There was a time early in the 32-bit generation where everybody wanted a piece of the 3-D fighting market. Success for the likes of Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Soul Blade forced developers around the world to have a crack at what was obviously the genre du jour to varying effect - Square's Tobal No. 1 rates among the more interesting, while shameless cash-ins like Star Wars: Masters Of Teras Kasi became a common sight as shops became saturated with PlayStation software.
Recently, though, the genre has more or less been left to the big dogs and it's rare to see an accomplished 3D fighter these days that isn't from the same stable as one we already play on occasion. No real surprises, then, when we say that a relatively obscure anime license and an outdated game engine don't exactly make Saint Seiya: The Hades triple-A material.
Things get off to a bad start when you learn that the three buttons assigned to low, mid and high attack all seem to strike at the same level, immediately waving goodbye to any kind of mix-up play. The remaining face button, Triangle, is used in combination with traditional fighting motions on the D-pad for special attack and most characters have at least one move here that can be abused for a cheap win. The drawback is that these basic specials cost a portion of your Cosmo gauge, a fact immediately negated by the ability to charge this bar while not in motion. Mu, for instance, can fire off a barrage of fireballs, charge the Cosmo meter while the last of them are in flight and repeat this sequence almost indefinitely against the rather haphazard CPU and worse still, we blazed through many fights by just using the X button to spam mid attacks that proved too quick to be interrupted regularly by a rather foolish opponent. Poor.
With the last wave of PS2 games pushing the proverbial boat out in terms of visuals, it's rather upsetting to see something this basic appear outside of the ‘pocket money' budget ranges. Tekken 5 and Soul Calibur 3 still look stunning today so to have The Hades barely outclassing the system's launch software from an aesthetic standpoint is shocking. The general presentation of the game just feels wrong too, with lengthy and needlessly meandering cut scenes encouraging you to put your controller down with the fighting itself offering no real incentive to pick it back up again.
Still, we'd be all too happy to play a shoddy-looking game that played wonderfully but as we've mentioned above, this is not that game. Given that it comes from the same development house as the Dragon Ball Z Budokai series, we feel justified in expecting more from a game like this in almost every single respect. It's not without its neat ideas, not that any amount of these could save such a fundamentally flawed fighter.
Opponents can be belted skywards to trigger a paper-scissors-stone minigame that determines the aftermath while the powerful supers can seemingly be made more so with quick time events appearing on screen (often for a split second) that make little sense - the CPU may as well toss a virtual coin to determine whether you end up dishing out or taking damage. The recovery system is interesting to see in a one-on-one fighter, letting a fallen character recover strength by mashing buttons as they might after hitting the canvas in the most basic of boxing games - a more skill-based mechanic here would be preferable but since we're unlikely to play this again any time soon, there's little point in moaning about it further.
Put bluntly, Saint Seiya: The Hades is a disgrace. Fans of the series may be able to look beyond the game's gaping technical shortcomings but still, all you'll find is a dated and sloppy fighting game that, to be perfectly honest, has no place in the 21st Century. The whole thing looks, plays and feels like an obscure beat-‘em-up from the PSone era that has been dredged up and had comic clippings taped to it in an effort to make a quick buck. You could most likely pick up pre-owned copies of Dead Or Alive 2, Tekken Tag, Soul Calibur 2 and Virtua Fighter 4 for the asking price of this gaming abortion, a fact which makes the purchasing decision even more clear cut. Fans deserve better and everyone else deserves to never so much as see this nonsense in motion. Simple as.