Sunday, October 7, 2012

I Jumped the Gun with PlayStation All Stars

Update (18/10/12): I'll be posting my thoughts after the new public beta. I'm really conflicted about it at the moment but I'm trying to not judge it as rashly as last time. Edit: Check out my thoughts of the new beta here

I’m more than happy to admit I was wrong about something. And my experiences with PlayStation All Stars are making me do just that. It’s a game that I really didn’t like at first, but after giving it some time I’ve realised it’s much better than I first gave it credit

When PlayStation All Stars was first announced I, like many people, laughed it off as a Smash Bros clone with Sony characters. After that train of thought wore off I realised that wasn't fair at all considering the effort put into a different fighting system. But the thing was, that I didn't like the sound of the system at all. The idea of supers being the only way to get KO's just didn't make sense. It meant the actual fighting lacked real purpose or intensity, because there was no threat. Getting hit didn't matter, because unless it was a super it didn't matter. I then learnt that you can lose meter (AP) upon being hit, and became a bit more open minded, because there was some form of threat. Even when the game was rumoured though, the idea of a Sony character brawler just didn't grab me. The idea of Ratchet and Clank fighting Kratos, Jak and Daxter and some guy with guns (let's face it, most Sony protagonists are gun users, and I couldn't see how they could make them unique from each other) just didn't sound anywhere near as exciting as seeing Mario, Pikachu, Link and Kirby fight each other. So it was kind of hard for me to be hyped for the game when the possible character roster didn't interest me and the gameplay sounded bad. But I always said I would remain open-minded about the gameplay until I'd actually played it for myself, because that's really the only fair way to do it.

So while I was on the GameFAQs board for the game looking for info, I discovered the huge leak inside the first beta that revealed what seemed to be (and has not been confirmed to be) the final roster of the game. And it was disappointing. There weren’t any characters that made me really excited for the game (though seeing Spike from Ape Escape there was AWESOME), and there were a few big names who were surprisingly absent. So this really didn’t help my hype for the game at all.

But ignore the roster for a second. Yes, it's missing some characters you would expect to be in a game called PlayStation All Stars, but at this point I really don't think it's Superbot's fault at this point, the IP owners don't seem to have wanted to allow the use of their characters. Yes, the roster in a crossover is incredibly important, but don't let a kinda disappointing roster divert your attention from the gameplay.

When the European/Australian beta registrations were being accepted, I applied right away. I had to play this for myself so I could fairly judge it. And I got accepted into it. So when it was online, I downloaded it and tried it out. I wasn't sure who to pick, because I either wasn't familar with the characters or not really interested in playing as them (keep in mind there was only 5 or 6 characters in it). I decided to play as Parappa because I figured he'd have a fun moveset. And the game played exactly how I thought it would. Senseless attacking until someone gets a super, who kills heaps of people, rinse and repeat. I didn't enjoy it at all. Some of them hit you even when you weren't overly close to them, like Kratos' tornado thing. If you're in front or above him, you're dead. There was no indication they were about to use a non-Level 3 super, at times it just looked like they were using normal attacks, and you don't really have time to react anyway. After two matches it seemed my fears were founded, and the game just wasn't for me. I posted a few tweets saying this. Well, actually, I was a little more blunt (and rash, very rash):

I really did hate it at first, it just seemed to lack skill and structure. But a few days went by and I wanted to play it again. I don't know what it was, something just kept nagging at me to try it again. So I did. It started off like last time, but I decided to keep playing and give a fair assessment. And I was conflicted. One one hand, the fighting system was great. It was like Smash Bros, but with more moves, and designed with combos in mind. BUT THOSE SUPERS! They just seemed to come out of nowhere, and were insta-kills. It seemed as soon as someone had at least a bar of meter they were guaranteed to kill someone. The limited character choice (which I excused due to it being a beta) and boring stages really didn't help. One of my friends asked me for my honest opinion and I told him this:

“-Fighting engine's actually pretty decent, it's like Smash Bros. with combos and more moves
-Stages are kinda dull
-Gameplay just revolves around getting the insta-kill supers, which makes the actual fighting feel less dangerous and exciting (you don't need to actually use the combos, you can get meter just by using single attacks)
-The supers are instant kills and they all seem to be unblockable. Only Level 3's actually show you that a character is starting a super, so you could be fighting someone for meter and then BAM you're dead out of nowhere
-Some Level 3's hit FULLSCREEN and also seem to be unblockable and instantaneous
So really, if the whole 'supers to kill' thing wasn't the base of the gameplay, it would actually be pretty fun”

I really wanted to like it, but it just felt flawed. Though with how much I’d be talking about it on my Twitter feed afterwards, you’d probably be wondering how I could talk so much about a game I supposedly didn’t like. But that’s the thing, I didn’t like it, but something about it was keeping me interested.

I was looking forward to playing the game at EB Expo though, in case new characters made the game more fun. There was a presentation by Omar Kendall which I went along to in case there was some new info on the game. They asked for four volunteers in the audience to play the game on-stage and win some prizes. I figured I'd have a go because I'd played it before. And when I was up on that stage, something clicked. I was having fun. I knew how to use my character's moves, the items, and how to stop people from getting super hits. I ended up winning and felt good. Not just because I won, but the game just seemed more fun and less 'random'. And so I played a few rounds throughout the day, trying out a few different characters, and I really enjoyed it, in particular because of some of the more interesting movesets available (Note: I think it’s worth mentioning that the matches I played didn’t see Kratos’ supers used much, which was one of the real killers of the beta for me. Maybe Kratos is just OP :P), and also because of the stages (there’s more stages than just “arrangement of platforms in a box, with bad guy from another game in the background” in the full game). While there are a few boring characters like Sweet Tooth and Radec, there's characters with interesting moves like Sackboy and Spike. Hell, even Nathan Drake does more than just shoot people. Sackboy has some really, really weird moves. He can teleport, use fans to blow people away from him and use jetpacks. It's characters like this, with weird, fun movesets that make a game like this. Once you've got a knowledge of your character's moves (and your opponent's) it's a much better game. However, one of the game's biggest flaws is not being able to tell when someone is using a Level 1 or 2 Super. There's no starting 'cutscene' to tell you someone's using one, and they mostly just look like normal attacks. So it's hard to react when someone could be pulling a Super out and you don't even know. Some attacks even had me thinking "Wait, how did I di-oh, that was a Super?" just because of how hard it is to tell some of them apart from normal moves. But supposedly the tutorial/trial modes will not only teach you how to use your characters effectively, but how to avoid the supers of other characters which, if true, is a brilliant idea and could potentially overcome this flaw of the game. And I do think this is a serious flaw, there’s nothing more annoying than getting killed by an attack you didn’t know could actually kill you. But if the game teaches you ways to see these coming and how to deal with them, then that’s great. Having to put time into learning the game could kill the whole ‘pick up and play’ aspect of the game that Smash Bros has, but I think the simplified battle system compared to something like Street Fighter means someone inexperienced could still pick up the game and have some form of fun, and not feel like they have no clue what’s going on.

I also got to say hi to Omar, and get a photo with him. We were talking a bit about the beta, its netcode and stuff. No, I didn't ask him about characters, he gets pestered enough about that as it is, (or maybe that's a cover because he gave me hints of super secret unlockable characters :P ). He asked me whether I liked the beta, and I answered honestly. “Not at first,” I said, “but it grew on me.” “Oh, fair enough” he replied. And it’s true, as I’ve given the game time, it’s slowly grown on me. You’ve really got to bear with it, because at first it will seem chaotic and structureless, but as you play it more and get familiar with it, you’ll eventually find order within the chaos. Yes, the roster is a bit disappointing, but don’t let that blind you from what is actually a good game hidden away. If you’re like me and didn’t enjoy the beta, I strongly recommend you still look into it, it’s a game you’ve got to give time. It has its flaws, but I still find it enjoyable, it’s something I can see myself wanting to play over and over again, and have friends over to play like we did with Smash Bros.

See? There were more characters after all! I am SO God Tier

I'll be posting a video of some of the All Stars footage I recorded on the day, but until then, head here to see me get 24 points as Parappa during the Gamespot Australia livestream on the day! :P

Update: Here's the first of my PlayStation All Stars gameplay videos from the EB Expo. The second should be up in about an hour or so

Update: And here's the second PlayStation All Stars gameplay video. This one features me struggling to play well with Spike XD

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