Super Animal Royale (NS) - ReviewEvan Norris , posted on 05 September 2021 / 1,400 Views
Battle royale games are incredibly popular these days, but for the uninitiated they can be more than a little intimidating. Enter Super Animal Royale, an approachable, simplified take on the en vogue formula that substitutes cuddly animals for soldiers. The game still boasts the genre's tense last-person-standing gameplay, but thanks to understandable controls, simple commands, and quick matches it serves as an ideal starting point for players looking to dip their toes into the battle royale market.
While Super Animal Royale has a few Easter eggs and story-based milestones, there isn't much of a narrative to follow. Instead the game is predominantly about its winner-take-all gameplay. You can jump into the action immediately from the busy home screen by selecting "PLAY". From there you'll arrive in a staging ground with the other 63 participants, where you can test your controls and interact with NPCs or installations, i.e. a shooting gallery. Next you'll board a giant eagle with a bus chassis attached to its back, from which — just like the C-130 in PUBG or the Battle Bus in Fortnite — players will parachute down to the battlefield below, in this case an abandoned safari park. Once earthbound they'll scavenge for gear, fight among themselves, flee from encroaching poisonous gas, and strive to be the last animal alive at the end.
It's in this gameplay loop that Super Animal Royal earns its stripes. By combining the battle royale genre's tense fight-or-flight gameplay with its own easy-to-understand mechanics and controls, the game achieves a refreshing level of accessibility. You see, unlike a lot of popular games in the genre, Super Animal Royale is a top-down twin-stick shooter set on a 2D plane. You move with the left stick, aim with the right stick, shoot with the right shoulder button, and dodge roll with the left shoulder button. The moves are simple to grasp and the controls make everything quick and easy — a godsend when you have 63 angry animals looking to gun you down. Moreover, each match lasts only five minutes or so, making for a relatively small time investment.
The upside to all this is that the gap between pros and rookies is diminished, flattening the steep learning curve that can sometimes arrive with other battle royale games. The downside is that there's less room to grow and fewer tactics to exploit. Super Animal Royale simply has a lower skill ceiling than others in the genre.
To be fair, there are some interesting wrinkles that add strategic flavor to the proceedings. There's a "fog of war" effect that obscures enemies and items unless you have a clear line of sight, which makes it possible to hide from or ambush other players. The game also deploys its sound design in a deft way. Even if a skirmish is blocked by fog of war, you can still hear gunshots and attempt to triangulate the source. In addition, when players heal themselves or repair their armor, they make plenty of noise, which makes them an easier target. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Super Animal Royale has a rather high time-to-kill. This, combined with the dodge roll attack, allows players to escape from dangerous situations, counter-attack and, in general, survive a little longer. It's not all about who fires first.
Outside of the main game — playable solo, in duos, or in four-player squads — players can access several different tabs from the home menu. From the Milestones tab, you can view your achievements, which bestow both bragging rights and cosmetic items. From the Shop, you can purchase season passes, gun skins, pets, and unique gear with real-world money. From the Research Lab, you can create new playable animal breeds by combining animal DNA and Super Serum — both dropped at the end of matches, win or lose. And from the Customize tab, you can swap among animal breeds and all your unlocked skins.
After reading about the shop, season passes, and microtransactions, you might be feeling a bit apprehensive. Worry not: while Super Animal Royale is free-to-play it is decidedly not pay-to-win. All the purchasable items are purely cosmetic; indeed, in the eShop, publisher Modus Games is quick to point out that "neither animal breeds nor cosmetic items provide any gameplay advantage".
The fact that Super Animal Royale insists on starting everyone off on equal playing ground is unquestionably great. There's simply no way to convert money into a tactical advantage. Skill and a little bit of luck will win the day, not deep pockets. At the same time, however, the game does manage to split the community into the haves and have-nots. Remember the Milestones tab, which monitors your achievements and unlockable skins? Here, for example, you can unlock a green bow tie for playing five games or an orange pistol for defeating two players with a pistol. Dig a little deeper and you'll see that roughly half of the milestones are "super milestones", attainable only by purchasing the Super Edition at $14.99.
Again though, all of these rewards are strictly cosmetic, and have no bearing on how you perform in game — apart from how stylish you look.
Speaking of style, Super Battle Royale features a clean, serviceable aesthetic that works well with its cartoon mascots and approachable gameplay. It won't win any awards, but it gets the job done. The game's playful, bouncy music, composed by Jake Butineau, is similarly decent.
In terms of performance, the game handles things well — granted you have a strong wireless signal or a hard-wired connection. There are brief moments of lag, and some slowdown during the initial parachute drop, but nothing game-altering. Matchmaking is quick and easy. You can send out online invites from the main menu and jump into matches in less than a minute. The only technical/visual downsides: a somewhat cluttered UI and some tiny font in handheld mode.
If you've always wondered about battle royale titles but found the rules, commands, and learning curve overwhelming, Super Animal Royale might be the game for you. It's easy to learn and features a streamlined set of commands. Its combination of quick matches and high time-to-kill makes it accessible and forgiving. Plus, it's free. Furthermore, Super Animal Royale's free-to-play model isn't abusive, even if many cosmetic items are locked behind the $14.99 Super Edition. Now, the audiovisual component is merely serviceable, and because of its simplicity the game has a relatively low skill ceiling, but overall it's a competent addition to the growing battle royale family, particularly for less experienced players.
This review is based on a digital copy of Super Animal Royale for the NS, provided by the publisher.
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