Welcome to the world of Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul, where a group of young heroes have to punch their way through a bunch of bad guys in gold cloth (this universe calls armour cloth, don’t ask, I couldn’t tell you), to achieve some goal I’m still not entirely sure of. Developed by Dimps (Street Fighter IV, Dragon Ball Z Xenoverse) and based on the 1980’s serialised manga of the same name, the game takes the main story arcs from the anime to recreate a visually stimulating, one on one 3D punch fest. I’ve sunk countless hours into Dragon Ball Xenoverse, so I couldn’t wait to jump into Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul and touch some cloth.
Arriving at the main menu, you’re presented with a choice of game modes. The main story mode, Legend of the Cosmo is an episodic game mode broken down into four different story arcs. These are called Sanctuary, Asguard, Poseidon and Hades, each representing stories told in the anime. Players new to the game are first offered a tutorial before you jump into the action, taking control of the main protagonist Seiya, while you learn the basics of the game. The tutorial however feels brief; some players may find themselves having to repeat multiple parts just to get to grips with how the game works.
Visually Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul is stunning, you’ll notice straight off the bat how much better the Saint Seiya universe looks translated into a 3D gaming platform
Once you get past the introduction you’ll want to select a chapter to start your journey (you’ll want to start with Sanctuary if you’re unfamiliar to the property). Players must work their way through stages, with the ultimate goal of beating the cloth out of some bad guy/girl at the end. Some stages are just story driven cutscenes to give the player some clue as to what’s going on in the overall story arc. The main bulk of the stages consist of a cutscene that leads into a battle. Playing as the relevant hero(s) of that episode, you’ll generally have to beat your opponent down, watch another cutscene and then beat them down again as they return stronger in the form of a boosted attack stat for example. However, the formula becomes pretty predictable after a few hours of gameplay, and slightly stale if you aren’t invested in the narrative. Cutscenes really only contain the events of that battle. You don’t get to see the events leading up to arriving at the battle zones or story between the battles themselves.
If you’re like me and unfamiliar with the anime, you can end up feeling confused as new characters are introduced, with no backstory on their relationships with other characters. This is very evident especially with the five main heroes you’ll be playing as during the episodes, and ultimately damages the players’ emotional connection to these protagonists. On top of this, the games’ in-engine cutscenes usually result in character models just standing there talking with minimal animation used to convey various emotions, making some of the cutscenes feel like that dreaded weekend trip to your grandparents as a kid, bland. You’ll be finding yourself wanting to hit the start button and skip the story when you’re deeper into the game as these cutscenes can really slow the pace of the game down.
Moving on, the combat itself feels very fluid and fast paced. I will warn any fighting game enthusiasts/ veterans that you will probably feel like you’ve mastered all this game can offer just a few hours into gameplay. The control scheme itself is easily accessible to everyone and simplistic, making this game perfect for fans of the series who don’t fancy themselves as hardcore beat ‘em up gamers. The bulk of your moves will be basic punch attacks you can chain into bigger combos via the games dash attacks (called burst attacks).
Characters have access to special moves, usually mid to long range magic based attacks which hit for hard damage. These can be chained into combos or used on their own. To use burst or special attacks, players need to have a certain amount of charge in their Cosmo bar. Cosmo can be manually charged by holding the left trigger, or fills up gradually when dealing or receiving damage. There is also a quick evasive move called the Lightspeed move used to escape combo attacks, akin to the snap vanish in DBZ Xenoverse or the substitution jutsu in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm. However, one serious issue with Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul’s execution of this mechanic is it requires a decent amount of the Cosmo gauge to execute. The snap vanish/ substitution jutsu had their own metre just for this evasive move. Including this into Cosmo cost, as well as all the burst/special attacks you’ll want to be executing means you’ll have to pay a lot more attention to your Cosmo levels and can leave you vulnerable if you abuse the move.
All characters receive visually impressive Big Bang attacks, which can be performed once your seventh sense gauge (charged by receiving damage and when charging the Cosmo gauge). These take the form of over the top powerful looking finishing moves that deal with a very large chunk of your opponent’s health. While these can be very tricky to land on opponents, when you do land one, they feel that much more impressive because of this difficulty. New players should take note that the AI difficulty can be quite punishing with a very sporadic difficulty level which may deter newcomers when they get stuck on a certain opponent. You’ll quite possibly find some battles laughably easy, just to get stuck on the following stage to a guy who looks nowhere near as menacing as the last.
Other modes available are battle of gold (an alternate story version where you fight as Gold Saints against other Gold Saints), battle mode (versus mode for up to 8 player local battling) and an online battle mode. The online mode is fairly decent, but it’s nothing ground breaking. Players can fight in ranked battles and track their scores or take to free battles and just have fun. Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul boasts an impressive roster of 72 characters, but playing online really made me see there are only a handful of viable competitive online characters everyone uses. This was disappointing as it really highlighted how unbalanced the roster is.
Battles are ranked after the fight resulting in a player rank which rewards in game currency used to purchase additional characters, player upgrades, BGM tracks, arenas and more. Disappointingly the amount of currency earned after a battle is so little compared to the vast amounts of cash needed to unlock everything, this can seem a bit daunting to any player and ultimately feels like such a time sink, it’d be better not to start at all. Definitely something for the dedicated Saint Seiya fan.
Visually Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul is stunning, you’ll notice straight off the bat how much better the Saint Seiya universe looks translated into a 3D gaming platform. The game easily manages a solid and smooth 60fps (I’m playing the PC release but have confirmed that the same goes for the PS4 version). Character models look great and really adhere to the original anime origins and the colours/effects used in big bang battle animations really feel like you’re hitting your opponent with a plethora of magic rainbow death powers. It would have been nice to see some higher resolution textures used on the character models to really take advantage of the power of a PC/PS4, sometimes when the camera gets too close, you can really notice some blurry textures, which is a bit of a shame. As good as this game looks, when you compare it to the recent Naruto Ninja Storm or DBZ Xenoverse games, it really does look second rate. The games orchestral score is nothing but average. The same tracks are used over and over again, leaving you wishing there was a bit more variety in the mix.
For any fan of the series, Saint Seiya: Soldier’s Soul is an excellent fan service with a good amount of content (Each story arc alone took me 2-3 hours to complete) but for player looking for a good beat ‘em up there are better alternatives on the market, but hey if this is your thing, at least you can tell all your friends you touched cloth and didn’t have to change your trousers this time.