Note: Before anyone says it, the name of the site has nothing to do with my opinion. PASBR is literally the only time I have played my PS3 aside from the Uncharted games. Aside from those two titles, Sony barely ever registers as a blip on my radar.
My history and experience with Super Smash Bros. is decently storied. I was active in the tournament scene for a few years and well renown for my use of Ike, a low tier character. Truthfully, I was never particularly successful in tournaments, and almost all of the acknowledgment I received was from playing people in friendlies, where my penchant for self-scrutiny didn’t seem to creep up as much.
For all of its flaws, I love playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl and all of its fan-made variants. That would be hard to deny, considering it’s been the mainstay in my Wii for just under five years. Brawl Plus, Brawl Minus, Project M, and even Balanced Brawl provide unique and differing takes on improving a game that was hamstrung by the creator’s desire to spite a portion of his fans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type that believes that games should only be competitively minded, I just don’t think that bad game design in the name of sending a “f*** you” to anyone is a good idea. Sakurai’s decisions enforced the falsehood that casual fun and competitive spirit could not coexist in the same game.
For months, the guys over at SuperBot Entertainment have been saying that PlayStation All-Stars is one of those games you have to give a legitimate shot before bringing the hammer down on. Admittedly, the game sounds kind of dumb on paper. Throwing supers to OHKO your opponents could easily strike some as too easy, while others would feel cheated by the idea that they couldn’t earn a kill by virtue of landing normal attacks.
In execution, the game makes sense. There’s a mix of Smash and regular fighting game fundamentals that propel the title beyond the constraints of either. Items that don’t skew the overall battle and hazards that are able to be avoided encourage playing the game at face value, rather than running to the options to minimize the level of random BS that can happen. While the cast of twenty seems paltry compared to the thirty-five to fifty character rosters we’re used to, each character’s essence is woven into the move sets in creative ways that display how each character would act in an all-out-fight. You’re not stuck with a lazy Captain Falcon/Ganondorf situation. The closest argument one could make for similar treatment would be the Coles, but Good and Evil Cole actually serve different purposes and have separate circle moves.
What makes the move sets work is that you’re not picking repetitive characters or clones. Radec, Ratchet, Jak, and Nathan Drake are all gun heavy characters, but there’s no overlap in how each of them function. Drake is probably the best of the four at close and mid range, Jak is the most mobile of the four, Ratchet has the widest variety of moves in terms of range, and Radec’s strength lies in the longest of ranges.
Similarly, you don’t find overlap in the action-based sword wielding characters either. Kratos’s chain swords have strong frame data that make him ridiculously safe at mid-range. When fighting Kratos, you either have to stay outside of his range, or keep directly in his face to punish his recovery frames. Dante’s sword attacks may be the best way to start up a combo, but using it in the way that a Kratos players uses his square attacks will make an otherwise mobile character very stiff and open to punishment.
I’m not a Melee apologist. I don’t look back on the title as some golden age for Smash, and one would be silly to not acknowledge that all three Smash titles were runaway successes. I understand that it’s in a developer’s best interest to keep games as accessible as possible. Anyone who militantly preaches otherwise is free to pay a studio’s worth of developers to create a game that doesn’t sell well, and then immediately fire them because the game didn’t cover production costs. That always goes over well. But accessibilty goes both ways, alienating any aspect of your fanbase is an egregiously bad move.
The last factor that I feel pushes PASBR over Brawl fundamentally is that the studio behind it actually cares whether or not people like the game. It might be a matter of circumstance; a fledgling studio has to worry about their title’s reception so they’re going to go out of their way to be more open and accommodating.
Regardless of the motivation, it just plain works. They took player feedback into deep consideration and the intricacies of the game’s combat engine were significantly tweaked from the game I previewed a few months ago. The beta served to create some of the smoothest net code I have seen in a fighter yet. There are some base connection issues that still need to be worked out, but it’s not the lag fest filled with impractical tactics that you are prone to find out there with other titles.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some issues at the moment. As smooth as the netcode is, merely staying connected can be a pain for some users. Nerfing certain characters out of their level 1 setups seems a bit unnecessary if you’re going to leave flowchart characters like Raiden and Evil Cole in the game. If Raiden lands his forward square or Evil Cole lands his charged Giga Punch, you can kiss your life goodbye. AP levels will need to be adjusted in the future as well, but at least SuperBot is paying attention. What I find funniest is that Seth Killian stated that the final version of Evil Cole is after game designer Ed Ma “took the hatchet” to him, so one can only imagine what kind of ridiculous crap he was capable of beforehand.
The biggest problem SuperBot faces is the same thing they have been saying since day one: preconception. There are a number of die-hard Smash players who fell in love with All-Stars once they got their hands on it, people willing to give the game a chance are finding a simple-but-deep fighter that cares in a way that Nintendo just stopped doing.