Sunday, January 20, 2008

Review of "Bleach: The Blade of Fate"

Ok, first off, let me just say that I am a Huge, fan of Bleach, I started by watching the Dub and Adult Swim, then I moved on to the fansubs when I thought that was moving too slow. After reaching a dead-end with the fansubs, I started reading the Scanlations of the Manga. Needless to say, hearing that there were two American released Bleach video games, I was desperate to try them both. Unfortunately, when the games came out, I didn't have the money to buy them.

Enter Gamefly. I'd used Gamefly the previous Summer, but I didn't have a my yet so my selection was limited to GBA, DS, and GC games. Now with the Wii, I had access to even more games.

That aside, I decided to get the Bleach DS game first.

The game follows the Soul Society Arc of Bleach (both Manga and Anime). It includes voice acting from the English dub (by far the best English dub of an Anime I've heard). All the fighting takes place in a 2-D environment on the upper screen.

As I said earlier, the game follows the Soul Society Arc of Bleach, though if you're looking to just play exactly what happened, you won't be able to do that. Not right away anyway.

The Story Mode starts with Episode 1, which follows Ichigo as he tries to infiltrate Soul Society. Along the way, He'll fight Ganju, Renji, and 12 of the 13 Captains, leading up to a dramatic confrontation with Rukia's Brother, Byakuya Kuchiki. The story is mildly interesting, with some stark departures from the Plot line of the Manga and Anime.

After Episode 1, you can begin unlocking episodes 2-22, each of which focuses on a different character from the series. After completing the first 22 episodes, you unlock episode 23: Soul Reaper Cronicle. This final episode details the events of the entire Soul Society Arc from beginning to end and has you fight as multiple characters.

The graphics of the game consist of highly detailed, highly animated, 2-D sprites. I know it seems a little outdated in this world of 3-D, fully-rendered, highly-textured games, but I find it a refreshing change. I've always been a fan of 2-D fighters since the second Mortal Kombat. The backgrounds are well detailed and recognisable for fans of the series.

First off, let me say that the DS delivers excelent sound. This game is no exception. The game starts off with the 3rd Bleach Anime intro, and it sounds as good as if it's coming off the TV (or in my case, the computer). The rest of the music is not that spectacular, but doesn't get annoying either. The voice acting is Good, but has a tendency to get overpowered by soundeffects.

As I said earlier, this is a 2-D fighter. That's not to say it's by any means conventional. First off, fights can have anywhere from 2-4 players aranged into 2-4 teams. If you have 3 or 4 players, you're not confined to just one stage either. Using the L button, you can shift from the lower stage to the upper stage. In most cases, attacks made in one stage don't effect another, though in some cases, the attacks effect both stages.

The fighting game consists of 3 modes: Story Mode, described above; Arcade mode; and Vs. Mode. Arcade mode consists of a series of 1 on 1 battles, after which you earn a reward based on which character you beat the level with.

Vs. Mode has within it 4 seperate selections. The first is vs. CPU. In this you, the lone Human player, can fight up to 3 Computer controled characters. Computer characters have an AI dificulty rating between 1 and 9, with a default rating of 2. You can select each CPU character as well as organize everyone into up to four teams, allowing for 1 vs. 1, 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. 3, 2 vs. 2, 1 vs. 1 vs. 2, or free for all.

The second and third selections allow for you to play other local DS players. While one is for multicart play, the other allows for Download single-cart play. Others with a DS can download from your DS and play multiplayer, even if they don't have the game themselves. The only drawback to this feature is that it has to re-download every time it switches between the character select screen and the fight, even if all you want to do is replay the match with the same characters.

The third selection allows you to connect to others using the Nintendo WiFi Connection. I attempted to use this, but wasn't able to find anyone to fight.

By far, the most unique thing about this fighting game is how it utilizes the lower screen. Sure, you could spend all your time learning button combinations to moves, but you'd miss out on some of the fun. Bleach: BoF, lowers the learning curve by making all of you Special and Super moves available to you at the push of a button, or more accurately, the touch of a screen. In order to execute a Special or Super move, all you need to do is touch the move on the lower screen. The game will automatically use your most powerfull version of that attack if you're capable of it, and If you can't do the move at all, the move will be grayed out. Of course, it doesn't tell you what that move does. That part you'll have to figure out for yourself.

The second part of the lower screen is the card deck. Before chosing a mode, you can enter deck construction to asign ten cards to up to 5 slots. You have a limited number of cards, but you can put the same cards in different slots. Also, If you don't feel like sorting through the cards, you can select a deck personallized for each character.

The game features 28 characters and you can play every one of them (though only 22 are playable in Story Mode). Certain characters lend themselves more to certain playing styles, but you'll likely play all of them through arcade mode for completion.

In General
This game is probably the best 2-D fighter I've played in quite some time (in fact the only one). The touch screen makes the game easy for both the newbie and experienced player alike.

Rating: 9/10

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