Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers Review: Nothing short of cringe worthy
Saint Seiya is a martial arts manga series from the 1980s that was later adapted into an anime, which only concluded in 2008. However, thanks to Namco Bandai’s abrupt efforts, Saint Seiya is also now a PS3-exclusive fighting game—one lying uncomfortably between Sailor Moon and Power Rangers, with visuals and mechanics that fall short of even their respective eras.
Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers was handed a very simple task: provide a fighter meaty enough to keep players engaged, and pander to the niche audience that its source media created … 23 years ago. However, through a combination of uncoordinated and poorly designed movement, cripplingly limited attack combinations, and a shortsighted and cliché storyline (which, admittedly, is expected of fighters), it has failed to accomplish either.
Most definitely not Power Rangers.
Let’s start with the combat, the core of any fighter. Somewhere between the 2.5D movement of Soul Calibur and the rare 3D motion of God Hand is Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers. Players have access to three dimensions of movement, including an entirely worthless jump command, but the third-person over-the-shoulder camera orients to align both combatants linearly after each jarring dash or sprint. It’s an interesting concept, to be sure, but a complete lack of guidance has rendered the, for lack of a better word, 2.75D motion utterly cumbersome. The problem is only exacerbated by the complete lack of a lock-on system which, more often than not, will send both player and AI careening blindly across the flat arenas and leave them swinging at empty air.
Fortunately, you won’t be swinging blindly for long, as the fighters in Brave Soldiers, dubbed Saints, deliver a whopping six combos apiece. Further still, unlike virtually every other fighter known to mankind, directional input is entirely absent from the combo system. Square and triangle are your only friends and amount to half a dozen combinations, aptly titled “Combo 1” and so on. You can’t even quarter circle back. Beyond incessant button mashing, L1 activates strong attacks, circle uses your fighter’s unique ability by sacrificing a bar of an unnamed special meter, and R2 activates special attacks which also spend the anonymous special bar. Collectively, these form a dry and uninspired combat system that can be mastered—to the extent that you can master stapling water to a tree—in approximately five minutes.
Even with decades of adaptations behind it, it’s clear that the Saint Seiya name couldn’t deliver a game worth of content, as every possible aspect has been fluffed to the eleventh degree. The character roster is enormous (and monochromatic, mind you), and countless upgrade items are earned alongside currency. However, these are all fluff and nothing more; every fight unlocks dozens of content pieces, rendering the game’s stockpiled content worthless.
Why are you enduring such hardships, you may ask? Well, to be brief, the goddess Athena has been reincarnated (apparently for the umpteenth time) as a young girl, and somebody wants her gone. Rather than kidnap her and stow her in a faraway castle, this mastermind has elected to assassinate her with a bow and arrow. Athena has indeed been shot, but our happy-go-lucky team of Saints has approximately 12 hours—dictated by a “giant fire clock in the sky,” which I simply cannot make up—until her heart is pierced by what appears to be a temporal arrow. In the meantime, we’ve got 12 arenas—which come in every shape you want, provided its square—to fight through, battling Golden Saints all the while in order to reach the pope, that he may extract the arrow.
Fighting games don’t hold a reputation as founts of wit and levity, but the dry writing of Brave Soldiers only compounds its already glaring oversights. Character animations are plagued by static and inconsistent movement, the art style itself shows extreme age, and the entire game is voiced by a cast who can’t decide between Japanese and English. This all stems from the same pitfall: a nearly 30-year-old series that was better off in a bargain bin manga store.