Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
It’s safe to say by now that Namco Bandai has become the driving force behind the publication of video games based on popular anime. Shonen anime, in particular. Whether it’s Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, or One Piece, if it’s popular and jam-packed with people beating one another up, then it’s probably got a video game based on it. And if there’s a video game based on it, then Bandai Namco is probably the publishing it. In my opinion, they do very well with this. It’s even gotten to the point that (and judge me if you must) “anime + video game + Bandai Namco” is an equation that instantly puts a game on my radar. I’ve come to expect a lot from them. And that’s ultimately what led me to be so let down with what The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia had to offer.
Man With a Mission
The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia is, by all accounts, a re-telling of Season 1 of the SDS anime (and presumably the manga, too). The game begins with protagonist Meliodas speaking with a confused-looking girl who had just woken up after sauntering into Meliodas’ pub wearing a rusty suit of armor and collapsing. The girl introduces herself as Elizabeth, and explains that her kingdom was recently overthrown by its own protectors — the Holy Knights — and that she is currently seeking a group of knights known as The Seven Deadly Sins in order to help her fight back. Conveniently enough, Meliodas himself is a Deadly Sin. And, what’s more, he’s also on a mission to find the rest of his crew. After realizing that their goals align perfectly, the two commit to traveling together — hopeful that they’ll come across the remaining six Deadly Sins and defeat the Holy Knights.
From what I can tell, this game doesn’t get anything objectively wrong. All of the major plot points are there, and the dialogue seems to follow that of the anime’s. The real issue, however, is the fact that covering “major plot points” is as deep as the game gets. And I put that in quotes because it doesn’t even do that correctly. While everything vital to Season 1’s plot is there, it’s only there in the most technical sense. The game brazenly rushes through its own plot, never stopping to fully explain things. It seems to assume that you already know everything there is to know about what’s happening, adopting an almost devil-may-care attitude toward filling the player in. Even worse is the fact that it shamelessly glosses over the finer parts of the story — the parts that truly help shape The Seven Deadly Sins and its colorful cast.
I’ve always been under the impression that video game tie-ins to a series are there to supplement said series. They’re not there to take over for an anime and manga, but rather to help you enjoy them even more. In most cases, I’ve found this to be true. Usually when I play an “anime game”, it’s because I like the series. I’m even willing to admit (at the risk of fandom damnation) that I started watching Sword Art Online specifically because I enjoyed SAO: Hollow Realization — my first-ever SAO experience — so much. But there doesn’t seem to be any of that with Knights of Britannia. Rather than enthralling me with a playable anime adventure, much of the game felt rushed and empty when it came to narrative aspects. Had I not already known what was going on, I would have been absolutely clueless — and probably not wanting to learn more.
Face my Wrath
Knights of Britannia seems to fall decidedly in-between the realms of 3D fighter and 3D beat-em-up without ever totally committing to either. Combat is easy to learn, allowing players to perform weak, strong, and ranged attacks, along with access to three unique magic attacks, which require Magic (MP) to use, and powerful Special Attacks. Players are also given access to several defensive maneuvers, including the ability to teleport directly behind their enemy. However, since most of these also deplete the Magic Gauge, they require somewhat a somewhat strategic use. While Knights of Britannia doesn’t feature the most in-depth combat I’ve ever seen, I have to give what depth is there some applause. By offering players a decent selection of attacks and defensive maneuvers without becoming overly complex, the game does actually manage to allow (if only partial) access to both beat-em-up and fighter genres.
Unfortunately, while combat mechanics are fine, the controls are a different story. For some reason, this game has a huge issue with character movement and direction. Generally, when you begin a combo, the game locks your direction. You also can’t change direction until you’re completely done with your attack. And, on top of that, if you begin a new attack too quickly, your character won’t face your enemy — leaving you completely open. This, combined with a complete lack of cancels, makes combat feel feel incredibly clunky and dated. The game’s lack of fluidity is very easy to trip over. And it’s something you most likely won’t ever fully adjust to.
Then, of course, there are the characters themselves. Credit where credit is due; the roster looks great. Knights of Britannia manages to include most characters from the first season, as well as a few extras like Escanor. Even better is their diversity. Knights of Britannia divides each character into one of three groups; Speed, Power, and Magic. Speed characters, despite the name, are actually what you would call “normal”, and are well-balanced. Power characters, of course, are strong. They’re also really slow. Other than that, however, they’re also pretty normal. Magic characters are the real odd ones out. They’re typically flat-out better than other characters, and can use a number of unique attacks, but it comes at a cost; everything is a spell. This means that, once you’re out of Magic, you’re subject to a few seconds of helplessly defending and running away while you recover.
Classes aside, many characters are unique in their own right. Some characters, like Meliodas, can perform counters. Others, like Aldrich, can use Magic to buff themselves. Considering the game features 20+ playable characters, there’s a surprising amount of variance between most of them. Being able to play around with each of the game’s characters and learning how to utilize them effectively is definitely one of the most fun and rewarding things about this game.
Players will spend the duration of the game’s Adventure Mode traveling Britannia (which is really nice-looking, for a world map) via the Boar Hat, frequently stopping at various villages and other landmarks in order to take on quests. Quests, contrary to the name, are actually just levels, and primarily take one of two forms. First, there are quests that require you to defeat hordes of enemies. These generally aren’t too difficult, and amount to little more than spamming whichever attack is the most effective for a minute or so. There’s also the fact that Knights of Britannia only includes about 5 different enemies throughout the entire game, meaning that you shouldn’t ever find yourself thrown off by newly introduced baddies. Later on, the game also throws demons into the mix. This helps a little, but isn’t enough to completely break the pre-established horde-hunting tedium.
Second, and most prominently, are character battles. In contrast with the first quest type, these will have you engaging in battles with other characters from the Seven Deadly Sins universe in 1v1, 1v2, or 2v2 formats. For all the complaints that I’ve had thus far, I found myself enjoying these bouts overall. No, they’re not the most pulse-pounding fights video game brawls I’ve ever encountered, but they still require effort. You can’t win by mashing the attack button — there’s legitimate challenge thrown into quite a few of them.
Seeing as how this game features fast-paced, level-based gameplay it’s only natural that it would also include a ranking system. This works as you would expect. At the end of each level, the game takes your Appeal Points (points gained while in the level), slaps on bonuses based on remaining time, remaining health, and highest combo, and assigns a rank (from C – S) based on total score. Unlike many other games, rank is actually important. Completing certain levels nets you something called “Hearsay”, which is needed in order to unlock certain quests. The higher your rank, the more hearsay you’ll gain. It isn’t necessary to S-Rank every level (or even any level), in order to beat the main story. Still, I always appreciate games that add in extra incentives like this that push you to do your very best.
The Only Sin is Mediocrity
I’m not quite sure if The Seven Deadly Sins knows what it wants to be. I don’t think that it’s bad. In fact, I had fun with it, and I think that other Seven Deadly Sins fans may as well. So long as they can overlook several glaring faults, that is. This game seems to want to go in a few different directions simultaneously. And it almost manages to accomplish this, too. However, in a world where games like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory are the Bandai Namco norm, The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia doesn’t live up to what it could have been.
FINAL VERDICT: 3/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Bandai Namco ; Developer: Natsume Atari ; Players: 1 – 2 (Local), 2 – 4 (Online) ; Released: February 9, 2018 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.