Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul continues Bandai Namco’s trend of bringing anime-inspired brawlers to gamers worldwide. We went toe to toe with the PC version – here’s our review.
Fighting games based on Japanese anime and manga series are getting released in the west more and more these days, and Bandai Namco has opened up this world to PC gamers as well. While you used to have to own a console AND import a game from Japan, now you play a game like Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul from the Steam platform.
Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul is based on a series that started in the mid-eigthies and ran for about half a decade, and it still retains its popularity almost 25 years later. I won’t go into detail regarding the storyline since most of it is recreated in the game, but it’s clear that this is a game that was made by and for fans of the original Saint Seiya. The dedication to the original anime can be seen in how the game recounts the entire story in four big chapters that each consist of several episodes. Expect a lot of story emphasis, especially for a fighter. The story is frequently broken up by battles that you have to fight, essentially putting you at the heart of the story.
The way these battles play out is somewhat similar to games like J-Stars Victory VS+ or the One Piece Games (both Bandai Namco games, by the way), in that you can run around an arena freely and attack (or get away from the fight) with relative ease. This ease partly comes from a somewhat simplified control scheme, which created the danger of battles becoming not much more than button-mashing events that break up the story. There are special attacks that you can charge up, but the action never feels as deep as some of the other titles we’ve seen in the genre. The tactical depth of the various Warriors games is missing here, so the focus is primarily on the story.
Luckily, this aspect of the game is well developed. For newcomers to the Saint Seiya franchise, it’s a great introduction to a classic manga series. For fans of the manga, it’s an interactive re-telling of a story they know and love. It is, however, a question of how long the interest will last. If you’re a newcomer and aren’t drawn in by the story, then the action bits aren’t going to keep you interested for long. If you’re a Saint Seiya fan already, then the chances of you tolerating the mediocre action levels just to get on with the story are a bit greater – though not guaranteed.
This makes it hard to recommend Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul to the average gamer. There are definitely better fighting games out there, even within this particular subgenre. You could also enjoy the Saint Seiya story by just watching the original series again, so that leaves us with a specific group of gamers who will be happy with the game. In particular, those who are fans of the series and can’t wait to play through an interactive retelling of a story they’re familiar with. Or…. those who always had an interest in the series but never felt like taking the time to sit down and go through all the episodes. That’s not the majority of gamers, but if you’re in either one of those categories then you’ll have a decent enough time with Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul. There’s nothing completely broken about it, it just doesn’t excel at the videogame portion of the package.