Saint Seiya originally sprang to life in the 1980’s as a serialised manga, following the exploits of Seiya and four other mystical knights, known as Saints, as they defended the reincarnation of the Greek Goddess Athena from attack by an array of Olympian gods. Arriving on PS4, PC and PS3, Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul collects the main story arcs of the Saint Seiya anime, recreating many of the scenes – many of which were covered in predecessor Saint Seiya: Brave Soldier – while placing you in control of your favourite characters in one on one 3D combat.
You’re offered a limited selection of modes, starting with the main campaign mode Legend Of Cosmo. This tells the story of the Saints from a new perspective, and breaks it up into four different story arcs that reflect those of the anime: Sanctuary, Asgard, Poseidon and Hades. These arcs are broken down into multiple missions, some of which open story cutscenes, while others begin battles. Beyond that there’s an offline and online battle mode option to take on friends and the wider world, and that’s about it. The main campaign is at least relatively generous in its content, and should go down well with fans of the original anime.
Putting you in control of Seiya, the tutorial takes you through the combat system, with the basic and strong attacks set, somewhat predictably, to the square and triangle button. You can block, dodge, and dash, with the first key ability being the Cosmo gauge which either fills as you fight, or can be filled manually by holding the left trigger. This gauge is consumed by certain attacks and special moves and its effective use forms a key part of your arsenal. Compared with many modern fighting games, the tutorial is worryingly brief and simplistic and this is sadly an indication of what’s to come.
Given the source material it’s no surprise that each encounter sees you take on an opponent in one on one combat with the obvious aim being to reduce their health bar to zero. Battles are graded based on time taken and health remaining, and award you points which you can use to purchase Assist Phrases with which you can upgrade your chosen character’s abilities.
Unfortunately, the combat system’s simplicity, while welcoming to younger players and those unaccustomed to fighting games, realistically offers little depth for a seasoned gamer. It’s somewhat surprising considering developer Dimps’ previous work includes titles such as Street Fighter IV. That’s not to say that there isn’t some frantic fun to be had, but when a number of the character’s sport incredibly over-powered moves that hit from the opposite side of an arena it can often feel unfair rather than a valid challenge.
There’s not even enough visual reward, as some of the Big Bang Attack special moves lack the spectacular feedback you’d expect, or are too similar, though this is again in part due to the game’s loyalty to its source material.
You can tell that the game straddles the PlayStation generations as there’s nothing here that will remotely push the PS4’s capabilities, and while it runs at a smooth 60fps in 1080p, it’s a shame that more hasn’t been made of the console’s processing power. Character models are solid, and good representations of their anime origins, but they lack ambition, with simplistic backgrounds, textures and animations. Compare it with other similarly anime-inspired titles such as the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm games, and Saint Seiya appears rudimentary on every level.
There are some further unnecessary niggles, including the unskippable pep-talk from Athena that eminates from your Dualshock 4 each time you fail a level. This is then followed by a continue screen that requires you to hammer the X button, and seems utterly set to fail on some occasions. Failing it immediately lets you retry the level anyway, so the whole thing makes no sense other than to slow you down.
The online battle mode functions as you’d expect, with player and ranked match options. Connection’s were relatively swift, and the netcode certainly seemed solid with no signs of lag, even in matches that didn’t have three full bars for network performance. It did seem as though player’s were favouring the more powerful character’s such as Hades which took away from the experience, but there was certainly more variation to player’s approaches than those found against the single player AI.
Sadly it doesn’t feel like the Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul truly captures what made the anime such a success. Sure it features a pleasingly large array of combatants, and their varying costumes and special moves, but there’s no joy here, nor enough visual excitement to revel in. Fans of the series will probably still find some enjoyment from playing through the four story arcs, but it feels like a missed opportunity for such an iconic property.
Version Tested: PS4