In Japan, tie-ins seem to be big business - popular games spawn TV shows and even films (Pokemon anyone?), popular anime and manga series spawn their own games, and almost everything that becomes even remotely popular seems to get a spin off of some sort. And nowhere is this more true than for animes, with a spate of anime-related tie-ins coming out of the beefy Japanese games house, Bandai Namco. The latest anime tie-in (and one that we really ought to get round to watching) is The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia, a hack and slash game that features a talking pig, some sinning, and more porcine humour than you can shake a ham hock at.
Set in a faux medieval past, all is not well in the kingdom of Britannia - the Holy Knights, supposed protectors of the realm, have staged a coup d'etat, capturing and overthrowing their king, before ruling the kingdom in his stead with a tyrannical iron fist. Having fled during the storming of the castle, Princess Elizabeth sets off to try and locate the legendary Seven Deadly Sins, a group of dangerous outlaw knights who are her only hope of besting the Holy Knights and restoring peace to the lands. The only problem is, no-one has seen hide nor hair of the Sins since they disappeared one fateful day ten years ago…
That is, until Elizabeth wanders into a mysterious bar - the Boar Hat - and stumbles upon their leader, Meliodas, who just so happens to be trying to round up the old gang himself. Together with the help of his sassy talking pig companion, Hawk, they set about tracking the remaining Sins down, keeping a careful ear out for any gossip heard while serving the pub's patrons. Rumours soon lead them to the locations of the lady giant Diane, bad boy immortal Ban and the kindly fairy King, battling many a Holy Knight along the way, as the details of their mysterious and much-rumoured past starts to come to light. The story itself is almost a carbon copy of that which you find in the manga and accompanying anime series, except now it's you stepping into the shoes of Meliodas and co, and doing all the fighting.
All the action here has been streamlined into quick-fire button-mashing battle stages, each of which is a simple clear-out-all-the-bad-guys-to-win affair, whether it be a hundred Holy Knights, a scuffle against semi-bad guy Gilthunder or clearing out some vicious wolves that have wandered too close to a village. Combat is really rather basic, mixing up strong and weak attacks with a few magical spells (if applicable - not all characters have them) and the odd special attack or co-operative move, until everything is defeated. Different characters have their own unique moves, weapons and skills, whether it's Meliodas' swift and speedy sword strikes or Diane's slower giant-sized stomps that can take out large swathes of enemies in one go, adding some much-needed variety to the pretty same-y missions. Generally speaking you'll blast through each mission first time, as none of the main quests are especially taxing, although every so often you'll come across an anomalously hard side mission - usually one where you need to take out a huge army of Holy Knights within a surprisingly tight time limit, or a one-on-one battle with a character that barely lets you get a move in edgeways.
Occasionally, Elizabeth will take it upon herself to go and gather ingredients for the tavern, ready for Meliodas to turn into yet another questionable dish. Given her general lack of combat prowess, these stages work a little differently, as the nimble princess quick-marches around a small area, harvesting ingredients from the glowing spots spread all over. However, as she's a wanted lady, all too often you'll find yourself having to contend with a few Holy Knights - which is where your porky guardian Hawk comes in. At the press of a button, Hawk will zip off and ram enemies into extinction, letting you carry on picking berries in peace. Admittedly, its not really much of a mission, picking provisions from half a dozen spots on a small map, but still - it's a bit of a break from the button-mashing.
In between the beat 'em up stages, you'll find yourself piloting Meliodas' portable pub-on-the-back-of-a-pig, the Boar Hat, across the map, taking on any random side missions you find along the way. Said side missions will earn you useful materials once you've completed them, which can then be made into items with which to equip your fighters, perhaps boosting defence, upping magic damage or increasing Elizabeth's health points when foraging, with a skill tree of sorts determining what you can create.
One of The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia's more interesting concepts is that of Gossip Points. By completing quests, pulling off fancy moves in battle and generally being a good egg, more people will flock to your tavern each night, and if you get a few pints down them, you might hear some interesting titbits of information. Reaching various milestones for gossip in each key area will unlock new missions, both critical story quests and bonus side missions, for you to complete. Don't worry through, as it's nigh on impossible to not amass enough Gossip to open up the next story-critical mission, as long as you're completing all the main quests along the way - despite its attempts to appear to the contrary, Knights of Britannia is still very much a linear story from start to finish.
In all, then, The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia is your typical tie-in game, yet one that's fun enough nonetheless. It does a decent enough job of hitting all the key plot points of the anime, and has a good go at squeezing in a smattering of the comedy, banter and hijinx fans will be familiar with. However, as the missions do all tend to be a bit samey, mostly consisting of simple beat-up-all-the-bad-guys button-mashing-athons, it's a game thats not bad in short bursts, but which is sadly a bit too repetitive for longer runs. For fans of the series, or those who want something a bit lighter to dip into from time to time, its not a bad game, but it can feel a little unbalanced at times, with an occasional too-hard mission thrown in along the way. Still, this is a game you'll play more for the story, and the characters, than because of anything phenomenally stand-out about the gameplay.