Saint Seiya: Sanctuary Battle PS3
I’m quite surprised a game like Saint Seiya made it over to the UK. The anime of Saint Seiya was popular in places like Italy, Spain and France, but it never had chance to grow big in the UK and wasn’t translated into English until 2003. That might not sound so shocking till you understand that the anime first started in 1986 in Japan, meaning it started the same year as the original DragonBall anime. Namco already has a popular anime franchise that goes by the name of Naruto. Both Saint Seiya and the latest Naruto game were released in March, but Saint Seiya has gone unnoticed in the hectic month of releases know as March Madness. Even so, I’m just happy that Namco Bandai are giving lesser known games a chance over here, since so many publishers often lock them in their country of origin.
The story for Saint Seiya follows closely to the first season of the original anime and is based on the 12 Gold Saints story arc. At the start, the game gives players a lengthy introduction about the characters, their backgrounds and what’s happened up to the current plot line that the game is about to tell. The further you progress in the story, the more interesting it gets as you meet more Gold Saints, each one using a unique cosmos move as they try to thrash you to death. During the story, you’ll take control over different characters at certain points, but you cannot select them yourself in story mode and are forced to use whoever at that point in time. Character selection is reserved for other sections of the game. Once you’ve completed the story, you’ll unlock additional ones, up to five more that explain other story arcs. These are much shorter than the main plot, but it’s a good addition to see how these characters came about their dilemma and clarify their role in the main game.
Saint Seiya plays in a similar manner to the Dynasty Warriors series by Omega Force. The difference between the two is that Saint Seiya doesn’t give you the options of a wide open battlefield. Combat is a linear progression as you make your way through hordes of enemies towards the end of the level. Another difference is that barriers will frequently appear, locking you into that section of the map until you’ve defeated all enemies present, making the flow of the game feel like you’re moving through zones rather than an open area.
There’s quite a bit to the combat than what Saint Seiya initially reveals. Square and Triangle perform quick and strong attacks while X allows you to jump. Fast and strong attacks chain together by tapping them after each other to create a combo. The game gives you the move list for each character, so that you know how many quick or strong presses you need to perform to get the correct combo you want to do.
Along with the health at the top left of screen is a blue metre representing the character’s Cosmo. Think of it as the Musou bar from the Warriors series and you’ll get what it does. Every character has two or three special moves that do more damage than normal. Using these moves will drain the Cosmo metre. To survive in battle, you’ll need to master the blocking skill. If you manage to press the block button at the correct time, you’ll dodge the move and the game will slow down time around you, giving you the chance to beat up enemies without knowing what just hit them. This feature reminds me of Witch Time in Bayonetta. You can also use a block of Cosmos energy to similar effect, lasting longer and powering up all your standard attacks when combined with the Cosmo charge ability that is assigned to the R2 button. It adds much needed depth to the simplistic combat mechanics.
The camera can be a bit of a problem since it’s locked into position. If you ever need to go backwards (for whatever reason), you will run back at the camera, unable to see where you are going. A better use of the camera is when levels are presented through side views that feel like a side scrolling beat-em-up, linking to the good old days of Final Fight and Streets of Rage. These are few and far between the standard camera levels though. In boss battles, the camera will always focus on the opponent, which is fine. Normally, the boss is situated in a square based environment so there is nothing blocking your view of them.
In place is a RPG level up system where certain stats can be upgraded either by levelling up from gained experience or from completing a level or spending the CP that you also earn from beating a stage. If you want any chance in beating the harder difficulties, you will have to level up your character. It can be annoying in story mode since you are consistently swapping characters, so the only way to really give your characters good stat increases is to play the other game mode, Mission Mode.
Mission Mode is more time attack than anything else. Each mission has a selected amount of stages with a picked difficulty. The aim is to beat the specific time to get an A rank. Initially, it’s challenging, but you can break the system by buffing up a character so much that it becomes a walk in the park, removing any sort of challenge to it. Luckily – and the game’s only online feature – there are leaderboards for online challenges, but it features far less challenges than the normal ones. At least you can see how well you do with the rest of the world on them.
Multiplayer is disappointingly limited. It’s only available in the tag challenge, and there’s only five offline and five of them with online rankings. If you decide to do the tag by yourself, your second character just follows you. There’s no A.I; instead, the other character copies your move set – you punch and they punch. It’s no help whatsoever as they are always around you and not fending of enemies, bothersome when taking on the bosses.
Being an anime game, you want Saint Seiya to be a good visual illustration of the television show, and it does just that. The heroes look like 80’s anime models because they are not excessively detailed with colour shading. They are not perfect, but it’s close enough to the style of the show. Environment variety is lacking, with all but a few areas looking the same. You’ll certainly get a bit bored seeing Greek temples and pillars. Audio is Japanese only, which should please fans, but in battle it can be a bit hard to keep up with all the dialogue spoken when you’re in a tense boss fight that requires you to keep an eye on what they are doing.
Saint Seiya isn’t exactly a great game. It’s a game that suffers from repetition, an awkward camera, and button bashing to beat generic enemies (bosses save this situation). In a genre that is perfectly suited for cooperative play, it’s something that isn’t as fully featured as I would liked. Saint Seiya isn’t the best recommendation to give to people who like this type of hack and slash game, especially after one of the best Warrior games just came out (Warriors Orochi 3). In the end though, I don’t see this as a game targeted for everyone, but for people who like the anime, and this represents the anime in a good way. I’m proud that Namco Bandai gave this game a chance here in Europe, and I hope they keep releasing less popular titles in the future.