Bleach: The 3rd Phantom (Nintendo DS) Review

By Shane Jury 14.03.2010

Review for Bleach: The 3rd Phantom on Nintendo DS

From a popular series focused on Sword and Magic Fights, Good vs. Evil, and Rescuing a Fair Maiden from the clutches of the bad guys, you expect the usual videogame tie-in, and depending on the developer in question, an enjoyable one. For its portable renditions, Bleach has been very lucky, as it has been put in the hands of 2D geniuses Treasure for the past two outings on Nintendo’s DS, and both have managed to tick all the right boxes for fighting games. For The 3rd Phantom, publisher SEGA has decided on a different developer for Bleach’s first foray into the realm of strategy titles. How does Gaming Industry veteran Tom Create manage with Kurosaki and company?

First thing to address; the story. For some die-hard fans, this will be the most important factor in buying a tie-in, and the mention of Bleach’s creator Tite Kubo writing the story for The 3rd Phantom will be a pulse-racer for many. Thankfully, unlike the filler arcs of the modern day anime for whenever it outstretches the manga, this game’s story actually goes toe-to-toe with the current established plotlines, all the while carving out its own path with new characters and events. Some players may scoff at a couple of the inconsistencies, but the end result is no less entertaining, if a little too grounded with text scenes. The chance to see established Bleach characters in their younger years will certainly be an enticement to many.

When starting, you will be given the choice of taking control of a male or female Soul Reaper, and while this choice doesn’t seem to have much importance at first, later on you will be choosing the form of your character’s Shikai (and ultimately Bankai), and guiding them through the story when they are separated from their twin. The plotline takes place both in the days of Urahara’s captaincy, and later on when the Arrancar invade the Human world, so it ties in nicely with Manga and Anime events, although the game does place rather too much emphasis on the story, and less on the combat itself.

Speaking of combat, as aforementioned, this game is the first in the line of Bleach games to take a strategy route. Viewed via an isometric 2D style that the DS can pull off so well, you will start off with a select number of troops/fighters, and manoeuvre them around the field each turn, with enemy contact initiating battle; bringing up a brawling screen highly reminiscent of the earlier fighter games.

What initially seems a mass of simplicity yields surprising hidden depth; each character has one of three main alignments of strength that work in a Rock/Paper/Scissors fashion of affecting attack power, and many have skills useable with a sufficient amount of ability points. A well-known element of the Bleach universe, Spiritual Pressure, is also in abundance here, as you can use your turn to absorb the Renshi on the field to build your character’s meter up; handy for extra attacks, and depending on the character, breaking into a more powerful Bankai mode. Team attacks are also possible, depending on your character’s relationships with others (changeable outside of battle), and provided you have placed them close together on the battlefield; also handy to help defend against enemy attacks. It is an elegant system, that whilst paling in comparison to other such games like, say, Advance Wars, or Fire Emblem, does well on its own merits, and fans will certainly enjoy it, even if progress is rather slow.

Screenshot for Bleach: The 3rd Phantom on Nintendo DS

One thing that will perplex players, and understandably so, is the way the game completely ignores the existence of the DS’s touch-screen. For grid-based mechanics, touch controls seem like the perfect method for movement and selection, so it is a glaring omission here; though that is not to fault the regular button setup, as it works just fine in practice.
When not battling, and following the storyline through text cutscenes, you can select certain scenes to view and progress the plot along, with each providing a number of steps for Kon the Mod Soul to take across the top screen; a wrong number of steps might lead to a pitfall, so careful planning is key. Certain scenes may also reward you with items, or positive effects for the next battle, so while lengthy they can be beneficial to watch.

Retaining the style of Treasure’s games, the highly detailed and effective spritework on offer here aids the feel of the game immensely, and every familiar character has been captured perfectly in look, attribute, and ability. Variety in environments and cutscene portraits leave something to be desired, but for the most part they do the job, all the while leaving the fights to provide the eye candy with spells and weapon effects.

A great number of voice samples litter 3rd Phantom, all of which match their anime equivalent and provide that extra air of authenticity. Regular music is acceptable at best, with the main theme, created just for this game, a particular highlight in general.

Being a slow-paced strategy title, you would expect 3rd Phantom to last a while, and in this regard it does not disappoint. An RPG-esque levelling-up system ensures repeat play for extra points to use on strengthening abilities and gaining new skills, and the main campaign is rather lengthy in itself, even if the main reason for that is overly-long text scenes. The choice of a Boy or Girl player at the start of the game determines a different path for the plot, so Bleach enthusiasts will almost certainly be playing twice, and groups of fans will certainly get a kick out of the multiplayer features. The DS fighters still hold the crown for definitive Bleach action on the nimble handheld, but this is an admirable first effort, that will hopefully see it issues addressed for the next outing.

Screenshot for Bleach: The 3rd Phantom on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

A brave attempt at a new direction for Bleach games that stumbles at key points. A worthy consideration for those looking for either a decent strategy title or a means of getting into the series, or alternatively die-hard Bleach fans wanting more back-story for the series, but gamers that fit into neither category can safely by-pass this one.

Developer

Tom Create

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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