Most of my Saint Seiya knowledge comes from J-Stars VS+ and so it’s clear that I’m not very familiar with the series but I am familiar with Japanese games, and so I sit down with Saint Seiya as we battle through the palaces of the 12 Gold Saints.
Soldiers’ Soul is a fighting game that features an impressive amount of playable characters but unless you’re a true diehard fan of the show, and even then I think it’s a stretch, then you’ll struggle to care about most of them especially as they all play and dress so similarly. The story is basic with Seiya and his group fighting through each of the Gold Saints 12 palaces as they battle to save Athena who’s been struck with an arrow (across space!) but it’s going to take another 12 hours before it actually pierces her heart – yes, this arrow may be able to zoom past planets but it’s going to take 12 hours to pierce a couple inches of skin and muscle.
That more or less covers the story and, being inspired by a shounen anime – where plenty of strong foes overwhelm the main characters who then become stronger and prevail to win the day -, it’s easy to see where the story goes and each battle quickly loses any sense of urgency or threat. Being a fighting game though, nobody is really picking this up for the story but sadly, the actual fighting mechanics aren’t particularly engaging either – it might be very accessible, but it’s accessible to the point that it quickly stops being fun and instead becomes a bit of a slog.
The fighting is as simple and blocking, allowing your enemy to finish off their attack, then attacking them as they struggle to get into proper blocking position – it’s really this easy and it’s worth abusing as the AI loves to block so frequently that whilst you can break the block with a throw, it’s still frustrating knowing that the AI would happily block multiple combos that can easily add up to roughly 30 hits. You can perform special attacks using one of the shoulder buttons and a corresponding face button for more damage, and once you’ve taken enough damage you can perform an ultimate attack. It’s very accessible but it’s far too simple and reeks of a small budget, leaving any victories to be rather unsatisfying.
The barebones story mode isn’t the only thing available, there’s also a versus mode that’s packed with a surprising amount of different rulesets to make each match different but the mechanics don’t allow them to be any more exciting. There’s a versus multiplayer which a mostly stable network code, as is expected of Bandai Namco, but I don’t see it having a long lease of life honestly, even less so when Soldiers’ Soul is asking for full retail price when its content and quality certainly doesn’t reflect it. It takes a long time to unlock all playable characters and then you also have to purchase most the stages and costumes too, but I certainly didn’t feel the need to unlock everything.
The graphics scream budget as much as the gameplay does and whilst it’s on PS4, it does its best to not look quite as good as some of the earliest PS3 games. It doesn’t strike the fluid anime look than many other titles have done, including Bandai’s own One Piece games, andso everything feels somewhat clunky and it does very little to visually stimulate which is emphasised by many of the characters outfits and the stages all looking rather similar – I’m aware that this might fit into the source material’s universe but that doesn’t make it any more exciting. At least the frame rate is stable!
Unsurprisingly, there’s no English voice-over but the Japanese voice-over is one of the higher quality aspects of the game with many of the original voice-actors and actresses returning to reprise their roles. The OST is great too although not particularly memorable, but it’s clear that the audio is where the soul of the soldiers’ is as the rest of the game is packed with fanservice that it begrudgingly uses and I don’t see it appeasing long-time fans or bringing in new fans – it certainly hasn’t made a fan out of me, anyway.
I’m not sure why Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul was made as it barely keeps fans in mind and it does nothing to draw in new fans. It’s evidently low budget and, if this were a movie, it would’ve been made solely just to keep the license. I might not be a Saint Seiya fan but I know it’s been around for a long time and has a massive fanbase, and they surely deserve better than this and being a full-priced release makes it impossible to recommend, and I don’t think I’d recommend it at half the price either. Die hard fans might enjoy picking it up when it hits around £15, but nobody should be picking it up for £40.