I don’t typically review licensed games unless I’m thoroughly familiar with the source material, but I aim to tackle this coverage a little differently. Instead of focusing on how the game captures the Saint Seiya licence, I want to see how Bandai Namco’s latest fighter fares as a fighting game on its own. While I’m unfamiliar with Masami Kurumada’s original manga, I’ve played nearly all of Bandai Namco’s fighters over the last decade. Earlier this year I praised their Dragon Ball: Xenoverse release for delivering some of the best anime-inspired action in years, so I was excited to delve into another over-the-top brawler.
Even though I grew up with 90’s anime, the Saint Seiya series is one of the few shows that slipped through my fingers. Although I can’t vouch for the quality of the anime and manga, the Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul game has turned out to be an incredibly disappointing fighter that lacks creativity and suffers from frustrating gameplay and abhorrent cutscenes. It’s an unfortunate display of everything that’s wrong with the anime industry today, particularly the anime-inspired shovelware video games.
"It’s an unfortunate display of everything that’s wrong with the anime industry today, particularly the anime-inspired shovelware video games."
Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul makes no effort in drawing gamers into its universe. It presents a typical array of bland cutscenes comprised of stiff characters and nauseating dialogue. I realize a certain understanding of the source material is necessary to fully appreciate the cast and narrative, but Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul lacks structure and pacing on the most basic level. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the game didn't emphasize its storyline so much. After all, Street Fighter is filled with simplistic cutscenes between fights, but Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul has an overbearing amount of filler before and after each action sequence.
Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul is split into several story archs, with each arch offering several chapters comprised of cutscenes and fighting sequences. Herein lies the game’s major pacing problem. Cutscenes are split into chapter chunks that are accessible via a progress tree menu. This gives the game a false sense of content as you find yourself filling the progress tree quickly just by watching poorly animated story snippets.
Once on the battlefield, things are only mildly better. The combat is similar to most Bandai Namco brawlers, meaning it consists of a series of defined offensive and defensive maneuvers shared across all characters. There’s fundamentally nothing wrong with this method. Dragon Ball: Xenoverse uses similar mechanics, but the controls are responsive, and the level designs are more open and flexible. Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul feels like a massive step back for Bandai Namco.
"Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul is a disaster. It’s an ugly mess with no redeeming qualities that stands out as a sore thumb amongst Bandai Namco’s otherwise solid fighter lineup."
Fighting in Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul is sloppy and unresponsive. Dodging and blocking is delayed by a split second, and the more constrained arenas restrict movement and combat variety. I find myself constantly running around the enemy in circles and spamming the heavy-attack button, with the occasional super-attack thrown in when the opportunity presents itself. The entire game feels like it’s still in its alpha stage. Most attacks are too simplistic, and there’s no sense of contact when landing punches and kicks. Regardless of which character you’re playing, and there are plenty, it seems like you’re only changing the fighter’s look without the need for diversifying combat strategy.
The game’s sloppiness further extends to the last-gen visuals. Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul is ugly in all aspects of its presentation. Characters lack detail, the environments are bland and simplistic, and the cutscenes…my god, the cutscenes. I have no idea who is responsible for putting this mess together, but I never know whether to laugh or cry each time one of the characters opens their mouth.
Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul is a disaster. It’s an ugly mess with no redeeming qualities that stands out as a sore thumb amongst Bandai Namco’s otherwise solid fighter lineup. Saint Seiya Soldiers' Soul is a technical embarrassment, and an insult to an otherwise excellent licence. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a devout Saint Seiya fan, or just enjoy Bandai Namco’s over-the-top action, this piece of shovelware is not worth the asking price.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4