Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
PlayStation All-Stars Vs. Super Smash Bros.

Mike Kayatta | 20 Nov 2012 15:00
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LEVELS:

What's the Same:

Each match is played on a 2D plane built of various platforms, and designed from a series you're likely to be familiar with if you've played enough titles on the system. Often, the stage will interact with the match in different ways, either shifting platforms or attacking the players without bias.

What's Different:

At only 14 arenas, there are far fewer stages than both Melee (29) and Brawl (41!). That being said, every stage in PSA is designed after more than one property, leading to some visually exciting, fun scenarios, such as a giant Master Onion boxing a mech in the distance, or a group of Patapons serenading you through Hades. The delayed "invasion" of one game into another is a neat atmospheric effect, but generally won't affect the actual gameplay.

While a level's interference won't cause massive shifts in overarching strategy, it does feel tempered and fair, never altering the course of things or unfairly giving you a disadvantage by happenstance. Most interactions are telegraphed in advance, like a reticule slowly approaching center stage, so you're only punished when failing to react. If you do take a hit from the stage, in whichever way that may happen, consequence is trivial and never lethal.

While you can generally categorize SSB's levels into minimalistic (such as "Hyrule Castle" and "Final Destination") and active ("Brinstar" and "Icicle Mountain"), PSA takes an even middle ground throughout. The end result is a series of maps that all achieve that wonderful balance of participating in the match without governing it. With such a flush approach to design, however, stages infrequently play much differently. With a few notable exceptions, such as the beginning of the Uncharted-styled "Stowaways" stage, where you're crammed into the small cargo section of a plane, you'll rarely feel the need to adjust your strategy to the landscape. Minimal vs. active was always a divisive topic in Smash Brothers, so depending on your preference, this may win you over or turn you off.

ITEMS:

What's the Same:

Items appear intermittently across the map during matches, offering a variety of new options and random times.

What's Different:

Item's in PSA are almost exclusively combat-based, eschewing most of the unique special effects to be found in SSB's inventory. With few exceptions, most pick-ups are axes, bazookas, claws, or the like which drain AP more effectively than standard attacks. Compared to SSB shells, mushrooms, hammers, stars, flowers, and motion bombs, there's barely much of interest.

Items are also no longer able to be thrown, giving most a short-lived effect, followed by depletion and disappearance or a player optionally dropping it harmlessly back to the ground.

SINGLE PLAYER:

What's the Same:

PSA offers a single-player story mode, as well as challenges to complete. Quick, somewhat customizable matches against AI in either free-for-all or 2-v-2 are also on offer.

What's Different:

While the Melee's single-player campaign relied on the game's central fighting mechanic, it also introduced interesting, unique matches, such as fighting an army of Yoshis, a metallic Mario, and some enjoyable minigames keeping things fresh. PSA puts nearly nothing on offer, opting to do little more than string random matches together.
Both campaigns end in a boss fight, but while SSB had players square off against Master Hand, a giant glove capable of unleashing a bevy of attacks unique to him, PSA ending stage is a laughable attempt at dressing up what's really just one more match with old, unused Sony Mascot Polygon Man hovering in the background. You'll fight a random character as normal, and once dead, Polygon man will come into the foreground and rest his head helpfully on the stage for you to hit from any angle with any attack - supers not required. He does manage to hit you once on his way in, but in a game without damage, this naturally has no effect.

Challenge modes are slightly different as well, offering 40-some-odd challenges per character that often don't amount to much more than attempting to win using nothing but a certain button. There is nothing comparable to SSB's special versus matches, "Home Run Contest", "Target Test", "Adventure Mode", "All-Star Mode," or Brawl's level editor or more robust character campaigns.

MULTIPLAYER:

What's the Same:

Up to four players each choose a character and a map, agree on match conditions, and fight. In the absence of human players, computer-controlled characters can be added at varying AI difficulty.

What's Different:

Unlike Melee, but sort of like Brawl, PSA offers an online mode of play. The advantages and differences of online options often fall to the advantages and differences of the Wii's online capabilities, and Sony's PSN. Aside from the network governing them, PSA has added the option of competing in ranked matches, and a monthly league.

Each character is attached to a "level", a number that directly reflects how much a character has been used. When playing online, it's a simple visual representation of how well-versed a player is with the character he or she has chosen.

UNLOCKABLES:

What's the Same:
Completing various tasks will earn certain in-game features. The more you play, the more you get.

What's Different:

PSA begins with all levels and characters unlocked, placing all players on an even playing field from the first moments with the game. Other vanity items are unlocked the longer you play, generally on a character-by-character basis. These include alternate costumes (which SSB offered from the start) as well as online emblem components and variations on the character's entrance and defeat animations.

Most unlocks are governed by a character's earned level, with clear, outlined goals on how to get there. Levels are gained by performing any action (matches, challenges, etc.) with a given character. The more you use someone, the more of his or her items you'll receive.

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