(This is another edition of , a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was finally revealed last night, and even though rumors about such a game had been going on for months, I think we were all still a little surprised. It’s just one of those rumors you assume will be made up, yet it actually turned out to be real. Sony has deigned to follow in the footsteps of Super Smash Bros. and create its own self-congratulating crossover brawler. You’d think people would be excited, or at least intrigued, but I was surprised to wake up this morning and find an overwhelming amount of negativity surrounding the game.
The general crux of the complaint seems to be that Sony is copying Nintendo down to the letter, simply pinching the Super Smash concept and replacing Nintendo’s characters with the likes of Parappa the Rapper, Sweet Tooth and Kratos. On that count, there is no defense. Yes, that seems to be exactly what Sony has done. All-Stars Battle Royale is pretty shameless from the early goings. It makes no secret of where the idea came from, and remains unapologetic for its lack of originality. But then … should it be? Does it really matter if it’s a Sony version of Smash Bros.? I fail to see why people have written the game off so quickly, just because the idea came from somewhere else.
I am all for originality, and I don’t want all games to be the same. However, I’m not above enjoying a game that has taken its ideas from elsewhere. What matters to me is a concept done well, not so much a concept done originally. Innovation is good and everything, but I’ll play a familiar concept if it’s fun and polished. Some of my favorite games this generation were pieced together from other ideas. Darksiders wasn’t shy about copying ideas from The Legend of Zelda, but it was deliciously combat-heavy and had a great sense of style. Singularity was a cocktrail of concepts drawn from BioShock, F.E.A.R, and Half-Life 2, but it was all stitched together so fluidly and confidently that it remains one of the best single-player shooter experiences I’ve enjoyed. I think one would be surprised how fresh a concept can feel just be transferring it over to a new I.P. I’ve gotten a little tired of Gears of War’s universe, for example, but that doesn’t mean I’m sick of cover-based shooters in their entirety. Another game could come along, heavily inspired by Gears, and still feel fresh if it’s packing its own story, characters, and environments.
It’s not like the industry is absolutely full of crossover brawlers, either. If it were yet another grey military first-person shooter, I could understand the aggressive apathy. Far too many AAA games just follow the leader, and that’s a real problem. However, there’s definitely room in the industry for another crossover brawler. And really, if you’re going to steal something? Steal from the best. Smash Bros. is one of the better things to copy if you want to have an easily enjoyable crossover game. It’s either that or a Kart racer, and I somehow don’t think that would be a more suitable idea to bring the worlds of Twisted Metal and God of War together. Well, maybe Twisted Metal was a bad example.
This is not to say I can’t be skeptical, of course. I certainly have trouble envisaging Radec from Killzone 2 pounding down on a rapping, cel-shaded, dog. There’s also no denying that the unifying charm and style of Nintendo’s characters is what helped make Smash Bros. such a big hit. Sony has some solid franchises under its belt, but nothing on the iconic level of Zelda, Mario, and Metroid. Super Smash Bros. is so great because of deep-rooted nostalgia and a veritable ocean of recognizable names, faces, and environments. It’s hard not to get excited about the idea of Mario fighting Ganondorf. It’s a little more difficult to feel the hype for, say, that dude from inFAMOUS versus those things from Resistance. They don’t quite have the same “wow” factor.
The mix of art styles could prove troublesome as well, and I’m surprised nobody put in the effort to create a unified look for the game. They could have cel-shaded everything, for example, to make the characters look like they belong together. The current look is a little disjointed. Furthermore, if they really do just rip off Smash Bros. completely, without adding anything unique or improving on the formula, then that’s definitely a legitimate criticism. I just think it’s too early to tell just how deeply the premise has been cribbed. I want to see more before scrawling “plagiarism” on a banner and marching to Sony’s offices. If it’s literally Smash Bros. with nothing else to offer, it’ll be pretty embarrassing. But hey, it still might be fun. We just don’t know yet, that’s the thing.
Nevertheless, I am all up for giving it a chance. It could go horribly wrong, or it could be a surprisingly good time. We just don’t know yet, and to write it off on the grounds that the concept was borrowed elsewhere is a little silly. Most modern games have borrowed their ideas from other places, and they’ve still managed to be really good. I’ve never understood hating a game before we’ve seen a damn thing about it. At least give it a chance, and see where it leads. Why the hell not? It’s just stupid enough to maybe … possibly … maaaaaybe work.
Still, whether you are tentatively interested or outright dismissive, I think there is one thing we can all merrily agree on.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a fucking stupid name.
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