There's a solidity to Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers, but that's about it. The franchise isn't exactly one of the biggest Japanese exports (and, especially in gaming, Japan isn't currently in vogue), but it clearly has e a fan-base to have survived from 1986 to now. However, fans will probably be let down by Brave Soldiers, and so will any newcomers.
Not everything is bad with the game–far from it. If Saint Seiya was based purely on the combat mechanics, then it will definitely appeal to any button mashers out there, with generic character-specific moves and combos, and a special moves bar. So, nothing special. However, it's the pace of the action that makes this exciting and feel like being in an episode of the Saint Seiya anime series.
However, no matter how good the fighting mechanics may be, interesting arenas give depth to a fighting game. Therefore, it's always disappointing when you find out that the arenas are all nothing more than reskins. It's such a shame to waste the free movement available in the arena, but what turns this from a disappointment into a sucker punch is the fact that Dimps' first Saint Seiya release on PlayStation 3, Sanctuary Battle, had destructible environments. Consequently, if feels like an unpleasant step back.
There isn't a limited character roster. Mortal Kombat featured 28 fighters on PlayStation 3, Street Fighter IV featured 25, and this features 50 – double it's AAA competitors! Okay, some of the characters are versions of the same individuals, and I can understand the cynicism you might feel right now. However, despite the lack of a varied movelist between any of the characters, there is some depth in the ability to upgrade your characters.
Sadly, the solid core gameplay can't save the weak single-player story mode, with the dull-witted AI undermining the potential for fun. Of course, single-player isn't normally the main attraction in fighting games, but even if you are merely using it as a training mode, it's nice to have a challenging training mode.
Indeed, even the narrative isn't an attraction, with its presentation being worse than in its fore-bearer on PlayStation 3 and even PlayStation 2. There is a total lack of animated cutscenes. When I was initially told the backstory via subtitles and some screenshots from the Saint Seiya anime series, I was a little disappointed but assumed it would be a one-off. Things do get better, if the incremental advancement of an iota counts, with character stills and speech bubbles telling you plot points from therein.
The poor presentation doesn't help make the story engaging. Fans of the manga and the anime will wish they were enjoying those instead, and newcomers to the franchise won't exactly find themselves drawn in. The presentation of the story is the game's most disappointing aspect and clearly marks it out as a less-than-AAA game, which is a shame considering Dimps' credentials, which includes having a hand in the development of Street Fighter IV.
You might find some reasons to return to the story, as there's a modicum of additional challenge to be found by trying to perfect your fight. This comes in trying to get the highest rank for each battle and attempting to beat it to complete optional objectives. The optional objectives you are given at the beginning of each match will probably be done first time around, and whilst a solid fighting game doesn't need them, they are a fun addition anyway.
There are a variety of different modes that will certainly be of more interest than the story though. Survival is a series of fights in which you have unique challenges to face. There is also Galaxy mode, which is Brave Soldiers' tournament mode. Even though they suffer from shoddy AI in single-player, at least you can avoid the painful presentation of the story.
Multiplayer will be your main motivation to keep playing. Thankfully, the game has both offline and online multiplayer, and undoubtedly is at its best when playing against humans. The local multiplayer may be of use, as you can keep playing when the servers start to go quiet.
Dimps has made the odd decision, however, to design the game so that you have to unlock characters via the Galaxy, Survival and Story modes. Considering that the latter is notably weak, it is very frustrating that playing through it is a near-necessity.
If all of the gameplay was totally solid, then it would be easy to forgive the bare bones visuals. If the game was installed on someone's hard drive without any context provided, they might think that they were playing a very early PlayStation 3 title, as the backdrops are truly atrocious to look at. The character models are pretty but clearly just because of their stylization. The only real visual eye-openers are some of the special moves – and fighting aficionados will have seen more to impress them in other titles.
It is abundantly clear that functionality was in mind with 'localizing' the game, too, though that's not necessarily a criticism. There's no dub of the game, which may be because Saint Seiya wasn't massively popular in North America or Europe.
Fans will be disappointed by the lack of sheen and newcomers, who will doubtlessly be massive fighting fans who've exhausted all else, will just find a little enjoyment before they return to their usual titles. It's a shame. Brave Soldiers has solid core gameplay, but that's about it.
-The Final Word-
Solid core gameplay let down by the lack of arena evolution and weak story mode.