By now most gamers know that the vast majority of licensed games suck. This tends to be especially true for two categories: games based on movies, and games based on anime. You can just scroll through our archive and see many a negative review for games based on Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Gundam, Zatch Bell!, Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop. Hell even some games based on anime that were originally something else have sucked. See, Bakugan: Defenders of the Core and assortedBeyblade games. However, that shouldn’t make someone automatically disdainful towards anime games. Slayers on the SNES and both Slayers Royal for the Sega Saturn were all excellent RPGs (Slayers Wonderful for the PSX…not so much). Robotech: The Macross Saga was an amazing side scrolling shooter/RPG hybrid and it remains one of my favorite Game Boy Advance titles ever. EVERY Hamtaro game has been quite good, with Ham-Hams Unite and Ham-Ham Heartbreak being two of the best Shadowgate/Maniac Mansion style adventure games for a portable system – ever. Hell, Ham-Ham Games was arguably the best overall sports game on the GBA…and it was an ANIME GAME.
So here we are now with Bleach: Soul Resurreccion, otherwise known as Soul Ignition back in Japan. I’ll admit that even though I’m a pretty big anime fan, I had never watched a full episode of Bleach before playing this game. I had tried but…it just wasn’t my thing. I am more of a Tenchi Muyo!, Dai-Guard, Captain Tylor, and School Rumble kind of guy. However, as the one guy on staff that is well versed on Bleach is waiting daily for his wife to give birth, it fell to me to write the preview (and eventual review) for the game. So, now that I’m one-fourth done the game, it’s time to give you my first impressions of the game so far.
Right off the bat, the game is EXTREMELY unfriendly to anyone who isn’t a diehard Bleach fan that knows everything about every character and episode. I didn’t understand a single thing story-wise save for, “My guys are fighting these other guys and occasionally a girl gets kidnapped for extra drama.” There was no real bio section on any characters, which kind of shocked me as that sort of thing is standard in licensed titles. I even sat down and watched the first thirteen episodes of the anime and still nothing made sense to me. DJ, our Bleach guy and head of PR, explained to me over IM that I’d need to watch over 100 episodes of the anime (and four movies!) for the game to make sense to me story-wise and when I described what I had watched so far as, “Yu Yu Hakusho with the padding of Dragon Ball Z,” he basically said I hit the nail on the head. With that in mind, I gave up trying to understand the story of Soul Reapers versus Arrancars, Hallows, Zanpakuto and the like and just decided to focus on the gameplay. That being said, the Bleach Wiki proved to be somewhat helpful, but for anyone but a Bleach fan, the game’s story is all but inaccessible.
Story Mode in Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is in episodic format. With each episode, you will play as a different character. The episode has different sections that come down to one of three goals: kill everything, kill a specific enemy, or kill a boss. With each episode you are forced to use a specific character, but once you complete it you may unlock another character for one of the other modes of play, such as Mission (where you play one of twenty four unlockable bonus missions), Soul Attack (score based combat), Beat Attack, and Time Attack. For example, some of the character I unlocked are Rukia Kuchiki, Kenpachi Zaraki and Grimmjow. You start off with Ichigo Kurosaki and at one point I unlocked a second, creepier version of him. I’ll let Bleach fans discover it for themselves as I have no idea if this is special or not.
The game plays like most 3D action beat ’em ups. You’ll primarily spam the Square button for attacks and the X button to jump. You’ll use the Triangle and O buttons for spirit based attacks. Your spirit meter is constantly replenishing itself, but while triangle button attacks will only use a bit of it, the O button based attacks will drain it with a single press. There is a second bar to watch with is the “Ignition Gauge.” This fills slowly over the course of an episode. Press L2 to power up. While powered up you’ll do more damage, take less damage and be a little faster. Press L2 again while powered up you will unleash an “ignition Attack,” or, as Ichigo calls it, “The Hollowfication.” Ignition attacks are insanely powerful and just one can kill some bosses in a single hit. Just remember quite a few bosses can do it to you too, and they will – especially in higher level missions.
Controls are pretty solid. For the most part the game plays well, but like a lot of games in this genre, the camera angles can get pretty bad. So bad, in fact, that they can lead to your death. The game thankfully has a lock-on button so that your attacks are aimed at a specific enemy instead of just random sword swinging. However, the camera for locked-on attacks can be especially horrible and if you don’t hit L1 after an enemy is dead, your player will randomly lock on to some other opponent – generally one that provides you with an angle where you can’t really see anything. Yes, the camera vexed me regularly, but only time will tell if it becomes really unmanageable. Still, this tend to only happen when there are a LOT of enemies on the screen.
One other control issue I have is blocking. Blocking rarely seems to work. I’ve tried tapping it and holding it down and sometimes my character simply won’t block. Other times they will, but with noticeable lag. Maybe it’s because I’m used to fighting games, but I like/need my blocking to be instantaneous.
The game has a great soundtrack and I was pleased to see that the game offers both and Japanese dub. I’ve only ever seen Bleach in Japanese (Even Netflix Streaming only has it in Japanese), so this was my first time hearing the English voices. I can’t say they main cast members were horrible, as I’ve heard from some fans of the series, but some of the “just for the game” characters annoyed the hell out of me. The only real problem I can find with the game is that it provides constant yammering and unhelpful commentary while you are battling. Ichigo especially seems to have an entire audience of Statler and Waldorf-esque people jabbering to him in his episodes. These characters have portraits in the lower left hand corner when they talk and I wish to Cthulhu there was some way to turn these off as fan of the anime or not, you will want all of these guys dead by the time you have played a few episodes. It also doesn’t help that characters will say the same few lines over and over and over and over again. The first of the four Ichigos in the game is the character I play the most as (He’s level 25 right now where everyone else I’ve unlocked are in single digits), but holy hell, if I hear him say, “Let’s Go!” ever again, I might shriek. Eventually due to these issues, I just turned the voices off and enjoyed the soundtrack. If it wasn’t for this albeit extremely annoying bit, the aural aspects of this game would be incredible.
The most interesting thing about the game is the level up system. You’ll earn the equivalent of experience points after each episode, mission, or what have you and you can then spend them customizing your character via a board filled with various power ups. Option include raising your health, your strength, your defense, gaining extra spirit energy, and unlocking “friends” which give you special powers. Unlocking Kisuke Urahaha, for example, give you the counter attack ability while unlocking Renji Abarai lets your character throw enemies farther away than normal when they connect with a Dash Attack. Customizing characters is extremely addicting and between all the different modes that let you earn experience, I can honestly say that Bleach: Soul Ressureccion is a game people can play for longer than some RPGs and still not begin to scratch the surface of all there is to do. Trust me when I say the game is known back in Japan for having some hellacious trophies to unlock such as beating all twenty-four missions in Mission Mode with every unlockable character. Oy vey.
I won’t lie, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is not perfect. It definitely suffers from some control issues, a very wonky camera and the game will force you to grind A LOT to get through it, but I’m also having fun with it, even if I have no idea what the hell is going on or who anyone is. I suppose it’s good in a way as you’re getting an unbiased opinion of the game instead of someone going, “OH MY GOD, CHARACTER X WOULD NEVER ACT THAT WAY.” Or, “I CAN’T BELIEVE CHARACTER Y ISN’T PLAYABLE. NEGATIVE ONE MILLION POINTS.” Come on, we all know people like that in every fandom along with people who with crap on a game simply because it’s a licensed product or worse, a licensed product featuring a franchise they actively dislike instead of grading a game based on the engine quality.
I’ll have a full review of the game, complete with coverage on all the other modes in the game (which we aren’t allowed to discuss yet due to press embargos) on August 2nd. So far I like the game better than I did the first dozen or so episodes of the anime. Let’s see if I still feel that way in a few weeks.