As if the stars couldn't anticipate this return!
Saint Seiya was, in my world, never one of the "big" anime franchise players. It never reached the heights of the Dragonball variations or earned the genuine affection of Sailor Moon, but all of the hallmarks of a great anime are there. Incomprehensible storyline? Check. Too many characters to keep track of? Check. People constantly dying (or seemingly dying) only to be magically resurrected to keep the story going? Oh, just give me the damn marker already. I'll just keep checking off boxes.
Saint Seiya: Brave Warriors consists of three different storylines that all involve the main cast—Seiya, the other guys, the one I think is a fella but sounds like a lady and wears pink armor—saving Athena from all kinds of troublesome situations involving other Saints. There are multiple different classes of the Saints, and Seiya and his friends are all from the Bronze tier (which is odd that the Goddess of Wisdom would rely on the weakest warriors under her command to save her) battling the bastardry of the Gold and God-level generals.
The little bit of story that's followable? The goddess Athena is about to die (needs food badly?) and the Saints need to save her—specifically the Bronze Saints because every other Saint (Silver and Gold) is corrupt, corrupted, or just a bastard in super-shiny armor. It's the eternal "I'm more powerful than you so you can't hurt me" struggle of the little guy—sometimes wearing armor than only covers his or her right ear and left boob—over the forces of evil and confusing wardrobe choices. Like some awesome, manly-man tiaras with unicorns and dragons on 'em that just scream "fear me" as they wear purple spandex and the occasional "only actual armor is over my left boob."
None of that really matters, though, so long as the game keeps an engaging pace. And this one does have that. For a fighting game the playfield is massive and detailed, with some nice views when you get the chance to glance. The camera, however, is more interesting. Players aren't treated to the standard view-from-the-side angle that we've been given for the past few decades, instead relying on a sort of stationary near-far that's a bit difficult to explain. It's not exactly an over-the-shoulder view of whoever's positioned closer to the camera (with the other being anywhere, ranging from near-typical closeness to a distant speck). With the exception of a few characters with incredibly wide range—one character wields chains that can extend what looks like half of the playfield—the depth keeps things dynamic. It makes running away easier to do, which is irritating, but at least it's interesting.
The main problem is the level of button-mashiness that comes about on a regular basis. I'm not a top-level fighting game player, but I only lost a small handful of rounds against the AI and never on a regular basis. When two of the three "regular use" buttons are combo starters it becomes unnecessary to use too many of the other techniques; only when I was challenged to do so was I bothering with throws or the strong multiple-press strikes. With the exception of the Seventh Sense attack (a super that's charged up and released with a single button) that relies on an opponent being so close you're basically making out, and the second-plus of charge time to pull off a special attack like this, they're not as useful as they should be. Sure, they do a lot of damage, but they leave you open for far too long to make them viable for regular use.
Fighting online is a major challenge, as timing can be ridiculously quick in the button-mashing madness, but it's something I was pleasantly surprised by It isn't as perfect as a friend in the room, but it's close enough I never felt cheated by lag. Maybe I was lucky to find well-connected players. Maybe they just got lucky that I'm not very good and enjoy playing as the purple unicorn fella. I think we all had some fun with it, and that's what mattered. It can still be monotonous, though, as it always seems to go the same way… attack-counter-counter, jump back to charge up a la Goku and Vegeta, then back to the same thing. Repetitious is the word I'm looking for.
There are ways to improve your players, like purchasing and equipping Orbs that increase certain aspects and charge meters quicker, and the collectable cards unlocked throughout the story modes (there are three). They're fun to poke around with, but they're not the thing to keep a player coming back. It's the nostalgia that matters; players who might remember old episodes and armors and stories from their childhood.
Saint Seiya: Brave Warriors is fun enough for the occasional match, but there wasn't anything that held my attention for too long. I'd go as far as to say I've enjoyed it more than the various Naruto and Dragonball titles I've reviewed in the past (not that it says much), but it's still only the occasional "pick up with certain friends" kind of title with the same warning as the rest. If you remember and appreciate the anime and manga, you'll have fun. If you don't, I hope it's a gift.