that does wall climbing so well, it comes up in the brain. The new upgrades to Cole’s powers really make you feel awesome once you unlock some of the cooler ones. And you get to dabble in the ice and fire powers of your compatriots later on, and that get’s good too. One of them can even make travel easier. Taking Kuo’s powers gives you an ability that will launch you up into the air and make it easier to get around. Nix’s travel move was not as helpful to me, which bummed me out for my Evil playthrough.

The story of this game is awesome. Unlike most games that only have the final decision have any affect on the game, there are many choices throughout this game that affect the way people react to Cole, the way Cole looks, and even the environment of the city. And, of course, there are two different endings. Throughout the game, you side with Kuo or Nix on different problems that come up, and it even starts making a relationship develop between the character you side with. And then, it spins it all around on you by changing those sides at the very end. Both of the endings are very emotional and well written. I don’t know how they’ll be able to pull off inFamous 3 after some of the stuff that went down, but it made for a pretty touching ending on both sides and for different reasons. But don’t fool yourself, neither ending is a particularly good outcome for old Cole. There were a lot of moments I liked in this game: having a strained friendship with Zeke after he betrayed you in inFamous, dealing with Kuo after her kidnapping and painful conversion into a superpowered person, finding out Nix’s backstory, and even Bertrand had some sort of reason for what he was doing. Even quiet scenes like Cole and Zeke watching TV and drinking beers was kind of touching.

I thought all of the voice acting in this game was great. People complained a lot about Cole’s voice changing from the first game, but I didn’t even notice it. His voice wasn’t so amazing in the first one that they couldn’t decide to go in another direction for the second one. And this guy delivered anyway. The emotional story of this game would not have been delivered without great animation from Sucker Punch and great acting from the voice actors.

This game is also not a difficult game to Platinum, but I did find one problem with it. In the first playthrough, you can knock out about half of the trophies, choosing good or evil. The next playthrough, do the opposite and play it on Hard and you’ll pretty much have done it. Throw in a couple more exploration and collection things that aren’t that difficult and you’ll have your Platinum trophy. The problem for me was that I completed my Good storyline and started into my Evil one, then got bored and stopped. A couple months later, I finished my Evil one, got my Platinum, and was going to get the collectables again for fun but got bored and stopped. The game does not have a lot of replay value. You’ll probably want to play it twice anyways to see what would’ve happened if you made the other choice, but once you’ve done that it gets to be kind of the same old, same old and you lose interest. They are coming out with downloadable expansions to the game, one of which is already out and involves Cole becoming a vampire, but I’m not super interested. And, with no multiplayer, there’s not a lot of reason to hold on to your game after you’ve finished.

InFamous 2 is a great game that comes so close to excellence with it’s great storyline, solid graphics, fun gameplay, and great voice acting, but just falls short because of some wonky controls and lack of replay value. But it’s still definitely a game worth playing, and I recommend you do so, but it might be better as a rental. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, but I no longer feel the need to hold on to it as I do with many fantastic games. But I still give this game “Great” out of “Great plus 2”.

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