Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac Burned a path into Gamescom 2019 this year and we got time with publisher Yoozoo games to take a close look at the upcoming mobile RPG.
For anybody who does not recognize the name, Saint Seiya is a renowned Japanese franchise. Developed by Masami Kurumada and Toei Animation, this animated adventure quickly rose to cult status after it launched in the late 1980s. The story focuses on an orphan named Seiya and his powerful Cosmos. Intertwined with a group of powerful beings known as the Saints, Seiya is dragged into a battle for survival. Now the growing popularity of anime on a global scale has allowed fans of the series to return to the stars in more than one way. While Netflix has opted for a re-imagining of the 1986 original, CGI effects and all, Yoozoo Games partnered with developer Tencent and Kurumada and played to their strengths, crafting a mobile RPG that harks back to my childhood.
Already out in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, Saint Seiya Awakening has racked up some impressive numbers. Upon its release, the mobile RPG managed to land the title of top-grossing RPG in these territories. Now, the team behind it hope they can do the same when it arrives on iOS and Android in the west. We sat down with Yoozoo Games to find out why they wanted to bring Saint Seiya to gamers and found out that it had nothing to do with the recent Netflix interest.
“There’s no relationship between the series and our title. A lot of people are seeing a resurgence in anime. Both ourselves and Netflix is a reflection of a demand from fans.” – Yoozoo Games
While the latest Netflix series is a new take on the series, this RPG makes use of the franchise as fans remember it. Players that know the Saint Seiya series will return to the original storyline, with a few added extras, and get to experience the anime story arcs in a brand new way. Starting up the game for the first time, it is clear that this version of the title is a much more authentic recreation of the first Toei title than the new Netflix series. The soundtrack is a remastered edition of the original and the graphics might even have 3D elements, but all the character designs are consistent with my very long memory. Fans of the first adaptation might have to settle for a new voice cast, but this game doesn’t waste any time going for broke. The Japanese voice cast on this game includes Yuuki Kaji, who voiced Eren in Attack on Titan, and Maaya Sakamoto, prominent for voicing Lightning in Final Fantasy titles. There are even more noteworthy voice actors involved and the result is an audio experience that feels top tier. It screams to be heard and is matched by an impressive animated aesthetic.
More Than One Dimension
When the title isn’t scrolling along as an interactive novel, the game drops into 3D combat. Reminiscent of something you might expect to see in a game like Dragonball FighterZ without quite as much bluster, the line shaded characters are heavily drawn from the anime and utterly impressive for a mobile game. The first time I saw characters break out into battle, I thought I was watching a rendered cut scene. This graphical prowess is largely due to Yozoo Game’s experience with titles like the League of Angels franchise, learning how to craft impressive digital titles onto more and more mobile platforms. While Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of The Zodiac produces some serious nostalgia it doesn’t always stray too far away from the established RPG tropes.
All The Saints
I only got a short glimpse of Saint Seiya Awakening, so I can#’t speak for the entire title but the classic story and combat combo are in place and players will have to build a team of Saint’s to get past obstacles. When combat breaks out you’ll find a turn-based sim in front of you that plays out in a realistic 3D environment. Each character in your team will display a small range of abilities at the bottom of the screen. Selecting combat skills and executing them against enemies is not any more difficult than you’d find in other games like Lineage Revolutions. Simply choose a target, select a skill, and watch the mayhem unfold. Pick the right moment and you can even unlock a Saint’s Seventh Sense, an ultimate ability that can turn the tide of battle. Even better, these skills are at least consistent, if not exactly, as fans would expect for each from their favorite characters. With a reverenced approach to the design and a responsive combat system, I couldn’t help being a little excited for a game that even managed slick performance on an old iPhone.
While combat and team composition has its own idiosyncrasies, it still feels like a standard deck building mechanic. Yoozoo confirmed that hundreds of saints exist, each with distinct abilities and upgrade paths. Fighting your way through each of the game’s enemy encounters depends on a team and the right configuration will make life easier, as you’d expect. While each of the Saints just about fit into a number of roles, there appears to be a good variety of skills providing players with several strategic options. With so many Saints to choose from it might spark worries that this is going to be a vertical progression grind but Yoozoo are aware of this and have confirmed that monetization should simply be a convenience and cosmetic facility. While this is going to be one of our major checkboxes on release, it won’t put us off quite yet.
There’s plenty more to check out in Saint Seiya Awakening too. PvP is open to anybody who wants to test their own mettle although this won’t be the main focus of development. The Saint Seiya Awakening team have taken the extensive access they had to the original Toei Animation and crafted a game that has me far more excited than the other recent adaptation. If you only burn your Cosmos once this year, do it in this game and defeat the old gods on the go.
We will be taking a deeper dive into Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac when it goes live. For now, you can pre-register for release over at the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store. Alternatively, check out the official website.