There are fighting games for all sorts of audiences. The hardcore crowd has found their niche with the recent wave of games initiated by Street Fighter IV at the head of the previous generation. Unfortunately, these games aren’t for everyone, as some players demand high reward—both gameplay and visual—with little input. And that’s where games like Saint Seiya: Brave Soliders come into play.
I’m going to come up front and say that Saint Seiya: Brave Soliders probably isn’t going to make any new fans. Not of the serial anime it’s based off, the bare bones story, or the flashy anime-arena fighter gameplay that has been the basis of Namco’s Dragon Ball Z and Naruto fighting games. If you are a fan of the Saint Seiya franchise, then there’s certainly a lot to love here.
The competitive brawler features a cast of about 50 characters, spanning an entire array of heroes and villains. You can pit any of the characters against each other in Versus modes, but in the segmented story mode, which is the main draw of the game, fights are predetermined based on what the story demands. The hyperkinetic team of the armor clad Saints fight to protect and serve the reincarnated Athena in a series of challenging situations—all of which are resolved through one-on-one fights, it would seem.
As a personal fan of anime in general, I was excited to see if the world of Saint Seiya would be one I could find myself drawn into as someone unfamiliar with the show of the game’s basis. However, Brave Soliders does nothing to accommodate newcomers. There is hardly any backstory to the team besides an extended anime opening and a brief synopsis of what the show is about. “Cutscenes” chalk up to nothing more than screenshots from the show and still images shouting at each other, done in a style very reminiscent of visual novels. The story will literally only mean anything to you if you were already a huge fan of Saint Seiya to start with.
So with the story being a bit of a bust for casual players, how does the main draw, the actual gameplay, seem to fare? Fights take place in a three-dimensional field. Players are allowed to run around in all directions and attack using two different basic attacks and a small selection of special attacks for each character. These moves can be charged by landing hits or holding one of the triggers to rapidly charge the special meter while leaving the character completely defenseless.
It goes without saying that this is a fighting game for people who don’t play fighting games. Fights will always come down to button mashing, even against the computer. The trick is simply finding which attack works best for which character, which is usually either the fastest one or the one with the furthest reach, and finishing the job with a charged special attack. There are maneuvers to help speed up this process, but it will never really be clear how any of this works at the start. The game fails to clearly explain or offer up any sort of tutorial, especially since the story mode fights challenge the player to complete some oddly named criteria.
If you invite a buddy over, and if you’re both simply fans of Saint Seiya, there’s definitely some fun to be had with the fights. There’s a lot of “Gotcha!” moments during fights that can be exciting, but lose their luster when button mashing makes it feel more like a game of luck, rather than one of skill. The point of the game is definitely to have fights that look like those you’d see in any given shonen anime, which is to say there’s a lot of flash, but not very much content.
There is some cool stuff in the game, though. There are some pretty cool alternative tournament modes and game variants where players might be limited to one move or single-hit KO’s. It’s all very enticing, especially with such a large roster, but most of that roster is locked from the get-go. Characters are unlocked by playing the various modes throughout the game and mostly the story mode. Fights go by at such a slow and repetitive pace though, that it’s hardly worth your time to grind through the game just to get new characters.
In most other fighting games, putting in all this time results in tons of unlocked content and a solid lesson about the intricacies of the game. With Brave Soliders, you just end up with sore fingers and characters you may or may not really want.
In the end, Saint Seiya: Brave Soliders comes off as nothing more but a simple plug of popular anime characters onto the framework of an incredibly basic fighter. Fighting fans will definitely come away unimpressed and casual fighters may find it hard to care about the source material if they didn’t care about it coming in. If you happen to be a fan of the DBZ and Naruto games already on the merit of gameplay, and gameplay alone, then this game might just be for you, since it is just more of that with a different cast. If you’re simply looking for excuse to beat the crap out of your friends (virtually) when both you might not exactly “rock,” as the kids say, at fighting games, then there are a lot more quality casual fighters that will reward you for your time with more than the same shallow repetitive gameplay.
[+Flashy gameplay feels like anime][+Cel shaded graphics look nice in HD][+Easy controls for casual players] [-Shallow fighting system][-Some fights can be one-sided][-Confusing mechanics with little explanation][-If half the fun of your fighter isn’t seeing who’s in it, don’t make most of the roster locked to single player only]