The past few years have seen an almost unprecedented platform-fighting boom. Back in 2013, Nintendo famously alienated the grassroots competitive scene for Super Smash Bros. Melee by attempting to shut down EVO for featuring a Melee tournament. Since then, indie and AAA developers alike have taken it upon themselves to make the next Smash.
Fast-forward about five or six years and lo and behold, a number of platform fighters are seeing new levels of success. Brawlhalla, which was bought by Ubisoft a few years ago, now has big-budget licensed crossovers and a massive esports scene. Indie games like Rivals of Aether are on the same stage as Smash is at most big tournaments. Even the team behind Super Smash Flash 2 development team is putting their hat in the ring with the upcoming indie crossover, Fraymakers. And, of course, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate recently became the best-selling fighting game of all time.
Considering this recent boom, it’s deeply confusing that PlayStation hasn’t given the genre a second chance. On top of that, Sony’s in a position to release a sequel that would fix a majority of the original game’s problems; from its roster to its gameplay to its fanbase. It’s time for a new PlayStation All-Stars.
One of the biggest problems for the first PlayStation All-Stars is that so many of the playable characters on the roster were unremarkable, uninteresting, or obscure. This especially stings when you realize that some of the classic PlayStation characters who’ve made their way into Smash, like Solid Snake, Cloud Strife, and Joker.
That’s no slight against some of Sony’s admittedly awesome characters, but when some of the most iconic characters from your platform’s rich history are in another castle, it’s time to get aggressive.
In the years since PlayStation All-Stars came out, not only has Sony’s stable of great first-party characters has grown considerably. New mascots include Astro Bot, Aloy, Joel, Ellie, The Hunter, Jin Sakai, and Spider-Man just to name a few.
Alongside these new faces, the gaming giant has also established strong, lasting relationships with third-party devs that could result in a fascinating arms race with Nintendo.
Sure, Nintendo might have Metal Gear, Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, and a few other franchises that have seen better representation on PlayStation consoles in Smash, but a PlayStation All-Stars game where Crash Bandicoot, Sora, or Monster Hunter get scooped up before they get put into Smash sounds like a fascinating narrative.
That said, this theoretically “new and improved” PlayStation All-Stars could win over the large audience of both competitive and casual platform fighting fans as well as new players by overhauling and improving its gameplay.
That might not be what some of the PlayStation All-Stars stalwarts might want to hear, but now that Nintendo’s behemoth isn’t taking up all the air in the platform fighting space, Sony needs to embrace the tighter, more exciting gameplay that the genre has to offer and abandon the often unrewarding and aimless gameplay loop from PlayStation All-Stars. They could even partner with a studio that’s already made a successful fighter, give them a nice, cushy budget that’ll give them a solid chance to make a great game.
Nearly a decade after the first PlayStation All-Stars, the landscape of competitive gaming and esports has drastically changed. PlayStation has especially taken some serious strides in the world of fighting games. Not only is the PS4 the go-to for tournament organizers for nearly every fighting game imaginable, but companies like Capcom and Bandai Namco have even incorporated the PlayStation into the official branding for their own tournaments. On top of that, Sony recently bought EVO, the biggest fighting game circuit in the world.
There’s hardly a better place to advertise a new fighting game than EVO, Especially to those jilted Smash players who feel consistently bastardized by Nintendo’s shortsighted rejection of the community. If PlayStation could do a new All-Stars game justice and properly support its esports scene, it could, in part, help win over competitive Smash players in droves and certainly put it above and beyond most other platform fighters.
That said, a little cash and a welcoming community aren’t all PlayStation All-Stars needs to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Smash. One of the most magical things about Smash as a franchise is the evident love and care that goes into every square inch of each entry in the franchise. From the items to the characters’ movesets to their reveal trailers, seemingly everything in each iteration of Smash is a loving reference to one of the games it borrows from.
I’m not saying that the internet needs to break each time a new character is shown off, but it does need the love, care, and passion that are so evident throughout each entry in the Smash franchise. It needs to buy into the Disney-like magic that Smash tends to bring to the table: full orchestral re-recordings of music, inventive stages and, most importantly, fun characters with inspired movesets.
Picture this: it’s E3 2022 and Sony’s press conference opens with Abby and Ellie battling it out in a dark alley. Abby knocks Ellie to the ground and readies her golf club with her (literally) killer wind-up and just as she’s about to swing, a web snaps the club to a wall. Spider-Man and Miles Morales swoop in for some web-slinging tag-team action as a re-orchestrated version of Marvel’s Spider-Man theme soars before a splash screen that reads “PlayStation All-Stars” takes center screen. The reaction from the internet would be unbelievable.
In fact, the hype around the PlayStation and many of its IP are seemingly at an all-time high; the PS5 is breaking sales records left and right and a number of first-party Sony titles are selling incredibly well. Sure, not every hardcore PlayStation fan wants an epic, cartoonish, over-the-top crossover featuring their favorite characters, but the game could even lean into what people love about the PlayStation brand. Give the game a cinematic twist, not just in whatever story content that it could offer, but also in the game’s moment-to-moment gameplay.
There are a ton of different platform fighters that come so close to Smash or even surpass it in terms of raw gameplay but never quite reach the polish, presentation, or pomp that Sakurai’s money machine does. The next PlayStation All-Stars could be a kingslayer if it just breaks away from the stigma that PlayStation All-Stars is the game to play when you don’t have Smash and delivers a unique, fast-paced, and competitive platform fighter. Plus, Sony’s growing stable of beloved first-party characters deserves it.