Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Dimps/Namco Bandai
My gut reaction after the first hour or so spent with Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers is that it felt like a poor attempt to imitate the excellent Naruto Ultimate Ninja series from CyberConnect2. And I found my opinion wavered little throughout the tepid story mode and additional online/offline modes in the hours that followed. My end feeling is that Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers falls prey to something that no fighting game ever should, in that it’s an absolute bore to play.
There’s a hefty amount of fan-service packed into Saint Seiya that will certainly appease some. The story mode is comprised of three arcs spread across a series of fights with notable appearances. The arcs covered here will be recognizable to fans, starting with the Sanctuary Arc, moving into the Poseidon Arc, and finishing with the Hades arc. You’ll get around 50 characters to choose from, but a chunk of that roster is filled with “cloth” variants for the different Saints. But for the most part the cast is well represented, with notable series villains, heroes, and heroines making the cut.
But everything else about Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers is absolutely dull. The presentation is lacking in just about every way imaginable, filled with boring, still cutscenes, and dialogue text with noticeable errors. You can thankfully skip over a lot of this, and I imagine most will want to. Saint Seiya’s inability to capitalize in any meaningful way on the source material, outside of the roster, is mind-boggling.
And the actual fighting isn’t fun either. This is where the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm influence is felt, with a control scheme that seems to be directly pulled from the CyberConnect2 titles. The biggest difference here is the inclusion of two melee attack buttons, but certain concepts, like spending a bar from a special meter to dodge behind an enemy are identical in execution to the Naruto series. You can even perform a homing dash to quickly maneuver near an opponent, and can expend the entirety of a special meter for a flashier finish.
Ideally these elements would make the fights feel fast, fluid, and fun, but everything feels like a slog. Most fights seem to drag on forever, since the A.I. tends to avoid conflict and you’re forced to stand still and wait for them to approach, or try to chase them around stages that are much too large for this type of 3D fighter. And when you do finish a fight, you’re more often than not forced to repeat that fight again, with small variations in power or other additions/restrictions in place.
Part of that fight length comes from how long it takes to whittle away at your opponents life bar. And with a limited repertoire of moves you’ll likely string together the same 2 or 3 combos over and over again. Most fights consist of the following: Dash in to attack, land five hits, knock your opponent to the opposite end of the arena, repeat. Sometimes you’ll be able to chain together hits using the dash function to make this more seamless, which can become comical since it can essentially be done endlessly.
In the second to last encounter within the story mode I kept my opponent entirely in the air, delivering a 54-hit combo to finish the round. The lack of difficulty combined with the length of the matches really sucks all the fun out of Saint Seiya’s story mode. But if you want to enjoy multiplayer with all characters, you’re essentially forced to play through it.
Online multiplayer does fare a bit better, as you’ll run across opponents with actual skill who will do things like dodge and block, which you’ll rarely see out of the A.I. I also enjoyed the fact that you can spectate player matches, but I wish the lobbies allowed for more than four players at a time. It’s also worth noting that there’s not a huge player base online from what I could tell, when playing ranked one evening I was constantly paired up with the same person over and over. In player matches I found more variety however, and for the most part I experienced very little connection or lag issues against opponents that had a moderate (yellow) internet connection.
But the multiplayer mode isn’t compelling enough to make Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers a game that’s worth picking up. Outside of the story mode you’ll have a few additional things buried within the Battle menu, like a standard training mode to practice moves, and a survival mode that represents the same level of non-existent challenge found in the story mode. For me, the base combat is so bland and unexciting that even when playing against people with skill, I had a hard time staying interested in what Saint Seiya brought to the table. It’s just a lackluster experience from head to toe, and while I’d like to champion the idea of more unlikely releases making their way to North America, it’s really hard to do so when faced with a subpar release like Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers.