Although many European and American gamers may believe otherwise, Bleach is no stranger to the world of video games. Since 2005, a vast array of titles have graced systems like the Game Boy Advance, Playstation Portable, Playstation 2 and even the Nintendo GameCube. So where are all these games? Why, they're stuck in Japan, of course! Thankfully all of that has changed with the release of two fighting games; Blade of Fate on the DS and Shattered Blade on the Wii. We reviewed the latter earlier this week, but how does the former hold up?
Bleach, a popular manga that has now spawned a television series, tells the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, a high school student who runs into Rukia Kuchiki, a shinigami ('Death God' or 'Soul Reaper') who inadvertently provides him with special powers that allow him to, among other things, see the dead and kick a lot of ass. After a series of events which we won't go into here, Rukia returns to her home in the 'Soul Society' and is subsequently sentenced to death as punishment for the aforementioned power-transferral, but not before Ichigo and his chums set off to save her. It is here that The Blade of Fate kicks off (the story mode, anyway) and where we will begin to discuss the finer points of the game and whether or not it's worth your hard-earned clams. So, let's get started!
Upon first viewing, the in-game screen(s) can look rather intimidating. There are status bars all over the place and the touch-screen is full of panels with phrases like 'Sp.A' and 'Lower S-Power' written on them. Thankfully the controls are nice and simple simple in comparison, so we'll start with those. Each playable character (of which there are nearly 30!) can perform a light, medium and heavy attack as well as a flash step, guard, throw and line change (see below). The first three can be used on their own or in conjunction to perform (RF) special and super attacks. This is where those trusty status bars come into play. There are three in all: Soul (health), Spiritual Pressure (fills after successful hits), and Spiritual Power (fills gradually). Special attacks can be performed with no Spiritual Power (but are less powerful), whereas super attacks are completely dependant on having sufficient Spiritual Pressure.
Only attacks that are equal to or stronger than their predecessors can be chained together to create seamless combos. For example; it's possible perform a light, medium, heavy, special, RF special, and super attack in quick succession provided you have enough Spiritual Power/Pressure. The game even offers examples of more complex combos and tests your ability to perform them in the Challenge Mode. It's this hierarchical combat system that is key to the game's depth and long-lasting appeal for experienced fighting fans. Whilst it's certainly possible for newcomers to enjoy the game (those mysterious panels we mentioned earlier are actually shortcuts to performing combos without the need for well-timed button presses ? perfect for beginners, but mostly useless for advanced gamers attempting to string together attacks seamlessly), those looking for a deeper fighting experience can rest assured that Blade of Fate has you covered as well.
A solid and deep combat system that rewards strategic thinking as well as quick reflexes, even if four player battles often inspire button mashing. Touch screen controls are a great way to ease the learning curve for those not immediately ready for complex button combos.
Gorgeous 2D sprite-work, animations and effects. Detailed backgrounds that don't distract from the action, but nevertheless look great. Honestly, this is probably the best looking 2D fighter on the DS.
The usual smashes and crashes that come with a fighting game are nothing to write home about, but voice samples and music tracks ripped straight from the English version of the TV series surely are.
A boatload of content is tucked away in this little cartridge. A wealth of single and multiplayer modes are backed by hundreds of unlockable Spirit Cards, outfit colors, graphics, and music/voice samples. Oh yeah, and there's a great online infrastructure that will keep you entertained for hours and hours. Or something like that.
Bleach: The Blade of Fate is a game that could be stripped of its anime roots and still be a great fighter. Whether you're a fan of the series or of the genre (or both!) you're in for a treat. The solid combat system is decorated with tons of playable characters, modes and unlockables as well as gorgeous visuals and authentic audio, with very little in the way of noticeable flaws. If 2D fighters have never really been your cup of tea, then there's very little to change your mind here, but for everyone else ? we heartily recommend this product!
Spot on review Spydarless. Great work. I imported this game when I first came to Japan and loved it! A great fighting game on the DS, regardless of like or dislike for the anime series.
Or can you import the 2nd game with MORE characters and modes.
Thanks for the comments guys. "Spot on," eh? Not bad.
That is a shame, Adam. I don't follow the charts all that much, but I would have expected it to do better than that!
I don't usually pursue fighters on a regular basis (I love the Soul Calibur series, but that's about it), so for this game to win me over is quite an achievement for Treasure.
ďOr can you import the 2nd game with MORE characters and modes.Ē
Or wait a little while longer for the U.S release in August - trust Europe to be left behind once again, though!