Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also available on: PlayStation 3, PC (Windows)
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Licensed games are always a bit of a mixed bag. You never know what sort of experience you’re going to wind up with, and certain properties lend themselves to fun, compelling gameplay more easily than others. I find that anime titles in general tend to work out really well in this regard, especially when they’re based in the realm of giant robots, ninjas or anything else that involves punching and explosions. Naturally, Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul seems like it would be a good fit for a licensed game adaptation, but unfortunately, it gets as much wrong as it gets right… if not moreso.
For starters, the game’s graphics are quite pretty, but are still very basic in terms of character design. That’s not really a problem with the game, per se, as the series itself is pretty old and thus the character designs are from a much simpler time. That said, the animation is fluid and the characters look like an anime come to life, but they don’t pack the level of detail that other series are known for; don’t expect anything on the level of the recent Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games, for instance. That said, the armor gleams, the special attacks pop and the supers — known as Big Bang Attacks — all look pretty cool, but again, nowhere near as cool as what’s being done in other anime-based games.
The sound is completely forgettable and nerve-gratingly infamous in equal measure. The music doesn’t really resonate with me, and seems to be there just to have something in the background other than silence. There’s lots of overwrought Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, lots of screaming move names, and what must be the most annoying use of the DualShock speaker ever devised, should you lose a fight. Get ready to hear someone beg you to stand up and fight every time you lose a fight, and you will lose a few fights just learning how to play the game. You can’t skip it, and you can’t turn it off, aside from muting the controller in the PlayStation 4 system menu. You are forced to have a ghostly anime-goddess sweetly implore you to keep fighting every time you get beaten on. It’s annoying the first time, and the annoyance is multiplied each time you lose.
Gameplay can be boiled down to three words: overcomplicated, yet underwhelming. There’s a block button, a light attack button, a heavy attack button, a projectile button, and a modifier that lets you access Cosmo — a rechargeable super meter mechanic that has become the anime-game standard since the Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden titles on the Super Famicom — to supercharge normal attacks and to close or widen the positional gap in an instant. Then, you have another modifier button that’s used to launch two low-level supers and one high-damage super, which is only accessible when yet another meter is full. There’s not one, but two dodge and movement mechanics that only seem to work when they want to, the combo system is beyond basic, the throws almost never land, and the most powerful supers in the game land less often than that.
Frankly, it’s a mess. I only found myself victorious in the game once I stopped actually trying to play it according to its stated ruleset, and instead I started relying on button-mashing the light attack combos followed by supercharged light hits to break enemy guard, then hitting the opponent with a super during the guard break, then recharging Cosmo while they’re down. Rinse, repeat, be bored to tears.
Then, on top of all of that, you have to unlock lots of stuff in the game by way of grinding for currency points, and this is accomplished by doing well in fights. This means having to repeatedly deal with long-winded exposition about hot-bloodedness, the power of friendship and never giving up. Been there, done that. But you’ve got to go back through that over and over again if you want to unlock anything, because the items in the shop are all prohibitively expensive — to the point where the game assumes that this is the only thing you’ll be playing for the foreseeable future. It’s very poorly designed, and forces the player to push through multiple walls of boredom — in terms of both presentation and gameplay — to earn the right to unlock tertiary crap like costumes and even extra modes.
I wanted to like this game, but I just can’t. And this is from Dimps, to boot — a company I stand behind as purveyors of some pretty fun stuff. They made all the Dragon Ball Z Budokai games on PS2, and they had a major hand in the development of Street Fighter IV, so I know that they’re better than this. There’s shades of a good game underneath all the trappings, but said trappings are not just holding this game back from being the best it can be, they’re holding it back from being fun. And really, if your game isn’t fun, what purpose does it serve?
This game’s review copy was a digital download code provided by the publisher.
This soldier borders on soulless.