There’s something very simple about Playstation All-Stars. It’s not Super Smash Brothers.
There’ve been quite a few comparisons made between this game and Nintendo’s popular ‘brawler’ series; I just want to address a couple of things. (I know this isn’t the most original thought, but the appearance of the game being on the Plus collection for this month has made me wish to comment on this.)
Before I begin I will say that I am an avid fan of Smash, having owned Melee and Brawl and putting in several hundreds of hours combined. Though I am not a competitive player, I have a pretty good understanding of how the game mechanics work and how the top players fight.
Playstation All-Stars (henceforth abbreviated as PSAS) has many similarities to Super Smash Brothers; namely, several game mechanics such as double-jumping, dodge-rolling, and most importantly, the absence of a health-based KO system. However, PSAS has a completely different system for knocking out fighters than Smash. The way this works is that one must rack up all-star points, or AP, by attacking or throwing other players. The former option builds points at a rate depending on the strength of the attack, the latter steals AP from the receiver of the grapple (the AP gain depends on how much AP the victim has at that time; for example, if he has 0 AP, the thrower will not receive any AP).
AP points fill a power meter which has three tiers. Upon reaching a tier, the player may use a super move. Each character has his own unique attacks with their own properties – one for each tier, so three in all. Therefore, a majority of the battle is understanding when an opponent will use a super move, and how to react when he or she does. Typically, tier one super moves are easy to miss, and are straight-line skill-shots. Furthermore, they can be interrupted. Each consecutive tier gives additional advantages; tier three super moves generally cannot be stopped.
This is the essence of what makes PSAS so different from Smash – in Smash Brothers, every hit adds on to the percentage meter, and much of the competitive game is based around control of the field. People can be KO’d as soon as two or three seconds into the match.
In this Super Smash Brothers Melee example, Fox (played by Silent Wolf) and Pikachu (played by Axe) duke it out on Fountain of Dreams, a flat playing field with a few platforms; notice that it’s possible for Pikachu take advantage of Fox by controlling the edges of the stage, pressuring him continuously and preventing him from being able to recover. Four-stock disappears quickly.
All-Stars games don’t work like that. Field control is important, yes, but players aren’t as pressured for taking too many blows; importance shifts to the meters and judging the risk vs. reward of quickly building up and using a lower tier special that has less of a guarantee of knocking out an opponent, as opposed to saving for a higher tier meter for more insurance. Games will, on the whole, take longer to complete.
In this example, Kat (played by saerreng) and Raiden (played by Tuwnak) fight on the Resistance stage of Playstation All-Stars.
Notice that although poke, proper spacing, combos, and field control are also present in this game, much of the pressure comes from the meters, especially from 3:30 to 4:07.
Neither character can use their super moves mid-air, so effort is taken to keep combat off the ground, or to suppress the opponent so as to prevent a super move from occurring. In that mere 37 seconds, Kat gets off two successful supers. The first super, at 3:56, occurs because of Raiden continuously guarding Kat’s attacks, believing her to be saving up AP for a tier two super. Instead, Kat throws him downward, interrupting his fall animation when he bounces back up by throwing a light attack. She then goes straight into her tier one super, securing herself another stock from Raiden. Upon respawning Raiden attempts to play defensive, but sees Kat jump into the air and tries to go for a heavy attack to achieve his tier 2 super. He misses, leaving himself open for another combo from Kat which ends in another death.