Incredibly popular in Japan, anime television and manga novels have also made their way outside of the island nation. There are conventions all around the world, where fans dress up in cosplay as their favourite characters, wearing nearly identical costumes and toting painstakingly reproduced weapons. One of the most popular shows in this category is Bleach – an animated series based on a popular manga.
It tells the story of a young man named Ichigo Kurosaki, who has obtained the powers of a Soul Reaper (Death God), which forces him to take on two new duties: he must protect humankind from evil spirits and must also make sure that all departed human spirits make it to the afterlife safely.
Fans of the series have been eagerly anticipating the release of Bleach: Soul Resurreccion – a PlayStation 3 exclusive hack n’ slash game from developer SCEI and publisher NIS America. It tells a fourteen episode story, which takes place after the heroes’ war with the Soul Society. Within its brief, three hour confines, players are treated to an interactive storyline which delves into conflict and deception, featuring the traditional good versus evil premise. The fourteen episodes make up the campaign, each allowing for approximately ten to fifteen minutes of gameplay with the option of two different difficulties (normal and hard).
The basic set-up of each mission is generally the same: hack your way through mindless foes until you reach the big boss fight at the end. There’s not much left to the imagination, nor does the game’s structure ever push the envelope. It knows what it is and doesn’t deter from that. This will please fans of games like the Dynasty Warriors series as there are a lot of similarities between the two.
Combat is very straight-forward and there are a lot of enemies to dispatch with your basic and limited special moves. However, the maps are much more linear in Soul Resurreccion than its comparable entries, and there aren’t as many mindless foes to contend with. Still, the similarities are most certainly evident.
Each boss players come across has his or her own set of moves. It’s important to watch patterns so that you’re aware of the best time to strike, in order to avoid damage. Health does not regenerate and pick-ups are limited, so that must always be taken into account. Some of the encounters are interesting and engage some thought and intelligence, but the majority of them are very basic and straight-forward, feeling quite retro in terms of design. These moments are also very polarizing in the way that there’s no option to retry. If you fall in battle, it’s a game over menu and a restart option for you. Luckily, the episodes are very, very short.
For the most part, the game’s story mode is pretty easy on normal. Though there are a couple of challenging parts. Those who find themselves having trouble can take solace in the fact that there’s a role-playing game light levelling system, which allows each of the many playable characters (most available through progression-based unlocks) to be improved in a few different categories.
Health, attack and defense bonuses are the main three, though the game also throws out some random wildcards with expensive price tags. The currency at which the price must be met is souls, which are earned when you defeat enemies, destroy the limited amount of visible landscape items and/or beat a stage. It’s all wrapped up in a grid-based system, where purchasing one upgrade unlocks a path to the one beside it and so on.
Bleach: Soul Resurreccion has a campaign that doesn’t deliver much in terms of a wow factor. Everything contained within its brief runtime is very straightforward, never stepping outside of the proverbial hack n’ slash game design box. What this means is that there’s a lot of repetition, a basic combat system and missions that don’t have much in the way of variety.
It’s very basic and uninspired, teetering on a fulcrum that represents the median between good and bad. It’s simply mediocre. Fans of the anime will enjoy playing through episodes of their favourite show, but there’s no briefing for those who are new to the lore, making it very difficult to understand what is going on. Its saving grace is the large cast of playable characters – most getting their own playable stages within the fourteen mission structure.
Luckily, there’s a pretty good amount of extra content to tackle after the story fades into text-based credits. Adding some replay value and interest to the experience are twenty-eight unlockable missions, which run the gamut of different types such as arena based challenges, levels that mimic those in the campaign and boss battles.
As you progress within this mode, the challenges get tougher – a difficulty scale represented by a five-star icon system. They’re decent and add some variety to the game, but are very similar to the story episodes. There’s a bit of variety, though these are challenges which we’ve seen before in other games of this type. The only form of action similar to multiplayer is found in the Soul Attack mode, which pits players against the community in an attempt to earn the best rating in a specific set of missions.
Visually, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is a pretty nice looking game. It does a good job of bringing its inspiration’s hand-drawn, cel-shaded art style to an interactive, high-definition medium. The world Bleach inhabits is a strangely futuristic world, mixed with some open plains and western-style red sands.
Each environment looks pretty nice in its digital representation, though there isn’t a ton of creative variety to be found once you hit the half-way point. All of them feature similar enemies, though there are at least several different types. The enemy designs are decent and show the most creativity within the entire project. Of course, marks must be given to the fact that it runs without any hiccups, despite having quite a few foes onscreen at once.
One of the big selling features for North American Bleach fans is the fact that Soul Resurreccion contains two different voice tracks: one dubbed in English; the other in the show’s native Japanese. The latter is certainly the better of the two as its quality is far superior. The English voiceovers tend to be quite whiny, childish and annoying. This is all wrapped up with some decent sound effects and a pretty good sounding score. Though, none of it is particularly memorable.
Those looking for a great action game set in a creative universe will probably want to look elsewhere, unless they’re familiar with the series. Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is a game that is mostly for the series’ fans, as it doesn’t really cater to newcomers. With that being said, it’s certainly not a bad game, though nor is it a great experience by any means.
Recycled elements from other games combine to create a brief and underwhelming campaign with some okay added material. If you’re a hardcore fan of the anime or manga it’s based on, you should certainly give this one a try. However, don’t go in expecting anything revolutionary. The Soul Resurreccion experience is simply mediocre, which is too bad because there’s potential here for a better game.