As soon as Playstation All-Stars was announced and shown, the world erupted into what could be called a fanboy clusterfuck. While other games using the Smash Bros. formula have popped-up, most notably Jump Superstars, They’ve not garnered the vitriolic fervor that PSAS has gained. Being the level-headed console/pc agnostic I am, I was curious what developer Superbot would pull off. Super Smash Bros. has been largely uncontested in this genre of fighter, so seeing Playstation All-Stars, at first party attempt, appear as a contender can only be seen as a good thing for both games. As they say, competition breeds quality that is passed on to the consumer. And now that we have the console giants duking it out, what can these two games learn from each other?
Preface: Due to how committed both fanbases are, I can already see some of you probably getting ready to comment by saying things like “as if there was ever any competition” or “how dare you talk down my beloved Smash Bros.” I’m not here to talk down either side, nor claim one is better than the other. “B-But it’s a CLONE!” And so is Smash Bros. In the end, both of these games need to exist. Also, I’ll be leaving play mechanics mostly out of this since both these games handle it much more differently than anything else here. All I’ll talk about its the Supers. Everything else is only about content and presentation.
What Can Super Smash Bros. Learn From Playstation All-Stars?
The game that made the Party Fighter (?) genre popular. Taking cues from Namco’s The Outfoxies, Super Smash Bros. pitted Nintendo’s own characters against each other in an all-out slugfest. Packed with content, modes, trophies, and lots of characters, this series was bound to become popular amongst Nintendo fans and keep them occupied for hours on end. However, being the only contestant in this genre, there was the potential danger of Smash Bros. becoming somewhat lazy, skimping on content and passing off reused ideas as new. Look at Madden for example, who became the only competitor in its genre (videogame football) and is not doing much else new since there no competition (compared to when there was).Unlike Madden however, Smash Bros. is thankfully not a yearly thing, so when a new game comes out, it’s a major event. However, since Brawl‘s release, we can see Nintendo slipping in some areas and doing nothing in others in the game. But then I see Playstation All-Stars do something and realize “holy crap, Smash Bros. could do that!” So what can do for the next Smash Bros.?
Arcade/Classic Mode Intros/Ending Cutscenes: Taking cues from traditional fighting games, PSAS included intro and outro cutscenes for the game’s characters. While it doesn’t add much, it’s cool to see these characters in their own world get a sort of “calling” to join in the fight. It even has a small cutscene for when you face your character’s rival. For Smash Bros., its Classic Mode has none of that. You pick a character, fight some battles, face a rival, face Master Hand, and that’s the end. While there is a more substantial story mode in Smash Bros., it’d be nice to have smaller scenarios for Classic Mode. Think Persona 4 Arena and its Arcade Mode and Story Mode.
Imagine for example, I select Mario. His calling is that Peach is kidnapped and suspects that Bowser is up to no good (again), so he goes off to look for her. As Mario fights through the stages (still in the zany, varied style of Classic Mode), he encounters Donkey Kong at stage 5. He inquires DK about her since he’s an old rival of Mario (sort of). DK inquires if he’s seen Diddy since he’s old rivals with Mario (sort of). And then a fight breaks loose. Mario wins, realizes he wasn’t the kidnapper after all, and continues on his search. At Stage 9 he faces Bowser at Final Destination, but Peach is no where in sight. Bowser won’t say where she is. After fighting Bowser, Master Hand appears! He’s the real culprit! So you face and defeat Master Hand. And then in an outro cutscene Master Hand releases Peach, Mario gets a kiss on the nose, and they head back to the Mushroom Kingdom. What other scenarios can you think of for each character?
Super Smash Meters: Ever since the introduction of the Final Smash, I wondered it there would be a sort of tiered system of Finals, similar to Super Moves in other fighting games. There wasn’t one, but PSAS has them. With Smash Bros., I always found myself sitting back and letting my rivals beat each other up, raising their percentage points until I came in to take them out. I was more eager to KO them if a Smash Ball showed up. In PSAS, since the only way to KO was with Supers, I was more inclined to enter the fray to build meter. While I wouldn’t have Final Smashes be the only way to get a KO (I’m not too keen on Supers being the only way to score in PSAS), the idea of a tier system for Supers would motivate more players to get in the fight.
For example, we’ll call these moves Super Smashes (like its title). Let’s pick Mario again. His Level 1 is just a larger fireball. It’s a hard hitting attack,but is still pretty dodgable and may not be enough for a KO. His Level 2 is a flurry of fireballs, similar to Super Mario RPG or Mario Kart Double Dash. It hits harder than his level one if most connect, but with some skill they can still be dodged. His Level 3 is his Final Smash from Brawl. And in keeping with the customizable nature of Smash, players can still have the option to turn these Super Smashes off.
Costumes: Now how cool would it be to have this in a Smash Bros. game? Nintendo flirted with this idea by having Wario don either his WarioWare gear and his classic Purple/Yellow overalls. However only Wario had this on top of changing colors. Pikachu and Jugglypuff, also have costumes but only in correspondence to colors (which also yielded Dark link and Dark Toon Link). In PSAS, all characters have a second costume, like Parappa in his karate gi, or Sweet Tooth in his Clown Tux (a somewhat throwback to Twisted Metal III). On the Smash side, we can see Mario don his Dr. Mario uniform again, or Link have his Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess getup (or his old outfit, if they dared). Heck, make a cool throwback costume for Captain Falcon and make him look like he did in his SNES days.
Challenge/Tutorial Modes: This is more of a Fighting Game-Wide sort of thing, but it’d be nice to have something like this. PSAS kinda had the right idea but had a weird way of executing it. While Smash Bros. is simple enough with it’s Direction+Action setup, some characters have different ways of doing certain moves. Break The Targets almost had this, but there are some that probably had no idea what to do with certain characters. For a non-PSAS example, Persona 4 Arena did an excellent job with this as it lumped a tutorial mode with the challenge mode. For example, The game told you to do all of the special attacks first, then the supers, then the instant kills, then it challenged players by mixing up what it taught you and stringing together some awesome combos.
Some veteran players might scoff at this idea, feeling that this is just handholding. But it’s a much better idea than dumbing down the entire game to appeal to a certain group of players (like what some claimed happened with Brawl). I liked Brawl’s fighting system, but I can understand that not many like what Sakurai did to appeal to new players.
Unlockable Intros, *Winning Poses, and Victory Music: When I found out about this in Playstation All-Stars, I gotta admit that it was pretty cool. Then it got me thinking, “The next Smash Bros. should have this.” In terms of intros, this is the stuff the characters do when they enter the fight, like Mario coming out of the pipe or Captain Falcon stepping out of his Blue Falcon. *For Winning poses, Smash Bros. already delivers in this. But Smash Bros. can one-up PSAS by having the win poses be both random and selectable (since PSAS only offers choice and not randomized).
The coolest thing you can customize for each character in PSAS is their victory music. And not only that, they have more than one. Only the Kirby crew in Smash Bros. sports this with Meta Knight having a different version of the Kirby victory theme. This got me thinking how cool it would be for Smash Bros. as there’s many iconic victory songs. For Mario and Crew, you can choose to have the classic Stage Clear theme from SMB, the victory music from New Super Mario Bros., or the Star Get themes from Super Mario 64 or Galaxy. For Captain Falcon (or Goroh, hopefully), He can have his X victory theme, his GX victory theme, and some theme modeled after Mute City. Or hey, maybe have the Zelda Crew have victory music from A Link to the Past, Skyward Sword, or a shorter version of Wind Waker‘s Victory Theme, or Twilight Princess! They could even have character specific results themes for when you stay on the results screen! Gah, okay I’ll shut up now. But think of the possibilities!
DLC And Balance Patching: Seeing these two side-by-side sound like cuss words, but let me explain. First the DLC. Nintendo so far has handled DLC pretty well on their end, making a chunk of them free for a limited time upon release or free for early adopters. Sony’s doing this with Kat and Emmett for Playstation All-Stars, so I know Sony’s taking notes. How many Nintendo Fans have you seen wish for Smash Bros. Brawl to have DLC, wishing to see Mega Man, Simon Belmont, or Bomberman in it? Of course, this is a slippery slope that can go very, very wrong if Nintendo is careless, especially considering that Smash Bros. is known to be packed full of unlockable content free of charge. For now, I’d rather Nintendo keep the DLC limited to just characters and stages and not the extra trinkets we unlock for ourselves like Trophies and stickers. And do that free thing too, we like free stuff. And don’t do what Capcom does. And keep Namco Bandai in check since, well, you know…
As for Balance Patching, look at Melee and Brawl. Melee existed before feasible firmware updates/patching existed on consoles games, and it’s become a wavedashing orgy full of fur and feathers. On the Brawl side, we have all of Meta Knight (even though I like him), chain-grabbing, and Sonic’s Final Smash. This happens quite a bit with fighting games where a game that was initially balanced (or was believed to be) becomes broken after existing for a long time without any updates of some sort. I still highly recommend that Nintendo works very hard to balance this game to its fullest before release. It’ll be balanced initially, but once out in the wild, exploits will be found and they will need to be patched.
Turning Off Stage Hazards: I don’t mind stage stage hazards, but a majority of Smash Bros. fans do, and to get Smash Bros. tournament ready, tourney fans practically banned 80% stages because they had stage hazards that they deemed unfair. To get around this, PSAS gave players the option to turn off the stage hazards to keep the battle strictly between the players. In Smash Bros., I really like playing on Spear Pillar because of the kickass theme that plays on it, but it was banned because of shenanigans caused by Dialga, Palkia, and Cresselia on the stage. Another stage I liked was the Pokemon Stadium stages, but it too was banned because of shenanigans. Hopefully in the next Smash Bros. stage hazards can be turned off, and we’ll be seeing less red/yellow boxes on those stage portraits.
Cross-Buy: This was actually pretty cool on Sony’s side with they did this for Playstation All-Stars. If someone bought the PS3 version of the game, it would come with a digital copy of the game for the PSVita. The multiplayer is also cross-platform, so Vita players can face PS3 players and vice versa. Since the next Smash Bros. is coming out on both the Wii U and the 3DS, why not give Wii U owners a free digital copy of the 3DS version. Sounds crazy, but it might just work.
What Can Playstation All-Stars Learn From Super Smash Bros.?
Playstation All-Stars is the newcomer in this fray, and being the newcomer against a titan like Smash Bros., it’s got its work cut out for it. Since Brawl‘s been out for almost 5 years now, this was a chance for Superbot really capitalize and make it stand out beyond being just a simple “Smash-clone.” In the end, they get a C for effort. For a newcomer, they did some cool things that Smash Bros. didn’t do (which I just detailed). But, like the very first Super Smash Bros. game on the N64, it’s in its infancy and it’s clear that there’s still quite a bit of catching up to do.
More Modes: In making Playstation All-Stars with more traditional fighting-game sensibilities in mind, Superbot seems to have also taken their mode count as well. The modes in PSAS seem less Mortal Kombat 9 and Super Smash Bros. and more Soul Calibur IV/V. All there really is to the fighting is Arcade, multiplayer, and Online. What made Smash Bros. really enjoyably is the amount of wacky fighting mores and diversions there were. There’s really none of that here.
More Variety in Arcade Mode: I was really saddened to see that the Arcade Mode was really just the same ol’ fight over and over. You’re pitted in several timed matches, some stock matches, a rival battle, and the final boss. Even the Final Boss was more of the same, fighting like a passive Galactus from MvC3. All he does is summon fighters to the field and throw his head in for some free shots when you take them out. Super Smash Bros. made an effort to keep things enjoyable and varied by pitting you in some crazy matchups, like fighting 30 Ness’s, fighting a Giant Yoshi, Team Battles, etc. There’s none of this in PSAS, and it had the potential to do this. Even Master Hand (and Crazy Hand) was a crazy fight in the three games he’s appeared in. Heck, Polygon Man could’ve been a Tabuu-like force to be reckoned with. “Absolute Power is a seamless illusion.” It also fights like an Absolute Joke.
More Obscure/Retro Throwbacks: One thing that was really cool when I first played SSB Melee (and Brawl to an extent) was uncovering all the references and shoutouts to Nintendo’s past, namely the NES era. The NES was, to me, a mystery that I didn’t know much about beyond playing some hand-me-down games. But from Nintendo itself, it was all a mystery. The Ice Climbers, Pit from Kid Icarus, Wrecking Crew, Diskun, etc. It was cool seeing all this stuff. For PSAS, it almost got there. The Playstation was a mystery before it truly boomed in in 1996-97. We got some throwbacks like Spike, Parappa, and Sir Daniel. But Polygon Man was pretty damn obscure, and in a cool way. Even one of his intro quotes is a throwback to an old advertising campaign featuring him. That’s the kind of stuff I want to see more of with Playstation All-Stars. Maybe get some Jumping Flash, Legend of Dragoon, Legend of Legaia, Motor Toon Grand Prix, Blasto, Omega Boost, Vib Ribbon, and Wild ARMs in there. While we’re at it…
More Collectibles (and details on said collectibles): A good chunk of Nintendo history can be learned through its collectibles, whether it’s through trophies or stickers. PSAS could probably have something like this, maybe have collectible discs, or keychains, or maybe some old art from the games the characters represented. Or, if they can, maybe some old trailers or commercials for those games. We can get all nostalgic over some trailers for Jak and Daxter, Medieval, Parappa the Rapper, etc. There’s unlockable backgrounds, icons, and minions, but they’re little things that tell us next to nothing about them. I want to know more about the origins of what I’m unlocking. Also, the way PSAS tells us the origins of the characters is so… basic, so bland, which leads us to…
More Pizzazz: The presentation of PSAS is pretty damn basic. Go turn on Smash Bros. and you’ll see that there’s a lot of big, moving things in the menus, vs. screens in Classic Mode, etc. Here, everything’s just… there. There’s no life in this party! Even the credits are boring! One thing this game has over Smash is a versus screen for all matches (instead of just Classic/Arcade). But geez is it so basic.
A Story Mode: Brawl had the right idea with this with Subspace Emissary. While its gameplay was flawed, the story it told was still entertaining (if a little lackluster). Some traditional fighting games, like Mortal Kombat 9, Persona 4 Arena, and BlazBlue, have made strides in telling some good stories. Imagine how awesome it would be to see someone like Nariko to stumble into Olympus and interact with Kratos, or see Nathan Drake travel through the jungles of Crash Bandicoot (oh if only…). We were teased with this with the rival cutscenes, especially between Jak and Ratchet. Not sure how they’ll approach this, but a Story Mode for the Playstation Universe would be really interesting.
What Can They Both Learn From Themselves?
Now that we’ve broken down what both companies can learn from each other, what else can they do? Well, there are some problems that are persistent on both games and are largely issues that they can only learn from themselves than from each other. What are they?
Better Load Times: With Nintendo, I was actually surprised at how long some of the fights took to load in Brawl given the series track record. Smash 64 and Melee had virtually no load times, and fights began in as little as one second. With Brawl, it was strange how loading characters was handled. On the character select screen, the moment you chose a character, the game would start loading it behind the scenes. So if you stayed on the screen for a while and then chose a stage, the game would load much faster. If you constantly changed your character or picked them very quickly and chose a stage, the game would take longer to load the fight (even longer it it was four characters). Hopefully Nintendo will find a better solution to loading times when the next Smash comes out.
As for Sony, c’mon! You guys had no excuse for this. Playstation All-Stars should’ve given us the option install the game on the PS3’s hdd. But nope, no such option exists. The loading times here are as long as Brawl, probably even longer. Like Brawl, the more characters in a fight, the longer it takes to load. Hopefully we get the option to install the game in the near future.
Franchises are important. It’s best to keep them: On the Nintendo side, the departure of Rare meant a lot of games staying with Rare. Because of this, we may never see the likes of Banjo, Juno, Orchid, or Conker in a Smash Bros. game. On the Sony side, proverbial Playstation mascot Crash Bandicoot is now in the hands of Activision, who also owns Spyro The Dragon. So if they want to see them in another PSAS game, Activision has to give the OK.
Competition Is A Good Thing
Looking at how these two games came about, it sorta reminds me of Nintendo’s dominance over the handheld market. For over a decade, Nintendo was king, trouncing those that dared stand in their way while barely changing a thing to their Game Boy, only getting a major update with the GBA. Then Sony entered the handheld fray with the PSP, and with it the then-strong Playstation brand, and for the first time Nintendo flinched. Nintendo stepped up with the DS and even changed its look from its first reveal to make it look sleeker. In the end, Nintendo still reigned supreme, but had to make a move to stand out. The PSP didn’t topple the giant, but it rested comfortably in a niche it could enjoy all to itself. The 3DS is on the top while the Vita sits neatly in #2.
Competition breeds the need to one-up the other, even if the competition looks like it doesn’t stand a chance. It breeds better quality products that are passed on to the consumer. Like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Ford and Toyota, Verizon and Optimum, AMD and Intel, and the SNES and Genesis, when there is a rival, there is an need to be better. Now that Sony has thrown its hat in the ring, I’m more curious how Nintendo will respond, and I’m curious how Sony will respond back, and Nintendo back, and so on. This could be the beginning of a healthy rivalry.
Now if only we can convince SEGA to do another Fighters Megamix…