Bleach: Soul Resurreccion
Difficulty played: Medium to Very Hard (read the article for why)
Time : 2 hours for story, 15-20 hours for missions
For those who are uneducated to the world of Bleach, I will do a quick synopsis for you. Bleach is an Anime that follows the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, a Human/Soul Reaper in charge of his home town of Karakura Town in Japan. There are many battles that Ichigo has with other Soul Reapers (he is the only one that is regularly human, the others are spiritual entities) and Hollows (rotten souls that survive by devouring other souls). Out of the umpteen amounts of “arcs” available in both the Anime and the Manga, the game makers chose to focus primarily on one sequence of events, the conclusion of the Arrancar war. So how does this Dynasty Warriors style rendition of Bleach fare? Click READ MOAR to find out.
Of any possible amount of problems that could arise, the only major flaw to this game is its story and story progression (which is surprising because the Anime/Manga is VERY indepth). Granted there are not a whole lot of bad points to this game, it’s actually quite fun, but there are some items that basically require you to know the story of Bleach in order to fully enjoy. The story starts off with you as Ichigo, travelling to the base of the Arrancar’s known as Las Noches. Right off the bat the game starts off in a bad place. First off, you’re basically starting off your story about 150 episodes deep in the series. This is the very first high-end console release for Bleach and I would have thought that they would have at least started doing the series from the very beginning, alas Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, but they are basically expecting you to know exactly what has gone on in the story to get you to the place you are now. This creates a huge problem for Bleach neophytes. Also contributing to this issue is the actual story progression which skips over many key parts of the story. While there is a prologue before each episode, it still doesn’t fully explain the story that the creators are skating over leaving many gaps. Not to mention that the US is not caught up to Japan in terms of story so there are a LOT of people that will play this game and basically move about 100 episodes ahead of where they have currently seen (I’ve watched the Japanese episodes online and am caught up with the manga, but I’m sure that I’m not the majority of people that will want to play this game). The last issue, which has a huge impact on the game, is the length of the story mode in the game. THE STORY MODE IS ONLY 14 LEVELS LONG!!!!!!! The conclusion of the Arrancar war took years to play out in the Anime/Manga and yet this game pretty much boils it down to about 2 hours worth of story line (pretty much a slap in the face to the creator, Kubo Tite, and the fans that have followed this series).
Ok, enough with harping on the lack of story; let’s get to the heart of the game. If you ask the other writers here, the story is really one of the only aspects of the game that I disliked and I feel that the rest of the game makes up for this nightmare that you get thrust into right off the bat. The real meat and potatoes of the game has to do with leveling up the characters you play as and completing the 25 additional missions that can be found in mission mode and competing for the online high score in the 6 “Soul Attack” missions. You collect “Soul Points” as you go and spend them for leveling up your character. Leveling up, I’ll tell you, is basically a rip-off of the Final Fantasy X Sphere Grid. You don’t get any new moves as you progress, but you do get some very useful upgrades to your character (attack power, life, defense, longer combo time, extra lives, etc.), and man oh man will you need all of these upgrades. The Missions start out very easy, but quickly get headache inducingly hard (seriously, I had Ichigo leveled up to 108 and was getting decimated on mission 23 at normal difficulty). Just like in the Dynasty Warrior games, you get graded on your performance in each level, ranging from C to S as usual, and it’s hard to get an S ranking without beating the level on Hard or Very Hard (you do also get a Soul Points bonus for playing on the harder difficulties). The regular game is fairly easy to play through on the harder difficulties, after a little leveling up, but again some of those missions are downright impossible to beat without basically having a fully maxed out character (and even then it’s a downright challenge).
There are in total 22 playable characters (4 of them are just different iterations of Ichigo but there is enough differences to warrant them counting separately) giving you a broad spectrum of Soul Reapers and Espada (the crème de la crème of the Arrancar) to play as. Each playable character has their own skills and attacks, making each one unique and not just a remasking like you find in a lot of other games. Just like in the anime, each characters has their signature moves that can be unleashed via “Soul Ignition” (oddly enough, the Japanese version of this game is called Soul Ignition but that must not have resonated well with focus groups) and you get all of the finishers that will make fanboys swoon. The only drawback is that there are not enough playable characters to encompass enough of this portion of the story. I’m assuming that’s why they skipped over a lot of the story as if nothing impressive happened, but it still feels incomplete to someone like me. The game is missing all of the Visords and many of the Espada as playable chracters (I’d complain about the lack of playable lieutenants, but I really only missed playing as 2 of them).
Graphics wise, the developer really did a good job with the presentation. The entire game is cell shaded and is so good that you really feel like you’re playing the anime as opposed to a game made for it. The outside of Las Noches is sparse and dark, while the inside is bright with strewn about broken pillars. The battlefield that is the “fake” Karakura town makes a visual shift to ruin between story levels as the battles between the Captains and Espada rage on. Even the mini scenes done for each Soul Ignition tend to have a grand feel but still feel as if the pre-animated sequence fits right at home in any of the battlefields. There is also a fair share of visual damage to the characters as well, allowing whatever damage they have incurred to be seen very well during the Soul Ignition and battle; Ichigo will only have a quarter of his mask left, Kenpachi Zaraki will have a huge bloody slash down his chest and Shunsui Kyoraku’s elegant Jin-Haori will be ripped to pieces. The only thing that’s disappointing is the load times between sections. Now I’m not sure if it’s the lack of preinstalling anything to the PS3 that causes the extended LOADING screen, or the fact that I have a very first run PS3 with only a 1x Blu-ray drive, but I found myself losing some mental momentum during loads every now and then especially when it loaded a boss battle between my character and 4 others.
All in all, it’s a very good technical game but there are major flaws in the story presentation and other minor issues for a fanboy like me. While the bleach novice may not miss any of the skipped over items, they will definitely be left wondering why they’re fighting this war, what the hell a Hollow or Soul Reaper is, and seriously what the F is the Hogyoku why is it stuck in Aizen’s chest? The Bleach fanboys will be the exact opposite; they will know the entire back story but feel cheated with all of the skipped over parts. If I was forced in to grading this game, I would probably give a FUCK YEAH to the gameplay, because it’s in depth and adds a lot of play time, but a SAD PANDA to the story (I guess that would total out to an overall I HADS TEH FUN). It’s worthwhile for anyone to play the game but Bleach newbies should definitely at least read the Wikipedia page before venturing in (it’s not as good as reading all 634 current chapters of the Manga, but it will give you the gist). I would definitely recommend playing it, but remember…I BEAT IT FIRST!