Burn your Cosmos in Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers
Now here is a real blast from the past. Saint Seiya, the manga/anime series that has been around since the 1980's and help kickstart the anime craze has finally has its first video game release in North America. There have been numerous games made for this series over the years(mainly in Japan and Europe), such as a couple of RPGs and a few fighting games covering the plot of the show. With the release of Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers, fans both new and old will be able to experience all the action that made the anime such a huge hit. But as a video game, how does Saint Seiya hold up against its competitors like Naruto or Dragon Ball Z?
Though Brave Soldier's story doesn't cover the entire anime, it does feature most of the primary arcs that made the original anime so popular. To summerize, we follow a group of heroes (Known as Saints) who are chosen to wear sacred armor (called Clothes) based off various star constellations. Such as: Seiya (Pegasus), Shiriyu (Dragon), Shun (Andromeda), Hyoga (Cygnus) and Ikki (Pheonix). It turns out that there are a whole legion of Saints, varying in rank by their Cloth type (Bronze, Silver and Gold) whose job is to protect the reincarnation of the Goddess Athena and battle Hades and other greek gods who try to stir up trouble. Using their special abilities granted by their supernatural training and cosmos (power from their signature constellations) our heroes go on several adventures to keep Athena safe and defeat enemies of justice.
Confused yet? Well, if just that short summery barely made any sense to you then chances are your not going to be able to get into the story, since this game is not kind to the uninitiated. It tries to be, providing a narrator to give a basic overview of events at the start of each chapter, but there will be points were characters are mentioned, even though they have never appeared in-game, like you are supposed to know who they are and their significance to the plot. One particular hilarious moment involves the Sanctuary arc and Hyoga's first fight with the Gold Saint Camus of Aquarius. Before the fight begins, Camus does something to encourage Hyoga to fight since he is initially hesitant. However, while the reason behind this act and its importance to Hyoga is explained in the manga/show, Brave Soldiers makes no effort to really explain these...unique circumstances of Hyoga's back story and why we are supposed to care.
However, even with the mistranslations, misnaming characters and not bothering to really explain why we should care about the story, Brave Soldiers does a fantastic job of making sure it has the same appeal the show did. Meaning its the same cheesy, over the top, power rangers style slug fest that you can't help but enjoy, if you grew up with it. Sure its silly, and in hindsight make very little sense but you can't hate it for making it look like so much fun.
I'm not gonna lie, I have had a lot of fun playing Brave Soldiers. Not only are the controls easy to learn but you can tell the game's creator's went all out in trying to make the game as much like the show as possible. From the huge character roster, featuring several different versions of the main cast as they changed through the show, the various Gold Saints, the Mariner Generals of the Posidon arc, and the Specters of the Hades arc. Each one featuring their signature moves from the show, and their own unique animations for their Big Bang Attacks.
For folks who have played Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, the controls for Brave Soldier are very similar. Two regular attack buttons, one special attack, jumping and dashing, guarding and a charging function all deligated to different buttons. Combining the charging function with a dash or any of the various attack buttons will cause more damage to an opponent. On top of winning each match, there are also a set of challenges that can be completed like preventing opponent from using a Big Bang attack or managing to throw your enemy five times, which will earn you more money to pay for orbs or unlock collectables in post game.
There are also a lot of different locations to choose from once they have been unlocked via the story mode. My personal favorite bit of detail included is the character animations for charging the characters special meter (cosmos meter I guess). For example, just like in the show, when Seiya is charging he moves his hands in the pattern of his chosen constellation (Hyoga's is my personal favorite however, since he actually flaps his arms like a swan. Its too hilarious to not watch).
However, once again, what Brave Soldiers succeeds as a love letter to its fan base it fails as a real fighting game. The AI for the earliest adversaries in the game is terrible, running head on into attacks, rarely guarding, or just spamming special attacks until they are completely drained of their cosmo gauge. Making even some of the later battle ridiculously easy to S rank if your paying attention. There also aren't too many combos to use, so you will see your characters use the same animations and sound effects over and over again. So in short, if you are a fan of fighting games and are looking for something with a real challenge, you have come to the wrong game.
Another bit of a mixed bag here. Graphics wise, during gameplay, the game looks great. Using the same kind of cell shading animation that the Ultimate Ninja games use, the fights look fantastic and are a lot of fun to look at. The music, while not the same as the show, does its best to capture the same spirit as its source material and even features a lot of the original Japanese voice cast (Though with the translation, you may accidentally cut off the spoken dialogue when trying to read the next line).
However, the actual cutscenes between the fighting are...incredibly underwhelming, even for a fan. When your not looking at still 3D models talking back and forth with an interchangeable background, your looking at actual pictures taken directly from the anime for the stuff they didn't bother to try and animate. Though the voice actors put their all in making this seem like the most intense drama, your still looking at still pictures as they spoon feed you the story. Its a real shame when they clearly had the technology to make it just as fun as other anime based video games but this was something the developer either didn't have enough money to make or just didn't care.
Lasting Appeal 2/10
Outside of the main story and versus mode, there is also both a tournament mode and online play where you can use the orbs you've purchased to give your chosen characters unique customizations to increase resistance to attacks, improving your charge speed and much more. On top of that, there are loads and loads of collectables to unlock, such as the Saint Seiya trading cards, character 3d models, music, etc.
While these things may entertain the die hard fans, it may not be enough to keep most gamers, even fans of the show, around for very long after they've had their fill of story, vs, and tournament mode.
This had the potentially to be a amazing anime based game. To rise up and reach the same level as some of the other surprisingly good anime fighting games that have surfaced the past few years. Unfortunately, while it does an amazing job giving fans a huge nostalgia trip, Brave Soldiers is not a good way to initiate new fans or curious gamers Fans of fighting games should steer clear if they are looking for a really good fighting game with a challenge. 'Cause while this is a decent fighting game, which clearly had a good amount of effort put into it, this game was clearly not made for gamers of the fighting genre. But to fans who have fond memories of a show/graphic novel that was as silly as it was fun.
For more Anime based games check out these articles