Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul Review

Saint Seiya is a classic late 80’s anime series, better known in some locations as Knights of the Zodiac, which featured superpowered youths who settled matters by beating the crap out of each other. Dimps, who rather memorably developed a large number of Dragon Ball Z games such as the Budokai series, Burst Limit, and the more recent Xenoverse, are certainly no strangers to making faithful fighting game adaptations of popular anime series.  Together they form Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul, which, aside from having entirely too much alliteration, is a flashy, well animated, action packed fighting game that thoroughly recaps the events of the source material and offers quite a bit of fan service to those who fondly remember the series. Unfortunately it also falls into the same pitfall that most anime fighting games fall into, something which Dimps themselves have done on numerous occasions in the past. Namely, it’s just not all that good; with relatively shallow mechanics and a reliance more on flashy visuals, as well as nostalgia and an appreciation of the source material, than any real gameplay merit. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, but if you’re not a fan of Saint Seiya, than you’d be hard pressed to say it’s a good one.

Saint Seiya is set in a mystical world where Gods once walked the Earth. Many of them were malicious and to protect mankind, the Goddess Athena empowered her followers to help protect the planet. “Saints” as they were called, could call upon Aura which was the power of the universe, and were clad in mystical armour called “Cloths” which amplified their powers and looked incredibly gaudy. Having never watched or read the series, this game is completely baffling to me, and it’s not something I’m likely to develop an interest in. The story mode doesn’t exactly help either, bombarding you with all sorts of random information and terms. That being said, for people who actually have watched or read it, then Soldier’s Soul’s main story mode “Legend of Cosmo” recaps 4 major story arcs; Sanctuary, Poseidon, Hades, and Asgard. It’s not the most exciting method of storytelling though, consisting of a truly massive number of stages, which are generally split between lengthy cut-scenes and comparatively short fights. Playing through it is necessary though, with the vast majority of characters locked away until you complete story mode. Solder’s Soul also features Battle of Gold, which allows you access to a number of characters in their most powerful forms and allows you to play through short story modes with what if scenarios that never occurred in the series.

In terms of gameplay, Solder’s Soul is rather reminiscent of the Budokai Tenkaichi games – minus the ability to fly, or the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games – minus the incredibly flashy visuals. It’s one on one combat, with a close up third person viewpoint that’s almost over the shoulder, the ability to run around the stage, a basic combo system with light and heavy attacks that’s heavy on the button mashing, the ability to use special attacks, the ability to homing dash towards and away from opponents, teleportation as a defensive move to escape enemy combos, as well as an energy gauge which powers your attacks, and which you can charge up to use ultimate techniques. Believe me, if you’ve played the Budokai Tenkaichi games or the Ultimate Ninja games, Soldier’s Soul will be very familiar to you. The combat systems are very similar to those two series, both in what they do right, and in what they do wrong. This of course means that it’s a rather simple system to pick up and play, it’s fast paced and action packed, and it’s rather visually appealing. It also means that the gameplay is relatively shallow, it involves a lot of button mashing, and once you get past the visual flair, which isn’t as heavily emphasised in this as it is in other games, that there’s not much substance amongst the style.

As an anime game, Solder’s Soul succeeds. It offers plenty to fans of in Saint Seiya. A lengthy and intricate story mode that recaps the series. A large roster of characters, 48 in all, with lots of skins and costumes for each character. Fast paced combat to mimic the epic clashes. An audio-visual replica of the original source material with cel shaded graphics that capture the 80’s art style – complete with ridiculous costumes and terrible hairstyles – as well as voice acting and music. As a fighting game on the other hand, it’s just not very good. The gameplay is simplistic, the balancing is off – as it would be in pretty much every anime based fighting game where characters are heavily divided in terms of power, and there’s just not enough substance or depth to keep you coming back beyond whatever fond memories you might have of the series.

Saint Seiya: Solder’s Soul is definitely a game for fans of the series, with a large roster of characters, a lengthy recap of the four major story arcs, quick and flashy combat, and a faithful presentation of the source material in terms of looks and sounds. As a fighting game though, it falls into the same pitfalls as many other anime fighting games, with an emphasis on style over substance, a rather shallow combat system that’s not particularly interested in balance, and the irritating requirement that you clear the story mode before unlocking the majority of the roster. It’s not something you’d derive much enjoyment from unless you already happen to be a fan of the series.

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