Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Meh

After playing it for at least 25 hours, I decided to write a few things that I did and didn’t like about Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Soul. This post is the result of such experience.

SS:SS is a fighting game developed by Dimps and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It was released on September 2015 for the PS3 and PS4, and on November 2015 for PC.

Even though I’m a longtime fan, I never had the chance to play a proper game based on the series as they were mainly released for the PlayStation. Besides a very old GameBoy RPG game, the only official game I tried once was Saint Seiya: The Hades in a PS2 emulator. I also tried fan-made games –created with the M.U.G.E.N., a 2D-fighting engine– but they were bad. Actually, the best, and only, one around is the french project: Ultimate Cosmo.

The good

Although it is really an update of a previous game, Brave Soldiers, Soldiers’ Soul represents a milestone for the series. It is not only the first Saint Seiya game available for PC (via Steam) but also one of the few anime-licensed games around that has dubbed in a language other than english. In fact, the game wasn’t even dubbed to english, only latin american spanish and portuguese; it makes sense, though, as the fanbase of Saint Seiya is huge in Latin America (bigger than in Japan, I might dare to say).

It was great being able to relive my youth thanks to the spanish voices in the game, as it brought a certain familiarity.

Soldiers’ Soul also features the largest roster of playable characters until date: a total of 48, including the long forgotten nordic warriors which were filler for the TV series (not canon in the manga).

Finally, what I liked the most about this game is its visual aesthetics. Besides the cell-shaded characters, attacks have backgrounds and effects that resemble those from the actual TV series; they actually look hand drawn! However, it is way more evident with Poseidon’s Marinas.

The bad

Bad news is that the game isn’t good.

While it’s a good thing that there are no obnoxious DLC, an in-game currency is used to unblock different character skins, stages, music, models, etc. Everything in the game can be unlocked by just playing; the problem is that, with a somewhat tedious game like this, such task is boring.

In terms of actual gameplay, it’s a traditional fighting game with free movement over the arena, jumping being a posible option. Each character has a weak and a strong hit, a long-rage hit, super hits, special attacks and Big Bang Attacks, besides the traditional block/throw mechanics. They also have two gauges: one for special attacks that can be recharged by the player and another for the Big Bang Attack (also used to activate the Seventh Sense mode) which fills whenever the player hits or gets hit. While traditional fighting games feature a sort of rocks-paper-scissors system regarding attack, defence and throws, Soldiers’ Soul uses a defence that can only be broken after plenty of attacks. Sometimes my grabs-n-throws worked but most of the times they didn’t.

Other minor annoyances include the need to exit a certain game mode to go to the shop menu and buy the necessary torches to unlock further paths in the aforementioned mode, instead of including a direct access to the shop (or the ability to buy directly from this screen). This is made even worse as travelling through the menus feels sluggish.

The ugly

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. I like it as a fan but hate it as a gamer and game developer.

First off, having a spanish dub was a great and bold move; however, most of the times the translations are hideous. Dialogues are synchronised to the japanese version, which means that characters speak robotically. Also, attack names were updated to have a more faithful translation; however, their new version sound awkward and left me with longing for the original ones. Furthermore, while almost every voice actor reprised their roles from the TV series, several were replaced and the replacements are as bad as it gets. On the other hands, several members of the original cast sound different due to their age (the series was released in Latin America in the ’90s).

The music was also a huge letdown. I don’t know why most anime-licensed games don’t feature the original soundtracks from the TV series; my guess is that either they didn’t have license for the music or it doesn’t fit the gameplay. Either way, it can’t be a Saint Seiya game if it doesn’t feature Saint Seiya music. The original soundtrack is not only one of the best things from the series but one of the best ever composed. There’s even a mod in the Steam Community to replace the stock files; it works like a charm and even encouraged me to keep playing the game.

Finally, stages also seem generic; most of them don’t resemble their counterparts from series. Might not be a huge deal but it further breaks the immersion.

In conclusion

I tried to give this game several chances, I really did. After a while I managed to get a better understanding of the mechanics but they ended up feeling foreign to the rules established by the original sources (manga & TV series). It was a nice experience to relive my childhood but a lousy game overall.

In the end, Soldiers’ Soul is a game that looks like Saint Seiya but isn’t really it.

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