Jeremy Jastrzab
26 Apr, 2008

Bleach: The Blade of Fate Review

DS Review | Soul-cleansing fun.
Bleach has got to be one of the least appealing titles for a manga and anime around. After all, how on earth would you associate a name that is normally attached to a cleaning/hair colouring agent to a story about Soul Reapers and the realm of spirits? Yet through what seemed to be the word of mouth, Bleach managed to spread its popularity quite quickly. It has been running in Japan for nearly four years and in the US for well over a year and half now, so it's about time that some of the obvious gaming spin-offs started appearing. One of the first to make it out of Japan is Bleach: The Blade of Fate for the Nintendo DS.

As an anime, Bleach is somewhat flawed. It's got plenty of big hits, big plays and some excellent twists (just ask anyone whose watched episode 111), but the story at times seems like it's asking too many questions and not giving enough answers, all the while, not rewarding viewers for sticking with it. It's almost a bit like Lost. Still, when it's on song, it's a mighty entertaining romp. Still, regardless of the quality of an anime, games based on them tend to leave a lot to be desired. Interestingly though, Bleach: The Blade of Fate somehow managed to find its way out of the development stables of the highly acclaimed Treasure.

So regardless of whether you like the anime, and regardless of whether or not you wet yourself at the prospect of a game being made by Treasure, you've got to admit that there will at least be some spark that's usually lacking from something that's got a license attached to it. Furthermore, Bleach: The Blade of Fate is being released almost two years after its original Japanese release, but even as an earlier Nintendo DS title, it manages to stand out, even today.

Orihime seemed to enjoy watching the other three rumble.

Orihime seemed to enjoy watching the other three rumble.
In case you didn't catch it earlier, Bleach is about a teenage boy named Ichigo Kurosaki and he can see dead people, well, the souls of them at least. One day, he sees a Soul Reaper (Rukia Kuchiki) who is fighting off a 'broken' spirit. After a struggle, Rukia lends her powers to Ichigo, who now becomes a 'replacement' Soul Reaper. Once the home of the Soul Reapers, the Soul Society finds out about this, Rukia is deemed a criminal and taken back to be executed. As any upstanding young gentlemen would, Ichigo heads off to Soul Society, with friends in tow to save her. That's the basic gist of the story, though there is this whole other thing about broken souls known as Hollows (whom need to be 'cleansed' by the Soul Reapers), though fans will get what's happening.

Bleach: The Blade of Fate is a fighting game, and with some solid implementation of aspects from the anime, a good engine and varied characters, you have what could easily be the best fighter on the DS. With several modes (including online), a big roster and decent touch screen implementation, there's not too much going wrong here. The story mode skips the foreplay that is the first 20 or so episodes and starts off with Ichigo breaking into Soul Society's inner sanctum, Seireitei. From there, he versus numerous Captains of Soul Reaper squads, as he fights to save Rukia. There are very specific conditions to satisfy before advancing. Even if you don't quite satisfy them, you'll eventually be siphoned through.

After completing Ichigo's (extended) story, the fun doesn't end there. You then have access to the stories of several other characters, and by playing through each, you'll eventually have 23 different stories to play through that are loosely based around the actual events of the anime. The stories are divided into paths and in-between each path, you've got some dialog sequences. They're passable in terms of writing, as they manage to capture the character in question but they're not good enough to be as long as they are sometimes.

The best fighter on the DS?

The best fighter on the DS?
Once you get through the stories, you've got a traditional arcade mode that puts you through a number of opponents in a row and a challenge mode, which is a good place for players to learn a number of different combos. And there's certainly no shortage of challenges, as each character has a dozen or so to get through. Aside from a training mode, you can take on up to three other players either locally or across the Nintendo Wi-Fi Network. Four player battles can be extremely hectic with either co-op or free-for-all options available.

As a fighting game, Bleach: The Blade of Fate keeps in the traditions of an anime-based fighter and makes all the base moves identical for most characters. Each has some basic moves (based off their moves from the anime) and each has at least two super moves. To pull off moves, you need to make use of the energy meter at the bottom of the screen, keeping in mind though, that the stronger your command, the more energy you use. Fighting builds up your 'spiritual pressure', which is used for super moves. While each character may have similar move sets, the difference comes from the diversity within the characters, of which there are 28 that eventually become available. For example, Uryu Ishida is a ranged character that mainly fires arrows, while Ichigo is very dependant on short range moves. The diversity is easily the best aspect of the game.

One aspect that is unique to Bleach: The Blade of Fate is the use of cards and touch screen. You earn cards as you play and build a basic deck. Each deck will display two cards at a time on the touch screen. Touching at any time will activate the cards bonus, which will range from abilities that help you such as an auto block or an attack boost, or to hinder your opponent such as a slow down or power drain. There are heaps of abilities and bonus traits, so there is plenty of scope for customising. Also, if you're having trouble executing moves with the d-pad, there's always a move command on touch screen there for you as well. Basically, you just touch the move or super move on the screen to execute it.

Those girls mean business.

Those girls mean business.
As far as anime video game adaptations go, Bleach: The Blade of Fate doesn't do a lot wrong. The balance between characters is at times questionable. The gameplay feels a little stiff at times, especially in comparison to how the AI moves, but it’s more than serviceable. Speaking of AI, enemies are quite manageable, even on higher difficulty levels, which is unusual for anime based games, but still will often come off as cheap. That, and the cards in the game are somewhat unbalanced in their capabilities and aren’t all that necessary, unless you’ve earned a lot and can pack your ‘deck’ with specials. Despite these quips, the game still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the genre on the DS.

In terms of presentation, Bleach: The Blade of Fate feels slightly antiquated at times with gameplay sequences punctated by talking heads. The dialogue is passable but not a single sound bit is uttered. Graphically, the game sports a number of impressive stills and artwork pieces, though the game itself is not too shabby either. For a two-year-old game, it still looks quite good, as the characters move well and all are faithfully represented in impressive detail. Aside from borrowing the 3rd opening song from the anime (which is one of the better ones), the game doesn’t sport any other official tunes, but the music is excellent, both in terms of the atmosphere and faithfulness to the series. The English voice actors lend their voices to the game, with each of the characters sporting a few lines within combat. As impressive as this was on the DS, the voices were muffled over the speakers at times.

Bleach: The Blade of Fate has two luxuries: the lack of competition within the genre on the DS and what seems to be a proper development cycle. And that’s despite the fact that it has been around for two years and effectively counts as an early DS game. Even with a few minor quips and some typical franchise-based pitfalls, it is not only the most solid (if not the best) fighting game to be found on the DS outside of Japan and, particularly for anyone who has just jumped on the Bleach bandwagon, a great anime-based title to boot. Even if you look at it purely as fighter, there almost enough here to interest fans of fighting games as well.
The Score
Bleach: The Blade of Fate may be two years old, but it still comes across as a great anime-based title and is far and away one of the best fighters on the Nintendo DS. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
5 years ago
Great to finally see a review for Bleach, its one of my favorite games on DS. I just wish there was more fighting games like this, there really doesn't seem to be many other options available and I think the DS is a perfect handheld platform for fighters. Hopefully there will be more fighters coming out this year or I suppose I could always just import Bleach 2...
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  28/02/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
  SEGA Australia
Year Made:

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