PlayStation All-Stars & Building a Good Smash Clone

What are your thoughts on Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale?

I played it a long time ago, so I’m going off memory now.

It’s competently made, but it doesn’t copy enough from smash or do enough of its own thing to really work.

All the stages with moving parts only go through their transitions once. No looping. So if the match is longer than a certain duration, the stage will end its routine long before that. At least there’s an option to turn off hazards, I wish Smash Bros implemented that without completely shitting the bed like in Smash 4.

Naturally the system for gaining points seems screwed up. You can only kill opponents by using supers, which you gain meter for by hitting them a lot. So you need to hit each other until one of you has meter, then land the super for a point. Strategically it all checks out, you want to hit them, you don’t want to get hit, but something feels really wrong about it, like how you can hit them a ton, but you won’t gain any points without using a super, and you can miss that super, lose your whole meter, and be really far behind.

It’s possible to combo into super with combos resembling something between smash 64 and street fighter alpha 3 juggles, so you can confirm into supers rather than just doing it raw. There’s no DI of any kind, which is why I compared it to smash 64, and knockback angles are a lot more standardized, which is why I compare it to SFA3.

Blocking is possible, but it’s implemented in a way where you don’t really gain advantage out of blocking, so it seemed kind of pointless, though I guess it’s still kind of useful since it’s a block? Also I think that pressing left or right while blocking would change your facing direction instead of triggering a dodge roll. Throws also seem to be implemented weirdly too, but I can’t really remember how.

It has the brawl air dodge because yay, we love the brawl air dodge, don’t we?

The roster wasn’t particularly inspiring. I can’t remember enough about the game to comment on any particular character. What was cool though was they used 3 different face buttons for attacks, so they had 2 special attack buttons effectively, allowing for a wider range of moves on each character.

I think the game overall goes to show that there’s a lot of detail that goes into smash bros that its competitors just don’t take the time to notice or if they do notice it, don’t bother to question why it’s there.

And here’s tournament footage with Juicebox on commentary:

I think the lesson to learn from all the Smash Clones out there is, Nintendo put a ludicrous amount of detail into building Smash Bros. If you want to build a game that is that good, you either gotta sit down and pay attention to every little thing they did right, or strike out on your own path and create as many good game dynamics as they did in your own way. You can’t half-ass it and go inbetween (Brawlout, Rivals, PSASBR). You need to implement as many systems as they did, same or different.

2 thoughts on “PlayStation All-Stars & Building a Good Smash Clone

  1. PlayerP September 12, 2018 / 6:52 am

    Wanted to offer some constructive feedback, but first a disclaimer: I was referred to this blog by Novacanoo on YouTube, who spoke highly of your game design philosophies when I watched his Uncharted 1&2 reviews a few months ago, and have been following ever since. I enjoy both Smash and PSASBR, and realize that you said you’re speaking mostly from memory about this game, so I obviously can’t expect retention of its minute details, only its larger concepts.

    With this out of the way, I’ll admit, I’m disappointed that someone with a history of providing insightful game mechanics analysis, has stooped to low-browing this game with yet another dry “it’s-bad-because-it’s-not-like-Smash” review.

    To be clear, I’d never criticize someone simply for disliking a game: critiques are interesting! Which is why I was looking forward to some concrete reasons regarding why this game didn’t hit the mark for you. This article, unfortunately, offers very little beyond the scope of judging PSASBR only by how well it refines/copies Smash’s concepts, and even then, sufficient explanation is missing.

    For example, you mentioned the game’s scoring system feels ‘wrong’ because you’re able to hit a player a ton, but not actually gain points until you land a Super that you gained from hitting said player. In other words, hitting players and scoring are connected indirectly, which creates a 2nd metagame (1st = finding ways to build your meter for a Super, 2nd = finding ways to land said Super). This differs from the direct connection between hitting players and scoring (single metagame) that Smash and many traditional fighters employ.

    However, what makes this ‘wrong’? At worst it requires players to simply put more effort into scoring, and at best it solves a very dire problem that’s plagued Smash from the beginning: Smash tends to reward players who fight the least. The most efficient Smash 4-player strategies have always been the following: In Stock, camp on the side and vulture any remaining players, and in Timed, only engage players with high percentages for killing blows and then run away (aka kill-steal). These are issues purely because of Smash’s decision to import the concept of ‘dealing damage’ into a game where damage can come from all around you, instead of only from the person in front of you like in a 1v1 fighter. Both problems can (and often do) lead to the weaker fighter winning the entire match, which I hope we can agree isn’t something that should be encouraged.

    PSASBR’s system, on the other hand, chooses to have players build up their own power via fighting, rather than dealing ‘damage’ to others. Counterintuitive as it may seem at first glance, in reality, it eliminates the problems presented above. Campers will not be able to score points if they don’t engage with fighters, and the concept of ‘kill-stealing’ is impossible, since there is no means of ‘damage’ to others. The ‘issue’ you bring up of having to build meter again after a missed Super could be perceived as an annoyance at most: how exactly is it evidence of a ‘screwed up’ system at its core?

    I could go on, but hopefully you understand where I’m coming from. This blog has been a gold mine of objective analysis to me for some time, so I hope you understand why this article stuck out to me as lacking. That said, I hope to see more concrete analysis in the future, and wish you the best!



    • Chris Wagar September 12, 2018 / 4:53 pm

      To be fair, I said either copy smash or go your own way.

      I get your point. Gaining victory points purely for successful hits rather than kills means a lot of weird incentives go away. The trouble for me is largely that just landing hits only provides the opportunity to earn victory points, it’s not directly victory points. You can miss your super or fail to get an opportunity to land it. I don’t have much argument except that that feels wrong. You can hit a lot to get a super, then you miss it and your whole advantage goes away. It feels like your whole success is dependent on landing the super.

      It’s that a lot of what you do is filler for the actually important moments.

      Sure this solves the perverse incentives of camping and kill stealing in free for all, but it means disconmecting success in the neutral game from success overall.


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