Title: Bleach: Soul Resurrección
Published By: Nippon Ichi Software America (North America)
Based on: The long running anime series Bleach.
Console: Playstation 3
Release Date: 2nd August 2011
Rating: This title has been classified Teen under the ESRB rating system for Mild LAnguage, Mild Suggestive Themes and Violence.
Audio: English and Japanese Dubs
Region: This review was conducted on a North American version of the title. It has currently also been announced for release in the UK however no release announcement has been made for Australia.
Cost: $59.95 from the NIS America Online Store
Blurb: Unlike most anime to game adaptations, this game is not one that you will tire of easily. Featuring a very Dynasty Warrior-esque gameplay system, you will control a number of different characters from the series who each have unique battle abilities. The game is actually fun however I did feel that there wasn’t enough challenge in the game. The design isn’t stellar in terms of the environmental designs, however the character designs will not displease fans. Music was overall a nice compilation of tracks.
Special Thanks: Special thanks goes to Nippon Ichi Software America for supplying me with a review sample of this game.
Upon first sitting down to play this game, I thought to myself “Sam…. you have only watched a single episode of Bleach before…. maybe you should consider reading up a bit first!”. Ignoring my head, I chose to go straight into the game and I was welcomed with a storyline that started somewhere in the middle of the anime series. This is not necessarily a bad thing – especially as the target market is fans of the series, but those who are interested in the game be warned that you should watch some of the series first or at least Wikipedia the storyline. The question is…. how did I find this series overall? Well, why don’t you read on and I will tell you in my review of Bleach: Soul Resurreccion.
The story is extremely unfriendly to those who have no idea about the Bleach franchise or seemingly haven’t watched that far into the series that all the characters have been revealed and the plot unfolds/has taken place. Upon starting the story mode, you are introduced with a long blurb with a narrator reading out the events that take place before the level you are going to be completing. Honestly, if you haven’t watched the series you would be better off either:
a) Watching the series well past the 100 episode mark.
b) Wikipedia the series – Although this doesn’t help much or
c) Just try and pick it up as you go along.
I chose a mixture of B and C and I was able to eventually pick up the gist of the storyline and it was actually rather detailed, however would have benefited more from unfolding in actual cutscenes then through narrated dialogue before you begin every story level.
The storyline is split up into many different episodes, with most taking a linear path however others giving you the option of doing them in any order – so you can delay the inevitable if there is a character you are not interested in using. Every stage in the story mode gives you the ability to use one of twenty something different characters pre-set characters to go through a level and during the course of the stage, have a story unfold through dialogue between the character you are using and the other characters. This however results in a major issue I had with this game, that none of the “hero” characters actually appear alongside your character when interacting with them and as it was noticable in the first stage – one of the “enemy” characters you are interacting with doesn’t even appear when you supposedly defeat and recruit him.
The boss segments were were realistically the only part of the levels that delivered ingame storylines, but generally they were nothing special bordering on generic where you were given the pre-battle blurb, the half-HP surge of power (Seriously, why is it that in their weakened state, all bosses regardless of game seem to be stronger?) and then either the bosses defeat storyline twist that keeps the game going. In terms of the actual levels however, there is the interaction which I mentioned above, but it is primarily going around battling mob after mob of random enemies that hold no weighting to the storyline.
The number of characters available to use may or may not be of benefit to the storyline. The one positive about having so many characters in terms of the storyline is that it does allow many perspectives to the story unfolding and as this is based on an anime series, everyone will no doubt have their favourites. But at the same time, the characters get very little coverage throughout the storyline in comparison to a small cluster of characters. Overall, as I was left stumped by the storyline at times, I felt it was nice to at least be able to control the different characters from a gameplay point of view. That being said, you will find yourself using the main character Ichigo – or one of his other forms for a greater majority of the game.
Overall, this is obviously a series for the fans of the Bleach series and from the pre-release perception on forums etc, I get the feeling it will most probably appeal to them. If you are expecting to be able to jump into the series without any knowledge, all the best for you but I don’t think your quest to understand the storyline will succeed without some heavy watching/reading beforehand. As there are also three bonus episodes of the Bleach anime series included with the official release, it may be that these episodes may shed some light on the series as recap episodes. As I dont have access to those three episodes, I cannot confirm this however.
To summarize my thoughts on the design in one sentence: Character designs are very nice, Environment designs are lackluster and everything else is between the two. The character designs use some visually appealing cel-shaded techniques which are usually hit or miss with me, but were too my liking. The trouble with cel-shading is that occasionally series deviate from the design of the source material too much – either looking too childish or just plain different from what one would expect. Whilst the designs are in 3D over the anime’s designs, the characters maintain the anime aesthetic so it is detailed, but not detailed or refined enough that they choose a pseudo-realistic appearance.
Considering how many characters there are, the animations used in each character differed greatly and allowed for different movement and battle animations. All the different weapon and appearance details were catered for and did not by any means look like the same movements rehashed for many characters. In the levels, you generally have the normal nameless-mobs which attempt to halt your quest for justice, cake or survival or prinny-kind. The generic mobs are not terribly designed, however after the first few levels you will find the same white-robed mobs repetitive and craving something perhaps a bit different in appearance (Besides the occasional high tier mobs that appear in the levels – which also get repetitive at times). There was also the occasional graphical glitch were enemies would still be interactable with, but wouldn’t disappear off the screen after being defeated which used up valuable seconds of time.
Whilst I think highly of the character designs and animations, I have to say that the environmental designs were very bland. Whilst there are one or two nice ones, such as navigating a city through the sky, a majority of the levels designs are bland to start with (How many times did I run through desert levels I wonder….) but then finding myself running through the same level over and over again really distracted me from the other aspects of the design. The only changes to the designs besides the different paths are destroyable objects, which vary in quality and are fun to smash up, but still are only a slight redeeming factor.
Overall, the design is a very mixed bag however if you are in to the character designs, you will no doubt think they are a strong-point, especially as you can unlock them for your character collection which you can view the different character designs in any angle you want alongside voice samples if you so desire.
When it comes down to the music in this game, I was more then impressed. You start off the game with this fast paced opening theme accompanied with some very nice anime style animation. Whilst there was sadly no lyrics to this song, I felt that the song and the animation really set the player up for what to expect in the game. The in-game music had that similar faced-paced timing to it which actually made me enjoy the game more as I started humming to the songs (Always an indicator of good music if I do that…. least I can’t sing to the songs as I did with Persona 4 and Disgaea 3).
Voice acting is always a shady area when it comes to Japanese-originating games such as these. There are always those who prefer Japanese dubs over anything regardless, so I will warn everyone now that my review will be solely based on the English dubbing and not that of the Japanese dubbing – however you are given the option to change it through the game menus. I was pleased with the overall dubbing quality in this game, considering the sizable cast. I felt that all the voices matched the personalities and roles of the characters and it sounded like the voice actors/actresses were really enjoying doing the dubbing (I suppose after so many anime episodes, it is nice to take a change). The one issue I found with the use of the voices overall, was that some of the non-storyline chatter you heard through levels was either extremely generic repeating phrases or phrases I wasnt able to comprehend over the grunts and goans of the faceless mobs being attacked.
The gameplay is your normal third person hack-and-slash game with a few improvements to make it stand out from the crowd. I am actually a huge fan of the game series Dynasty Warriors so I do enjoy this form of gameplay, and I thought that whilst the game could have used more of a challenge, it was a very solid performing addition to the genre. As I have mentioned above, the overall story mode structure follows the same pattern: Select Level –> Narration of Storyline –> Mobs –> More Mobs –> Boss Battle –> Repeat and doesn’t deviate from this structure, indicating a very episodic nature to the story.
For a basic overview of controls: Square to do a basic attack, Triangle for ranged shot, Circle for a special attack and X is your normal JUMP! button. You are required to build up a gauge to be able to use your special attacks which at times will come in handy to defeat your stronger opponents however they have included a way of powering up even further….. The ignition gauge which periodically renews itself as you battle allows you to use L2 to go into a super powered mode – and then using L2 again will deplete the gauge but allow you to use a super-powered attack, that I found perhaps slightly imbalanced for boss battles.
Unfortunately, I found myself inadvertently hitting the L2 button by mistake which left me extremely overpowered for weak enemies and the gauge occasionally didn’t fill up as quick as I would have liked. Finally, you can use L1 to lock on to enemies, which whilst being the only realistic means of using ranged attack, was not very accurate at actually letting you select your desired target. Overall however, you can easily get through this game by button mashing, as most other games in the genre, but I found this button mashing rather enjoyable.
Going back to the Story Mode, you will actually find that there is little more then a dozen levels, including some that only consist of a boss fight. This might be good for those who don’t understand the storyline and want to get into the post-game content (Which shall be discussed in a moment), but for those who are after more of an actual gameplay with storyline experience, you may be disappointed. However, all is not lost! The game has a sizable amount of end-game content and other nooks and crannys that will keep you into the game for many more hours.
The first post-game offering is the Mission mode, which gives you access to 28 additional levels which you can use any of the characters you have unlocked on and range from easy missions to extremely hard ones and as you can probably guess, are the main grinding levels if you wish to unlock the coveted Platinum Trophy. These levels are fun and offer more enjoyability then the story levels. You also have the “online” mode called Soul Attack, where you must do one player levels (A total of nine) and complete them with the most points or time to make it onto the leader board.
The above three levels allow you to collect soul points, which you can use to upgrade the respective character you used to gather them. Using a board which expands as you unlock characters, you must make your way around the board to level up your characters attack power, HP, skills etc to survive through the tougher missions.
There is enough gameplay in this game to get your moneys worth if you are willing to invest the time and grind into the missions. However, as I know a number of people who collect trophies, I would applaud anyone if they can unlock the Platinum Trophy in anything under several hundred hours of gameplay. Personally, this might be the biggest trophy grind in any NIS America game yet. Overall however, the gameplay will really depend on your preference in games, but I think it is a solid effort.
Finally it comes down to the all important personal opinion. This IS a game for fans of the anime series so if you don’t know the first thing about this game series and have ignored all my previous warnings, I would either watch up or choose another quality NIS America game to check out. The storyline is hard to get into from the get go and that might be the reason that I was not drawn in as much as I would have liked whilst playing it. However, I do appreciate the effort gone into detailing the character designs, the fast-paced music and the solid hack-and-slash gameplay which I would say is a good package for fans of the series at less then $60.
Character Development: D+
Voice Acting: A
Personal Opinion: C
Overall Score: B-