Similar to the US, Japan also gets “movie” games. These are more commonly known as anime/manga based titles. Unlike the US though, these titles aren’t always awful. Saint Seiya Sanctuary Battle tries to bring time tested gameplay into the world of Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac in the US). Most were skeptical of how the game looked good, but anime games have a long history of deep flaws. Many of these relate to how they represent the series. This begs the question of, is this game different? Is there something deeply wrong or is it surprisingly good? Find out in this edition of Hot or Not.
Saint Seiya Sanctuary Battle is surprisingly similar to the popular title Bayonetta. One of the biggest similarity is that they both have the same dodge mechanics. In both games when you dodge perfectly, time slows down. This allows you to freely smash your enemies around. Transversely you can also activate a skill which achieves a similar affect. These both encourage mastery of the mechanics over simply avoiding problem areas.
Another strong element is how every character has their own “thing”. Some characters can freeze enemies, some can instantly kill people, some just do insane damage, and others have their own mechanics. This strongly supports playing as other characters, while at the same time gives you something extra to do. The only real downside is that some characters are downright broken power wise. Aiolos for instance, in starting stats can easily outdo a level 50 Shaina whom is rather useless overall.
Outside of that one hiccup, the controls are simple to learn. Another selling point is how similar the moves are. Once you master the system there really isn’t anything more to learn. The rest boils down to how you’re meant to use the fighter.
Saint Seiya Sanctuary Battle follows the manga/anime of similar name fairly close. This being said the game starts with a roughly 20 minute long explanation of the story so far. This is definitely not how you start a game as many details were only touched on and it was extremely barebones not to mention boring too. After this explanation you’re thrown into the sanctuary arc. This is roughly volume 8/chapter 28 in the original manga. Contrary to this craptastic opening; the story from this point forward is extremely well done. Most of the fights are similar to the source material, as are the attacks, plot points and even occurrences. Many fans of the series will enjoy this loving attempt.
In addition to the main story, they added 5 (?!) alternate stories. The first tells the story of Aiolos and his referenced death. It’s not a long story, but touches on enough to give you an understanding of the situation. The second shows the conflict between Leo and Virgo. Following similar paths, the next two focus on Marin/Shaina’s story. Finally the last one explains the bit of story prior to Ikki confronting the pope at the end. None of them are exactly long, though they help explain the events of the main story.
A huge part of the game is the RPG level system. Here you can gain various stats or spend your hard earned CP on a desired boost. The only problem is that the story bounces around a lot. There are roughly 13 stages and 5 saints to fight them. This boils down to roughly 3 fights per saint, but also breaks up your ability to level a fighter. This can also become problematic with how you gain exp.
Your ranking is mostly determined off of your speed. If you lack skill, power, or something else… this will make getting A rank extremely hard. I averaged an E on every normal stage due to the lack of stats. Come the final stage my average person was level 3, with the highest being 5. This put me at a huge disadvantage; in addition this gave me less CP which is shared. Overall this caused me to have mismanaged characters, making the game extremely difficult.
Even more so depressing is that beating a single mission yielded more than any single characters earning in story. This ironically leads to the next fault in the system. As you gain more levels and CP, you’re given an extreme boost in power. This gets to the point where having only power, is enough to beat any task without skill. With a 400 power stat character you can beat most bosses in no time. Simply raising the stat to 700 will allow you to destroy any single enemy. Capping the stat makes you so powerful that a single combo can bring any boss to half their life. Frankly this quickly causes the game to lose its charm, but at the same time ignores any of the great gameplay mechanics.
Mission mode is nothing you would be surprised with. Every task is beating certain stages as fast as possible. Sadly they’re mostly redoing story stages with minor differences or higher difficulty. Many of the missions practically give you an A ranking as they’re a joke to complete. Looking back at the level system, my 400 stat fighter scored 26 minutes 36 seconds on the final mission. This is 36 seconds over the A rank. In my later attempted with a different fighter that had over 700 attack; the stage was completed in 6 minutes 29 seconds. This means that every fight was roughly 1 minute and at the same time brings into question how a 20 minute buffer is acceptable. I found that historically just about every mission I completed was more than half the minimal A status. This really kills any challenge or point in this mode.
We’re starting to hit a point where online is not only required, but expected. The only online aspect is a score board, but there is an offline multiplayer. In addition you can oddly play with yourself too. In both instances some extremely poor choices were made.
When playing alone, you control both saints. This is achieved by a “monkey see, monkey do” system. Everything you do will result in the other saint doing the same. This basically means that one saint will be wasting time, as the other is actually doing something. This wouldn’t even matter if minions didn’t spawn to assist the boss in the fight. Ironically even this wouldn’t matter if you had more to work with. Contrary to the single player fights, the fighting area is cut in half. This basically means places you can go alone are not accessible with a friend.
To make matters worse, the multiplayer mode is not very fleshed out. You’re given roughly 8 online (ranked) and offline missions. The only difference between them being difficulty. Unfortunately, you’re only given the choice of which bosses to fight. The dynasty warriors like segments are single player only. This makes the mode extremely limited and frankly pointless to most gamers.
No matter how bad the game sounds, it’s actually quite a bit of fun. You’re given 20 somewhat diverse fighters to keep you playing and several difficulties to challenge you. The Level system is definitely something to consider, but the great mechanics allow you to play your way. It’s a real shame how some mechanics were poorly implemented, but the gameplay is better than your average beat em up. I definitely suggest this to any anime fan in general or fans of Ninja Gaiden like games.
[Editor’s Note: Saint Seiya Sanctuary Battle was reviewed on the Playstation 3.]Saint Seiya Sanctuary Battle (Import) Review,