Saint Seiya is a Japanese Manga series based around a group of heroes that wear magical armour called “cloths”, who all have names derived from the constellations and are sworn to protect the reincarnation of the goddess Athena from angry Olympian Gods threatening the world. A bit Greek, a bit Ulysses 31, very Japanese, and incredibly 80’s, the anime and manga of the same name were indeed first published and broadcast in the late 80’s.
That bit of background is important to know because if you go into Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers not realising what a lineage the series has, you’ll likely be left dazed and confused by an intro that will encourage a mullet and give you a craving for some A-Ha.
Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers, then, is an attempt to celebrate the Saint Seiya franchise in the same way that Dragonball Tekaichi and the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games did for their respective series: it’s a fighter created with the sole intent and purpose of providing maximum fan service to a series with more character variations and spiralling plot-lines than it knows what to do with.
Except here’s the difference: Where Tenkaichi and Ultimate Ninja Storm are good fighters that also pack in the fan service, Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers is a slightly rubbish fighting game that packs in a lot of character models and not a lot else.
Story mode here is woefully under-presented. The typical budget “character art and text boxes” fill in for the narrative, which is fine for people who know the story but lacks any gravitas or appeal for those who don’t, and just comes across as cheap. The Dragonball games always do a great job of recreating the series’ pivotal scenes in each game, but Brave Soldiers – despite trotting through three narrative arcs from the Saint Seiya series – shows none of the typical reverence for the source that fan-driven games normally do. It’s just talkey talky, have a fight, talkey talkey. For those who don’t know Saint Seiya, it’s a bit boring, and for those that do know Saint Seiya it fails as an alternative means of experiencing the well-trodden tale by just being a bit pants.
But what about the brawling? Considering the game offers some survival modes (which can also be played to unlock characters) and even some competent, fairly lag-less online play, a good combat engine could well save Saint Seiya from irrelevance. It’s with a sad, shaking head, then, that I say “No”. The fighting is, also, a bit pantaloons.
Too many of your character’s techniques are tied into your super meter, a meter which charges from combat and from holding down the “power up” button. The dodge technique is also tied into your super meter, and this is a design decision that’s moronic. Simply put, by holding block (L1) and hitting the other shoulder button (R1) you’ll spend a chunk of your super meter (which can hold four chunks) to teleport behind your enemy. Problem is, you can mash this out without any skill or timing, or indeed any foresight – you can “engage” a dodge even if you’re getting your face punched in.
This makes beating the CPU a breeze as you just wait for them to attack so you can dodge and engage the counter blows. But it makes player on player fights a dull matter of being the guy that makes the last dodge, as you’ll be the one that can most easily land a string of attacks. There’s very little in the way of clever baits or well predicted swings, just a whole lot of shuffling around the pitifully small ring waiting for the other guy to throw a blow so you can dodge.
The way it’s meant to work, I suppose, is to encourage swapping between attacks (of which you have three buttons to choose from and a grand total of 12 ways to use them including basic, modified, air basic, and air modified), and grabs, as you grab an opponent that’s blocking all the time, and you can’t use the meter teleport against a grab. But the grabs are so horrifically telegraphed that it’s all too easy to just dodge them with the evasive dash found by tapping the jump button twice. When it’s all boiled down, Saint Seiya: Brave Warriors is a game that takes some wonderfully kinetic anime combat and turns it into a plodding and largely mundane fighter. It’s dull.
I hate to point to it again, but Tenkaichi had a feature just like Brave Soldier’s dodge, but it did it correctly. That game rewarded a last second block with a more versatile dodge, giving its activation a real risk/reward setup, it didn’t just give you the technique for free every five seconds.
At least Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers piles on the characters. There’re about 45 in all, and many of them have alternate costumes all taken from the anime. The game might be a bit of a duff brawler, but for a fan in dire need of a Saint Seiya fix, this might just be enough to do it for them.
VERDICT: A celebration game that’s less like a well-planned surprise party, and more akin to a last second bash for that office colleague who everyone only sort-of likes. There are a lot of characters here, and the game covers quite a bit of narrative ground, but the presentation and combat engine are just so clumsy that it’s impossible to recommend Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers to anyone but the most desperate fans of the anime.
BAD. Ugly, lazy, and unpleasant, if we’ve scored a game so low then it has serious issues. A 3/10 game will typically suffer from a combination of uninspired, lacklustre design, unfixed bugs and poor presentation.