Saint Seiya, or more commonly known as Knights of the Zodiac in North America, is a classic anime and manga series from around the 1980s that has similar aspects to other anime such as Dragon Ball Z and Naruto. As most know, Dragon Ball Z and Naruto have video games that have already landed in North America, but Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers is one of a couple of Saint Seiya games to hit North American shores. Being familiar to the anime and manga world I’ve seen Saint Seiya in magazines and such, but I have never actually watched or read the series, although it’s not to say that I’ve never been interested in it. Also, being a fan of fighting games I was excited to see what the fighting mechanics were going to be like in this game. With pretty long-haired boys, Greek mythology, topped off with Japanese animation, I was ready to immerse myself in the world of Saint Seiya, while of course kicking some butt on the way.
The single player campaign rests within the Saint Chronicles mode and it is split into three chapters, with subsequent chapters unlocking as you beat each one. Each chapter is based off a story arc from the anime and manga series covering the main events and battles that occur. Throughout the three chapters you play as Athena’s guardians and various other characters attempting to save Athena, her allies, or even the world, from peril or death. Chapter one covers the Sanctuary arc where Athena is pierced by a golden arrow slowly reaching her death. Athena’s guardians only have twelve hours to tackle twelve palaces of gold saints to reach the chamber of the Grand Pope and remove the golden arrow. Chapter two covers the Poseidon arc where Poseidon gives Athena an offer of marriage, but Athena refuses and Poseidon then attempts to flood the world. Athena guides all the water to fall upon her as she traps herself in the central pillar of Poseidon’s undersea shrine. It is then up to Athena’s guardians to make their way and destroy the central pillar to free Athena. The third and final chapter covers the Hades arc as the seal on the tower of Hades has been broken and the specters are released. In this chapter you don’t only play as Athena’s guardians, but also as various other characters in an attempt to defeat the specters and Hades himself.
The game tries its best to cover the main ideas and concepts but the story does get a tad confusing and forces you to accept certain elements that you might not particularly understand. Certain deaths, revivals, and relationships amongst characters can only be fully appreciated and understood if you’re familiar with the anime or manga. Now, trust me, I’ve played quite a bit of anime based fighting games, but this game contains so many multiple deaths and revivals that I started to assume when characters died they’d eventually be revived in a later scene. All the multiple deaths and revivals made the story feel repetitive throughout the game and the longer I played the more I skipped through the cut scenes and went straight into battling.
Other than the Saint Chronicles mode, the game features other modes such as battle, online, survival, galaxy war, training, and collection mode. Battle mode is your casual multiplayer mode with the options of playing against the AI, playing against a friend (locally), or AI versus AI. On top of choosing who will be versing who, you have the option of choosing certain game options. Some of these options include no health bar, no guarding, or first to land an attack wins. Online mode is where you take your fights worldwide. As the fan base in North America is not very large, trying to find an opponent close by won’t be easy, but you’ll always find an opponent somewhere in the world! With that said, issues of lag definitely will appear, but the mode is definitely still playable and the lag is even unnoticeable at times. Nonetheless, like most fighting games, there are those annoying players online that repeat over powered moves nonstop that make you cringe and yet still make you continue for a rematch. Survival mode is where you can really have fun. In this mode you pick a character to play as and you must win each match while completing certain challenges. The challenges have specific criteria such as not letting your health go below 50%, not getting thrown or finishing your opponent with a special move. Galaxy war is the tournament mode of the game in which up to eight players can participate. Two controllers are shared among players. If there’s more than two then players just battle it out until there’s only one left standing. Training mode is self-explanatory. Lastly, collection mode is where you can kick back and relax while viewing various trading cards, toys, and character models of the Saint Seiya series. There’s also BGM player if you want to listen to the games various background music.
In terms of the fighting, the gameplay is very basic and simple to the point where it feels constricted. It’s very similar to the Dragon Ball Z and Naruto fighting games, but the range of combos and moves is not nearly as expansive and customisable. Like most fighting games the mechanics consist of heavy, light, and special attacks as well as throws and finisher moves. There is also a limited set of combos you can do too. I found that the finishers took too long to initiate and land on opponents that I almost never used them, thus fights usually consist of the same moves and combos repeated over and over again since they’re the strongest and easiest to land. Dashing and jumping in fights is quite painful as they are not fluid nor are they a very stable feature as it doesn’t really get you to where you want.
The AI in the game is very predictable as it will do the same set of moves and combos whether you guard or not and whether they land it or not. Furthermore, the AI will suddenly stop and charge their cosmos gauge, causing them to become wide open for a good punch from yours truly.
Bright, colourful, solid, and sharp are the words that best explain the game’s visuals. The animations are stunning and I have yet to grow tired of them. With over forty character slots, you would assume that you would have forty different characters to play as. That’s not the case though as each character takes up to four slots, each with a different costume. So, even though you have over forty character slots you really only get to play about thirty different characters. This isn’t really a downside to the game, it’s just misleading. Even so, characters are brought to life like never before, which I think fans of the series will adore. There’s also a nice range of stages to choose from and although each one is quite well done, some do look quite similar to others. Overall I’d say that the visuals and animations are a strong point in the game.
There’s a whole bunch of music, voice acting, and sound effects in the game. The background music plays during fights, as well as in the main menu and occasionally during certain in-game stills found in the Saint Chronicles mode. Some tunes are noticeably different and catchy compared to others, but most of them sound the same. As a matter of fact, most of the songs were constantly repeated throughout Battle mode and the Saint Chronicles mode. Since certain songs depict danger, sadness, and happiness, these always repeat to reflect the characters with those specific feelings. Personally, the soundtrack didn’t make much of an impression, although I did favor a couple songs over others.
The voice acting is all Japanese and reading is a necessity if you want to understand the story. This was perfectly fine for me as I always prefer the native language over dubbed voices. If you’d rather listen to English speech then this game might not be very enjoyable for you. The voice acting is great and really gives each character their charm and special personality. Above all, the awesome part is that most of the voice actors have voiced the same characters in the anime at one point or another. Honestly, the voice acting dominated in terms of sounds. It was over the top and really gets you going when battles start. Lastly, sound effects did add the feeling of being powerful with each punch and kick, but it didn’t give as much impact as the voice acting.
With this classic anime and manga series turned fighting game arriving in North America for the very first time, Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers displays enough fan service and superb visuals to put it on fan’s wish list just in time for Christmas. Nonetheless, over time this game might be a bit too boring and repetitive for diehard fighting game fans. In the end if you’ve always wondered about the Saint Seiya series and enjoy an easy and simplistic fighting game, you might want to give this game a shot.