Those even moderately familiar with old-school Japanese anime should be aware of Saint Seiya. This series concerns itself with a group of Saints sworn to defend the reincarnation of the Greek goddess Athena in her battle against the other Olympian gods who wish to dominate Earth.
It still holds weight now in Japan as a highly popular anime classic. That's why this game exists. Mainly geared towards fans of the anime, the game's story is approachable for anyone coming to it for the first time.. Athena, a goddess (in mortal form, it seems), is struck by an arrow and time is running out to save her. Her five saints, all men – one of whom is somewhat androgynous, are on a mission to defeat 12 Gold Saints, each themed on the Western zodiac signs, and find the one who can reverse this magical death arrow.
And this is when the game part starts and mixed feelings begin.
It’s slightly jarring to see the cutscenes all rendered in 3D, rather than a traditional 2D style befitting of the anime source material. Obviously this was intended to mesh well with the 3D style of the game, but the cutscenes would have been better suited to a 2D style that would've been a great deal more visually fluid. As a game based on anime it should feel like an anime, at least in the parts merely watched. As an aside, the music has a rocking ‘80s anime feel that exudes heroism and epic adventure, so it's a nice touch.
The action in the game is its selling point, and it's really quite impressive – for the first level at least. By the third level, and aside from a few differences in the boss battles, it soon becomes wearingly mechanical. The formula is this: fight a lot of enemies at once. Get a cutscene that shows the rest of the Saints doing their thing. Fight a boss. The boss realises the Saint better than he thought. Fight him again but with more gusto. Cutscene. Rinse and repeat. So it’s predictable, but the mindless hack-n-slash feel suits the game well. Spell effects look and feel solid, if easy to execute, and the ability to dodge and enter a 'seventh-sense' time shift where the Saint can take his time to blow apart foes is also well done.
The cast of characters initially appears to have differing personalities, but soon they just end up being 'sword-guy', 'blond-guy', 'guy-with-fabulous-chain', and so on. The characters are definitely fan service, but as a newcomer, they appear to blend together into one heroic mish-mash.
The game itself isn't an epic, and can comfortably be finished within a few sittings. There are also supplementary modes such as challenges and missions. The feel is similar to another anime adaptation, Bleach: Soul Resurrection, released a few months ago.
Saint Seiya is enjoyable in a "hack-n-slash with pretty spell effects" kind of way, but it doesn't have enough narrative depth. Those who enjoy big stacks-on style battles may find something worth checking out, and the ‘80s anime music to rock gives in a further air of authenticity, but by and large, this is one for fans only.