I will admit I have a love hate relationship with anime. That doesn’t mean to say I completely dismiss the genre, for every Bleach, Naruto and Dragon Ball Z that my more anime obsessed friends like to talk about with great detail that bores me to tears, there’s a Deadman Wonderland or a Psycho Pass that keeps me interested. Seven Deadly Sins is one such anime.
It has a nice mixture of action and comedy that doesn’t make the whole experience too jarring to watch. Upon hearing that a video game was coming out in tandem with the second season, it begged the question; would a game based on an anime that was not afraid to dip into the tropes of action and high explosions translate well in a video game medium? In reality, it should have done a great job, but only if you wanted a game that struggles with identity and suffers from constantly dropping frame rate.
For those who want a brief description of the show’s first season, it’s a simple concept to follow: Princess Elizabeth has escaped her home to track down the Seven Deadly Sins, a group of vagabond super knights who are on the run from the kingdom of Liones for supposed treason against the king. They are the only knights who could save the kingdom from a group of tyrannical holy knights who are abusing their power. Upon finding the sin of wrath Meliodas and his pig companion, Hawk, the three protagonists set out on an epic quest to find the rest of the deadly sins and bring balance to the kingdom.
To the game’s credit, it does follow the anime plot very closely. However, it seems that Natsume-Atari were trying not to rock the boat, fearing a stark reaction from over-reactive fans complaining that the plot isn’t exactly the same. It is a bit of a shame that it doesn’t deviate from the beaten track, taking away the episodes that are more conversation-based in order to set up the more action packed episodes. In this game’s case, you’re often relegated to “cutscenes” where you’re essentially wading through chunks of dialogue. You need to know the anime to actually know what’s going on, which isn’t a problem if you’re a fan, but others are just going to end up very confused. I always felt the idea of basing a video game on another medium should help rope in new fans, but if this was Natsume-Atari’s intention, then they failed.
The overall presentation of the game is nice to look at. Thankfully, we now live in a world where cel-shaded graphics no longer look like Madame Tussauds during a heatwave. Unfortunately, the attention to detail for the plot and its presentation are probably the nicest aspects of the game. The rest of it, while not horrendous, was just dull and tedious. The game is spent travelling around in the Boar Hat on an overhead map as you go from region to region, town to town, discovering new missions, side plots, battles, trials, and errands to help buff up your party with perks such as extra strength or defense. To be honest, I managed to get through a good portion of the game without needing them or seeing much difference, it was only when the difficulty goes up anywhere over 4 stars that I recommend the extra perks.
Battles and boss fights have pretty much the same strategy to them; square button does light attacks, triangle does heavy attacks, pressing R1 with either triangle, square or circle does a magic attack. You then build up your meter to unleash a special attack using R2 and watch the frame rates plunge dramatically as your screen fills up with enough explosions and bright lights to give enough power for a small village. Rinse and repeat. It’s merely a case of button mashing your way to victory. Each battle is then graded on your fight style and how much of the battle arena you managed to destroy, which then fills out a rumour meter that helps unlock further side quests.
I may have forgiven Dissidia Final Fantasy NT for its button mash-a-thon, but that was because it had a lot more going on that it could be forgiven. Knights of Britannia, in stark contrast, doesn’t. Combine that with one of the worst targeting systems I have come across in a while makes for an experience that is frustrating to play. As missions go on and you discover more of the seven deadly sin knights, there are opportunities to play as other classes, but again it makes little difference, unless you are playing as Ban or King, who in my opinion were the better characters to play as.
Hell, Hawk the pig and his side missions were actually pretty fun and was surprisingly badass to play. I felt that there was more effort put into these 3 characters and perhaps that was because in some circles, they are the fan favourites of the anime. Compared to other characters, their response times were more punctual, their combat style was more fluid and Hawk’s special move of having the whole Boar Hat Inn drop on your opponent gave me a chuckle.
Should you want to put in an effort to grind and buff your party up as best as possible you can go off into side missions that generally consist of “here’s X amount of enemies that need to be beaten in a 150 second time limit – go forth and make us proud”. It’s pretty much a tepid version of Dynasty Warriors without the fun or the frenzy. There are side missions where you can play as the holy knights in some loose form of breaking tedium, but the only other variety on offer is in the form of fetch quests.
I will give Knights of Britannia some credit for their sheer honesty in calling them fetch quests. These quests consist of you playing as Princess Elizabeth running around the same maps collecting resources for the Boar Hat Inn while soldiers try to attack you. You can’t attack back, but you have the ever trusty Hawk to help in battle, providing he doesn’t get in the way and trust me, he does, much more than I care to admit.
The biggest criticism of Knights of Britannia is that it has a huge identity crisis. As I racked up hours of playtime, I kept asking myself “what is this game trying to be”? It was made clear fairly quickly that I don’t think even Natsume-Atari knew what they wanted. Throw in a genre here, pepper another genre there and fans will eat it up.
As cynical as that last statement may have been, it’s a criticism that the game cannot escape as it ends up ruining the overall experience of this anime adaptation. The video game treatment could have been a fun little reminder of the first season for fans and an interesting concept for new fans, to entice them to pick up the show, but that’s not the case.
There are only so many times I can creatively describe a video game as boring as Knights of Britannia. It’s like watching a stripper on the weekend: nice to look at, gives you some form of exotic dance to enjoy if they’re your type, but you will walk away feeling a little nonplussed, a little sordid and filled with the horrible feeling that there were indeed better ways to spend your £40. If you’re a hardcore fan of the show to the point where even your parents are a little worried, then sure, it’s a nice addition to the collection. For everyone else lower down the fandom spectrum, save your money for something else and just watch the anime on Netflix. It’s far more entertaining.
A masterclass in playing it safe. The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia is nice to look at, it follows the plot of the anime very well but offers little else in terms of risk, reward or fun. Unless you’re a fan of the anime, this is a tough one to sell.