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Jahanzeb Khan
24 Sep, 2009

Bleach: Dark Souls Review

DS Review | Now with more BANKAI!
Bleach: The Blade of Fate was a solid DS fighting game and easily one of the better anime-based video games around. The Bleach anime series itself has been going uphill and downhill over the past few years, though the fan base remains quite strong worldwide. Bleach: Dark Souls is a follow up to The Blade of Fate and while the game is technically over 2 years old, this DS fighting game only arrived on our shores earlier this year.

Dark Souls picks up shortly after the events of the first game and it initially follows the post Soul Society arc events of the anime. However, it quickly takes a detour into a new storyline. The plot of this game revolves around Mod Souls, which are essentially artificial souls created by Squad 12 of Soul Society. We are sure that a lot of Bleach fans lost interest as soon as they read ‘the plot of this game revolves Mod Souls’, and truth be told, the story is a drag and is barely interesting.

As far as the story mode itself is concerned, thankfully it is surprisingly decent. Instead of being a series of animation stills and standard battles like in The Blade of Fate, the story mode of Dark Souls has more substance and variety. The mode features a map where gamers will move from one square to another with several branching paths to take. Each square features a specific mission, which can either be an event, battle or a mini game. The mini games range from collecting candy, healing people, answering questions in a game show and all sorts of other odd situations. The battles require you to fight characters in either single or team battles and this time you also go up against Hollows, including the colossal Menos Grande.

  
Menos Grande, the largest foe in this game.

Menos Grande, the largest foe in this game.
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Dark Souls allows you to play as several characters within the same story instead of having a separate scenario for each playable character. While gamers will control Bleach protagonist Ichigo for the most part, they will also get a chance to play as other characters such as Kenpachi, Hitsugaya and Ikkaku. The story mode doesn’t take long to finish but it is fairly addictive, especially since you have to replay it several times to unlock and see everything.

Other than the story mode, there’s arcade, training and versus mode. There is also a robust multiplayer mode thrown in, allowing for wireless, download and Wi-Fi play. Urahara Shop allows gamers to purchase music, artwork and Sprit Cards. Overall, Dark Souls has a good deal of content and modes to keep gamers busy.

Moving on to the core gameplay, Dark Souls plays much like its predecessor and is a fast paced and entertaining 2D fighting game. The core battle system certainly feels a lot more balanced and polished than it did before courtesy of some slight modifications and additions made to the character move list and the overall engine.

While the game allows you to simply select special moves and super attacks from the touch screen, fighting purists will get more out of the game if they stick with the digital controls. The controls work reasonably well and it’s fairly easy to pull off special moves, supers and linking attacks together for some elaborate combos is always a joy and thrill, rather than being a chore. Several characters have Bankai attacks and they are as devastating and impressive as they were before, pulling them off is always a very satisfying and empowering feeling. The ‘flash step’ is well executed and allows for some clever combat tactics. The midair combos work as effortlessly as they did before, quite similar to what can be found in the Guilty Gear series.

  
Plenty of flashy 2D effects.

Plenty of flashy 2D effects.
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Spirit Cards return once more and this time there are more cards and there is an even more elaborate deck construction feature. Spirit Cards essentially grant temporary offensive and defensive enhancements upon being selected on the touch screen. The game allows players to use up to four spirit cards at a time and each card consumes a portion of the Spirit Card gauge. Spirit Cards certainly add more depth and strategy to an otherwise typical 2D fighting game.

The fighting system feels simple at first but there is enough variety, moves and depth to qualify this as a proper 2D fighting game that can stand tall with the juggernauts of the genre. Calling this the ‘best playing DS fighting game’ would be an understatement as Dark Souls plays as good as any decent game in the genre.

The most significant change that fans will notice is the updated character roster. The game features all the characters from The Blade of Fate and adds several new ones to bring the roster to an impressive 44 characters. The new playable characters include the likes of Ikkaku, Urahara, Rangiku and several Hollow types. Old favorites such as Hitsugaya, Byakuya, Kenpachi and Ishida are also playable. The roster features enough of the fan favourites and their trademark moves to make Bleach fans happy and leaves little to be desired.

  
All your favourite Bleach characters are ready to duke it out!

All your favourite Bleach characters are ready to duke it out!
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Graphically, the game looks almost like The Blade of Fate, which isn’t a bad thing. Dark Souls features decent 2D graphics and animations, most of the moves have been reanimated and look much closer to their anime counterparts. The most notable change being the reanimated Bankai attacks, which now look a lot more impressive and epic. There are a few small changes here and there but they are enough to make any Bleach fan smile, for example Hitsugaya now has ice wings during his Bankai release, just like in the manga/anime.

The soundtrack of Dark Souls features most of the tracks from The Blade of Fate and some new tracks as well. ‘Resistance’ by High and Mighty Colour serves as the official theme song and some new tracks such as the new Bankai theme, sound absolutely stellar. The game also features some English voice over that is thankfully quite acceptable. The audio of this game overall is quite good even if most of it is recycled.

At a glance Bleach: Dark Souls feels like an expansion pack to The Blade of Fate. However, thanks to new characters, a more varied story mode, better balancing, reanimated moves and more content, Bleach: Dark Souls ends up feeling like a full fledged sequel. The only downside being some recycled elements (music and art) and the actual plot of the game being very uninteresting. If you are a fighting fan looking for an entertaining portable fighting game or simply a diehard Bleach fan, then you can’t find a better portable fighting game than Bleach: Dark Souls.
The Score
Thanks to additional characters and some enhanced gameplay, animations and modes. Bleach: Dark Souls is a worthy sequel to Bleach: The Blade of Fate that fans of Bleach and fighting games should not miss. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Bleach: Dark Souls Content

Bleach: Dark Souls confirmed for PAL regions
22 Jun, 2008 We'll have to wait until next year though.
Bleach: The Blade of Fate Review
26 Apr, 2008 Soul-cleansing fun.
Dark Messiah of Might & Magic Preview
20 Sep, 2006 We take an in-depth look into potentially the best PC game of the year.
1 Comment
4 years ago
Your review is great jahanzeb but never can you influence me to waste hard earned money on a DS icon_razz.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  12/03/2009 (Released)
Publisher:
  SEGA Australia
Genre:
  Fighting
Year Made:
  2008
Players:
  4

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