Saint Seiya: The Sanctuary is a fighting game based on the Saint Seiya franchise and follows the "Gold Saint Saga" of the TV series. The player takes the role of a Saint Seiya who has to save the life of the Goddess of Peace Athena. To do that he has to visit twelve temples representing the astrological signs.
The gameplay of each level is divided into two parts: Reaching the palace and defeating the Gold Saint. The former is a traditional hack & slash game where the player fights against hordes of enemies. He has the standard move repertoire to his disposal: regular attacks, dodging, blocking and special attacks. For the latter the player needs a certain amount of power in a special energy bar - it decreases with every special attack and increases if the player is hit. When reaching the temple the game switches to a one to one fighting game style. The basic gameplay stays the same but if the special energy bar is filled to the max the play can use an extremely powerful attack which results in a typical anime cutscene. But it is not without downsides: the enemy can block the attack by mastering a quicktime event (pressing a button in the exact moment it appears on screen). Then he starts an equally powerful counter attack which results in a sequence where both players need to mash buttons - if the counter attack is successful depends on which player is faster. If the life energy of one opponent is empty a similar sequence starts.
The multiplayer part is restricted to the one against one fighting style.