27th Sep2015

‘Saint Seiya: Soldiers Soul’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat

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Saint Seiya is a franchise that has been around since the mid-80s and whilst it hasn’t really translated well to the UK, the series, also known as Knights of the Zodiac, has a huge fanbase in the US and aross the rest of Europe. Personally I’ve never seen a single episode of the anime or read a single volume of the manga. But I have played the video games – in particular the two PS2 entries, Saint Seiya: The Sanctuary and Saint Seiya: The Hades. So I’m excited to see what this latest offering bring to the series…

Saint Seiya: Soldiers Soul is the latest entry in the long-running video game franchise, created to coincide with a new anime series created this year, and sees players once again charged with battling gods in a quest to help Saori Kido, aka the reincarnation of the goddess Athena, who – after being struck by a gold arrow – has only twelve hours to live. Seiya and the other saints, tasked with protecting Athena, must work together and battle their way through to the man who can save her.

In a first for the series, this game (unlike, for example, the two PS2 entries) covers a number of the series’ story arcs, including the storyline from the Twelve Zodiac Temples arc to the battles against Hades as well as other surprises; all rendered with beautiful 3D cut scenes. Speaking of which, graphically Saint Seiya: Soldiers Soul is a huge step up from the Playstation 2 games I’m familiar with.

Sharing a lot more in common with the likes of the recent Dragonball Z games, in that the graphics look more like rendered anime footage (albeit in that same 80s cartoon fashion as the TV show) rather than computer generated characters, playing this game is more like being immersed in an episode of the anime rather than playing a standalone video game. An improvement to the graphics is not the only upgrade the franchise has had on the Playstation 4… The last time I played a Saint Seiya game it was on the original fat 60Gb PS3, thanks to the backwards compatibility original built in to the console. Though I’m sure that wasn;’t the best way to experience the game – especially given that the rate of slow down made the game a huge chore to play. Not so here.

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Running in 1080P at 60fps, Saint Seiya: Soldiers Soul is certainly a smooth beat ‘em-up experience and the controls are ultra-responsive too. The huge improvement, at least for me, is the ease in which you can call upon and execute special moves. A simple press (and hold) of R2 brings up an on screen menu and a tap of the corresponding button which launch a special move, though – like a lot of fighters – you need to charge them up through combat. And the special moves are incredibly impressive, the kind of “impressive” you typically only see in these types of Japanese fighting games.

Speaking of fighting, of the characters I’ve played as so far (believe me when I say despite putting in a couple of hours, I still feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of ALL the characters and their abilities) Pegasus Seiya and Hyoga have very similar fighting styles, with the only major difference being their special moves. However Shun is one of the most unstoppable of all the Saints in this game – his chains allow for long-distance combat yet they do not slow him down in the slightest. Plus there’s the immense combos the chains allow… Yet don’t think such a fantastic “weapon” or skill in the genre will allow you to easily beat this game – the difficulty level spikes in a number of places and just when you think you’ve got a Gold Saint beat, they’ll unleash a furious combo that will wipe out your health in seconds. It can be frustrating at times, but the ultimate satisfaction in beating a Saint after he’s taken you out on more than one occassion is well worth the time invested.

Already the best game in the series, Saint Seiya: Soldiers Soul is an essential purchase for fans of the franchise and those who love a good fighting game. It’s out now from BandaiNamco Games.

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