The beauty of a game like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is that it caters to every type of PlayStation fan. From ferociously mature warriors like Kratos and Sweet Tooth to heroes of yore like PaRappa and Spike, there's a character for you if you like pretty much any PlayStation franchise. The same variety permeates the game's mechanics, which (as discussed in my review) are as deep and nuanced as the industry's highest-tier fighters. But with extensive combat options matched only by the roster's size, the need for balanced characters and many viable strategic approaches becomes apparent.
Some of a truly great fighting game's most worthwhile secrets aren't immediately obvious, and characters that seemed balanced and valuable at first glance can become totally OP (or utterly worthless) given enough time on the competitive scene. With that in mind, I'd like to take a closer look at one of PlayStation All-Stars' quickest and most combo-centric fighters: Nariko, of Heavenly Sword fame. The female warrior - destined to lead her people to the promised land - is a perfect match for a game about kicking the living crap out of friends and enemies, but one move string in particular makes her highly effective - perhaps TOO effective - at doing so.
This information largely comes courtesy of the official PlayStation All-Stars strategy guide, published by Prima Games and co-authored by Josh Richardson, David Brothers, and Sam Bishop. The official guide covers combos and high-AP strategies not offered in the game's various tutorials. As any player can confirm, building up AP to unleash Super attacks is everything in PlayStation All-Stars, so these strategies are of utmost consequence. One such approach with Nariko involves an extensive and varied string of moves that, if executed correctly, is worth a whopping 150 AP. For Nariko, this means an entire Level 1 Super bar can be filled from zero, all with a single combo.
To put 150 AP into perspective, there is only one other "combo" - a specific string of moves with uninterrupted AP build - in the game's official lexicon capable of generating the same amount. With extensive knowledge of Dante's Bold Cancel mechanic, careful corner positioning, a successful parry, and no less than 12 unique move inputs, a skilled player could earn 150 AP with Ninja Theory's demon hunter. For one or two other characters, comparable amounts can be achieved with the same degree of positioning and mastery. It couldn't be more opposite for Nariko. Eight move inputs can be easily memorized, and her 150 AP combo can be performed from any flat horizontal surface - no corners or platforms required.
Here's how it works. Down-Square brings a roundhouse kick - Angel's Judgment - down upon opponents, causing what's called a "bounce reaction" in the game's vocabulary. This hit state sets up the opponent for Neutral-Circle (Warm Embrace), a grab-like move that shocks opponents. Link directly into Up-Triangle (Aerial Moment), and jump at the earliest possible moment to follow your opponent after the launcher. Another Up-Triangle (this time, in mid-air) causes Nariko to swing towards her victim with a few quick slashes, with no moment for recovery. What happens next is decided by your skill level and confidence. With expert timing (or rapid button-mashing), you could fit in a mid-air Neutral-Circle (Warm Embrace) followed by mashing Neutral-Square for a final three-hit Heavenly Depart combo that causes the eject tornado hit state. That mid-air Neutral-Circle is particular hard to nail (and the combo falls apart if you miss), so in a practical battle situation, it might be wiser to skip directly to the 3x Square combo for a 140 AP result.
If that last paragraph was a bunch of techical gobbledy-gook to you, here's the plain-and-simple move string:
Down-Square, Circle, Up-Triangle, (air) Up-Triangle, Circle, Square, Square, Square
Check out the video below for an almost identical example, courtesy of YouTube user CriticalFury. The only difference here is that the combo begins with Nariko's Down-Circle Purgatory, not the faster Down-Square roundhouse kick.
A couple sticking points make this combo trickier than your average mash-fest. As mentioned above, the second Warm Embrace is particularly hard to land before the opponent's air recovery and invincibility frames kick in. I find that mashing Circle immediately after landing the mid-air Up-Triangle produces best results, but more skilled players than myself could probably find the perfect timing for it. Likewise, the first Warm Embrace (while grounded) is a bit tricky to get right, albeit much easier than its mid-air cousin. Press Circle too early, and Nariko's grab will miss low. Press Circle too late, and the opponent's invincibility frames from hitting the ground will have kicked in already. A bit of practice against a stationary bot will do wonders for getting the timing right, and you'll have it down in no time.
To make matters even more enticing, Nariko's Down-Triangle move (Compassion) is a perfect way to close the gap between mid-range opponents and get the combo started. Beginning the chain with this move, which has roughly the same range as Kratos' Right-Square Combat Grapple, nets you an extra 20 AP. While that move won't technically count as part of the combo, you're effectively earning 160-170 AP, depending on whether you opt to try or skip the mid-air Warm Embrace. With a quick glance at YouTube, you'll see that players have found numerous variants on the 150 AP formula, all putting Nariko at the top of the combo-tastic heap. However, one could argue that her selection of Super attacks are far from the game's best, offsetting her rapid acquisition of AP.
So, I pose these questions to you, the PSU reader: Does Nariko's 150 AP combo (and the relative ease with which it can be performed) make her OP? Does being able to fill her Level 1 Super bar with a single combo take things a bit too far? Do the Supers and/or combos of other character pose a threat to her own? Sound off in the comments below, or join the conversation in our official PSU forums.