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Review #429

Bleach: Soul Resurreccion
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Beat ‘Em UpM
Release Date: 08/02/2011

Although most licensed anime games do tend to suck horribly, there have been several that are quite awesome. Every Hamtaro video game has been shockingly good. Robotech: The Macross Saga is easily the best side scrolling shoot ‘em up for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. The cast ofThe Slayers has appeared in some wonderful RPGs on the SNES and Sega Saturn. So on and so forth. It’s precisely because of how good some of those games have been that I decided to review Bleach: Soul Resurreccion - even though before playing the game, I had never seen a single episode of the anime before.

Originally, this would have gone to my staffer D.J. Tatsujin, who is our resident Bleach expert, but as his wife was just about to give birth, I couldn’t have asked him to play this. Since I speak Japanese, am pretty open to licensed anime games(and am the default Nippon Ichi anime reviewer here), it made sense that I do this one. However, I will admit that the game lost me story-wise almost instantly as it never tried to explain the massive amount of terms and lingo specific to the series. It was like playing a game in Czech as far I was concerned. I tried watching the series on Netflix streaming, but after a dozen episodes I found the series too slow and dull for me. I ended up describing it to DJ as, “a bad version of Yu Yu Hakusho meets Dragon Ball Z…which he actually said was pretty much on the nose. He also told me I’d need to watch over 100 episodes for the plot of the game to make any sense to me. Since that obviously wasn’t going to happen, I gave up on the series completely and decided to review the game on its own merits.

Now, just because I didn’t like the anime doesn’t mean I didn’t like the game. After all, in my preview of the game, I admitted it was a lot of fun even though I had no idea what the hell was going on. So was my first impression the right one, or did Soul Resurreccion end up joining a litany of other crappy anime games?

Let’s Review

1. Story

As I said in the preamble, the story of Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is the most unfriendly game to newcomers I have ever seen. There is no explanation of the characters, the terminology, what is going on, why you are fighting and so on. Basically it all boils down to, “You are Team A. Go kill Team B for reasons you had damn well better know already because we sure as hell aren’t going to explain it to you.” Yes, it’s that mean to newcomers. Each of the episodes of the game begins with a short narrative, but unless you know what an Espada, Arrancar, the 13 Court Guard Squad and the like are going into this game, everything is going to go over your head. Of course, who besides me is going to pick this up if they haven’t devoured all the episodes and movies so far?

Each episode features a different character to play as (although some characters, like Ichigo) repeat regularly. You’ll unlock twenty-one different characters as you play through the game, although some of them are duplicate versions of the same character. Ichigo has four versions of himself, for example. Within each episode you’ll have to kick the ass out of tons of nameless cannon fodder and then eventually face a boss battle of some sort. Each episode unfolds the same. The only thing that changes is the background location, what types of fodder you have to kill, and who the boss will be. Because the only story is a very short narrative read to you, it really doesn’t help to set any sort of mood or tone for the battle. Even if you are familiar with Bleach, you’ll want a little more story to be there besides the hack and slash. That said, the anime cut scenes that tend to occur before or during the boss battles are nice and they give you a sense of the characters you are playing as and against.

One of the most annoying things is that no matter how much you dominate in some boss battles, you’ll get a cut scene where the bad guy has you on the ropes and you’ll look like you spent half an hour as Brock Lesnar’s punching bag. This gets annoying quickly and it may follow the anime, but it also means the story doesn’t jibe with how you actually did and that will grate on many a gamer’s nerves.

So, there’s not much here storywise and what here can only be understood by the most ardent of Bleach fans. If you haven’t watched at least one hundred episodes of the anime and you pick this up, try to look at it as an old school beat ‘em up. After all, Contra didn’t have much of a story and it was still fun.

Story Rating: 4/10

2. Graphics

The graphics are a bit bi-polar. The anime cut scenes look amazing and this holds doubly so for the opening video that starts the game. These are beautifully done and the visuals are amazing in high definition. As well, each major character is highly detailed with attacks and powers that are unique to them and everyone looks great. In terms of appearance my favorite characters were Toshiro Hitsugaya and Barragan. My least favorite was Nnoitora because with one massive horn on his head on one side and a tiny one on the other, he seems like he would be constantly off balance and titling. Cool design though.

The cannon fodder looks pretty good too, but there is less detail and you’ll see the same few types of enemies over and over again. They get pretty dull quick. As well, because they are almost completely clad in white, there isn’t a lot to them. When a horde gets together it looks more like a blob than individual characters. Still, it’s kind of cool to see the game being able to handle fifty different AI controlled characters on the screen before slowdown creeps in.

The one place where the game falters is with the background graphics. They are pretty plain and the game uses the same few backgrounds over and over again. There really wasn’t a lot of effort put into these, which is a shame considering how good the character models look.

Overall, the graphics are pretty enjoyable, especially if you focus on the cast and crew from the anime proper. There can be slowdown when a lot of characters are on screen at once, so keep that in mind as you go through the episodes.

Graphics Rating: 6.5/10

3. Sound

I’ll admit I heard a lot of negative comments in regards to the American dub of Bleach, but the voice actors did a pretty good job in the game. I stuck to the Japanese cast since that was what Netflix streaming used when I watched the series, but both casts really gave it their all here. This means no matter which language track you pick, you should be happy with the results. The one problem with the voice acting is you get A LOT of annoying commentary from other characters when you take damage in battle, especially the female characters. Regardless of which language track you use, the whining and shrill shrieking will get on your nerves fast. It’s especially bad when you play as Ichigo and so even though he was my highest level character, I rarely played as him unless I had to because I got so sick of the cheering squad crying and pleading with him every time he got hit. It also doesn’t help that you’ll hear the same few lines of dialogue when you use your moves or dash and those will quickly grate on your nerves. It’s pretty telling how bad this got when my girlfriend said that repetition of the voice acting was so bad she was shocked I could play the game for more than ten minutes without breaking the disc. So basically, it’s really good voice acting, but the game reuses the same few lines so frequently it will drive you nuts.

The music in the game is excellent. It’s fast-paced, frantic, and a lot of fun to listen to. I almost wish the game came with a soundtrack instead of three downloadable episodes. Not only because the music is that good, but because most Bleach fans will either already own the episodes or will have seen them several times.

I can’t really call the audio quality great here as much as I desperately want to and that’s mainly because of how the voice acting is used. I haven’t been this irritated by a peanut gallery in a long time and I have no idea why the developers thought it would be a good idea to have your friends screech at you when you take damage. That and hearing Ichigo or any other character say, “Let’s Go!” a hundred times a battle or the name of their special move twice as often makes you want to turn the voice work off completely, no matter how well done it is. Still, the voice acting and soundtrack is quite nice, so let’s say it’s “good” with the blown potential to be great (or even better) due to bad development choices.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

There isn’t a lot of substance to the game. It’s a very basic hack and slash game without any real depth. Still, what’s here is fun, especially if you look at the game as a three dimensional Double Dragon. Your square button is your basic melee attack, your triangle button is your distance attack and your circle button is your special attack. Your triangle and circles attacks drain your spirit gauge and, once empty, you have to wait for it to recharge. Your melee attack doesn’t drain anything however. It’s up to you to decide what combination of attacks works best for you.

You also have an “Ignition Gauge” that fills as you dispense and take damage. This gauge is in reference to the original name of the game in Japan: Bleach: Soul Ignition. When the meter is full, you can activate your soul ignition and do a little more damage as well. At any time while the Ignition bar is draining you can press L2 again to empty it completely and activate your super special mega damage doing the character’s specific “Ignition Attack.”

While controls are fairly simple, that doesn’t necessarily mean playing the game is. For example, the camera is the game can get pretty bad at times. It’s even worse when you use the lock-on function (L1) as this makes that opponent front and center on the screen. This means it becomes more important to the camera than your own character and sometimes your guy won’t even be visible on the screen because of this. As hard as it is to imagine, locking on to an opponent makes the camera even worse than without it, so you have to choose between two crappy realities. The first is being able to aim but then you can barely see your character and will have trouble moving around the map or you can choose not to lock on and watch your character attack air or random scenery instead of an actual opponent. It can get pretty frustrating, especially in the post story mode missions. There is also noticeable lag when switching from one locked-on opponent to another and this will drive you nuts.

There are other control issues. Block rarely works. Either the game doesn’t detect that you are blocking or ninety percent of the moves in the game pass through your block. Either way it is useless unless you are going after the counter based trophy. In this case you just hold down the guard button and spam square until something attacks you. Repeat fifty or so times and you have a bronze trophy. Good luck though as most enemies won’t attack when you are blocking. Even worse, like when you are switching your locked-on target, there is noticeable lag between when you press to block and when it actually happens. I guess because I’ve grown up on fighting games, I understand the need for an instantaneous block, and I pretty much demand it when the option is available.

So Bleach: Soul Resurreccion does have some noteworthy control issues, but camera problems, lag and the like plague most games of this sort. These problems are all minor if you’re just trying to get through story mode, but will make you swear repeatedly if you’re trying to clear all of Mission Mode. Call it a thumbs in the middle here because the majority of the game plays well enough in the main mode of the game, but the problems are your number one source of death is the other modes of the game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 5/10

5. Replayability

Story Mode only offers fourteen missions, all of which are between five and ten minutes long. That means it’s only about two to three hours depending on if you have to replay anything. However, there is much more to Bleach: Soul Resurreccion than that. There are an additional twenty-eight “Missions” in the game. In Mission Mode you can pick any character in the game and play through the missions with the handicap it contains. Winning a Mission or an episode nets your character soul points which you can use to level them up. Missions are dramatically harder than the episodes and you’ll have to grind characters for a very long time in previously clearly missions that you play over and over again to get some characters through a mission. As well, if you are trophy hunting, you have to play each of the twenty-eight missions with all twenty-one playable characters. That’s 588 missions in all with a total play time of roughly ninety-eight hours just for missions. That’s a lot of replay value for Bleach fans, but this is pretty much hell on earth for trophy hunters.

Now none of this includes like Soul Attack where you have nine levels in which the goal is to get a character the best score you can or Time Attack, where you try to beat something in the shortest amount of time possible. Nor does it include trying to earn enough soul points to max a character out. Considering each mission of story earns you between 100-900 Soul Points, you have an enormous amount of work ahead of you and it’s not unfeasible that you could play say, all four Disgaea games and beat them in the time it takes to do everything in Bleach: Soul Resurreccion.

You’ll definitely get an obscene amount of playtime out of this game, which should thrill Bleach fans to death.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

Here now really is the big flaw with the game and that’s the Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is pretty unbalanced. Story mode is laughably easy, even with level one characters. All you have to do beat bosses, regardless of difficulty, is attack them with distance attacks, zig zag run/dodge their attacks and repeat until they are at roughly half their health. Then you turn on your Ignition Gauge, use your Ignition Attack, and kill them dead. There is absolutely no challenge if you attack this way, including the last boss Aizen. It’s pretty much a cakewalk. I earned a S ranking doing this against Aizen by the way, so the game approves.

Mission Mode however is the exact opposite. Not only are some of these insanely hard (especially if you are level one), but a discerning gamer will quickly discover that the power ups you earn with your Soul points are mostly crap. Aside from things that extend your health bar or your spirit gauge, nothing else has an actual effect on your opponents, meaning you are outright wasting spirit points by using them. For example, my level fifty Ichigo that had over twelve different “Attack Up” items purchased, two “Attack Up+” items purchased and some “Defense Up” items purchased wad doing the same amount of damage as level one characters that didn’t have anything purchased at all. They were also taking the same amount of damage. Obviously something is seriously broken here and that’s pretty bad. If I grind for a ton of levels and permanent power-ups, there damn well better be a noticeable change in how my character does, especially compared to a brand new level one character. I’m still pretty pissed about putting all that time and effort into a character and noticing, especially the one that is the main character of the game, and noticing they do the same amount of damage as a level one character. Ugh.

So one mode is so easy a monkey can do it and another is pretty grueling, especially since the level up aspect doesn’t actually work and the camera angles/block issues will be the constant death of you in these twenty eight extra levels. Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is fun for what it is, but it really needed to be tweaked so that the two main modes of the game weren’t so drastically different from each other challenge wise and quality control should have really caught that the level up system is fundamentally broken.

Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality

I won’t lie. There are several Bleach games on the market already. There are a ton of licensed anime games on the market already. There are a ton of beat ‘em up games on the market already. So what makes Soul Resurreccion stand out? Well, a couple of things. First it’s not horrible. Sure it has some balance and gameplay problems, but the rest of the game is pretty solid. Second, the production values are quite good compared to similar games. Third, it’s the only beat ‘em up game I can think of that offers twenty-one different playable characters that you can customize however you want. Sure the general idea behind each characters moves are different, but each one plays very different from the last, whether it be range, numbers of hits per button press or how many enemies can be hit with an attack. If only the attack and defensive boosts actually worked, this would be even more impressive.

As it is, whether you are a Bleach fan or not, there is enough in Soul Resurreccion to help it stand out from the pack, even if the game becomes infamous for the number of hours you’ll have to put in to get all the trophies.

Originality Rating: 6/10

8. Addictiveness

Even though I was pretty much a Bleach virgin going into this game, I had a lot of fun with the game. I enioyed trying out all the playable characters, going through story mode, seeing who I was best with and more. Even though I had no idea what most of the story was about and am still dismayed at how the game is the exact opposite of newcomer-friendly, the game itself was a nice little beat ‘em up. Honestly, I enjoyed the game better than the dozen episodes of the anime I watched, so that’s pretty good in my book.

Now I didn’t really enjoy the missions (even though my lowest score on any of them was a B) and I feel the level up system could have been laid out and implemented better, but I still enjoyed my time with Soul Resurreccion. If I did, then that means Bleach fans will pretty much love it, and that’s what matters.

Addictiveness Rating: 6.5/10

9. Appeal Factor

Honestly, if you’re not a Bleach fan already you’re probably not going to pick up this game and hell, you’re probably not even reading this review. But then, I’m not a Bleach fan and I enjoyed this game for what it was, even if it could stand to be tweaked here and there. Does that mean other people who don’t like Bleach will have fun with this. If they buy a game primarily for the engine, then yes, they’ll have a small degree of fun with it, unless the things that annoyed me drive them absolutely insane. Otherwise, there is no point in picking this up. Bleach fans however will more than likely love this game. It won’t be the best game of all time and they’ll probably wish the game had a little more meat story-wise, but they should be happy with the amount of play time involved, the cast of characters and that each character plays somewhat differently from the others.

Sure, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is going to be a nice game that won’t break any sales records or win over any new fans to the franchise, but the core audience will buy (and love) it, and that’s what counts. It does have a low appeal factor, but that’s true of any niche game that is geared for an extremely small subset of gamers.

Appeal Factor Rating: 4/10

10. Miscellaneous

For sixty bucks, you’re getting a game that only the truly insane or obsessed will be able to platinum, a game with an enormous amount of replay value and that does justice to the Bleach anime series. You also get three episodes of the series, which is a cute bonus but something that is almost certainly already owned by those that pick this up. If you’re not already a fan of Bleach you probably won’t pick this up, and if you are a fan of the franchise, you probably already planned to purchase this before (or maybe even after) reading this. At the end of the day, I’m NOT a Bleach fan and I still had fun with the game. It was a decent little beat ‘em up that could have benefited from some tweaking, but the target audience will enjoy this in spite of its flaws, and that’s what counts.

Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10
The Scores
Story: 4/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 7/10
Control and Gameplay: 5/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 3/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 6.5/10
Appeal Factor: 4/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Total Score: 59

Short Attention Span Summary
Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is a fine little beat ‘em up that will make longtime fans of the series happy but will fail to convert any newcomers to the flock. The game is pretty uninviting in regards to story as nothing is explained and the game assumes you have seen every episode of the series going into it so if you haven’t be prepared to have no idea what is going on. That said, the game looks and sounds great and it can even be a lot of fun in spite of some camera and lock-on issues. The game features over twenty-one playable characters and it will take you over one hundred hours of playtime if you want to platinum it, so trophy hunters had best stay far away while people looking for a lot of replay value will probably be ecstatic. Overall, if you’re a fan of Bleach at all, you really should pick this up and if you’re not, the only reason to pick this up is if you’re looking for a neat but forgettable beat ‘em up while waiting for the deluge fall titles to begin.

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