Bleach is a popular anime series that has a large, maybe not DragonBall large, but still very large, following in the West. I've dabbled with some Bleach games in the past on previous systems, but I've yet to dive into the anime/manga to really figure who's who and what the heck is going on.
Playing Bleach: Soul Resurreccion proved fairly enjoyable despite not being welcoming to series newcomers. Fans of Bleach are sure to enjoy the myriad of characters, moves, and locations featured here across three playable modes. Those same fans may be more forgiving on some of the game's shortcomings as well. Let's take a closer look...
Pour On the Bleach
Soul Resurreccion contains three primary modes: Story, Mission, and Soul Attack. A fourth option in the main menu, Collectibles, houses all of the unlocked figures and voiceovers you have earned in the other modes. The three playable modes are intertwined in that you have to play through Episodes, or levels, in the Story to unlock Missions, and you have to beat Missions to unlock Soul Attack.
Story Mode consists of fourteen episodes, or levels. They're called episodes because they are really presented as almost separate from one another even though there was a common theme featuring the Soul Society against the Espada. A narrator explains the setting for each Episode while it loads, but unless you are familiar with Bleach names and places, it's all pretty much gibberish, which is fine -- this game is meant for the fans, afterall.
Gameplay consists solely of third person, hack'n'slash action. Your lone character will face off against dozens, sometimes hundreds, of enemies per level. You can actually zip right by most of these by holding down Dash (R2). I started Dashing more towards the latter half of the Story when the gameplay became too monotonous; doing so cost me Soul Points, however, which you use to upgrade your characters, not to mention my overall grade for that level.
Anyway, if you are familiar with third person action games, you will find Bleach to be very easy on Normal. You can change the difficult every Episode, so if you're finding it too easy, you can switch to Hard (and later Very Hard) for additional challenge and more Soul Points. On Normal, you can work your way through the entire Story Mode in an all too brief two to four hours, possibly without your character dying along the way.
So this is indeed a purely combat game, and a very linear one at that. Level design is all very straight-forward -- early levels take place in a large desert, but that actual area that you can traverse is much smaller than it first appears to be. Invisible walls that turn blue as you bump them keep you in the designated field of play, and a helpful mini-map in the upper right of the HUD keeps you in line. You can also press L3 and R3 to reset the camera and temporarily pop-up a red arrow that points in the direction of the objective, should you get turned around. Getting lost is not a problem in Soul Resurreccion however, because you never have to double-back and there is only way correct path to take.
Normally, there are two or three short sequences in which you battle hordes of enemy and a mini-boss challenge, and then ultimately you enter the Episode finale against the boss. Boss fights are the highlight of the action, and these are not surprisingly featured heavily in the twenty-eight missions of Mission Mode. The variety of bosses, their sheer size and appearance, and their attacks, were neat to experience.
Although you use a variety of characters in Story Mode, each plays pretty much the same as the other. Each character has a basic melee slash attack (Square) and two Pressure attacks (Triangle and Circle) that dole out more damage, although they are kept in check by the Soul Gauge which regenerates automatically (or with Pressure power-ups). The Triangle attack is a ranged attack, made even more useful with the lock-on targeting you have at your optional disposal. In addition to standard and Pressure attacks, there are the all-powerful Ignition attacks which you can unleash only after you have filled up your Ignition gauge which is on the left side of the HUD. These attacks are best used for boss fights, as frankly, the game is easy enough that there isn't much use in using them on the minions.
The Story mode makes for a decent, very quick and easy experience (on Normal anyway) that is really just meant to springboard you to the Mission mode and then from there, Soul Attack mode. Playing through the Story will provide you access to additional characters, a total of twenty-one playable characters exist in all. These characters can be upgraded to a staggering Level 175, too, but to do so
you will need to unlock the character and play as them in the Mission and Soul Attack modes to rack up points. The best way to do this is to play on Hard or Very Hard and earn what Soul Points you can. The upgrade system can be accessed from the Main Menu and allows you to pick and choose upgrades for individual characters, boosting their defense, health, attack power, and even unlock some additional techniques. Interestingly, the game keeps track of earned Soul Points per character; in other words, points you earn while playing as Ichigo cannot be used to level-up Soi Fon (who is my favorite character thanks to her awesome quick and acrobatic kicks).
Due to the short Story mode, Mission mode is really the meat and potatoes of Soul Resurreccion. There are twenty-eight missions which you unlock as you go. For example, after you beat mission 1, two more missions open up. You don't have to play them in consecutive order, and you can see which missions you need to beat to unlock others. Only after you have unlocked a mission can you see its criteria: maybe a time limit, multiple bosses to defeat, the inability to use Dash or Jump, things like that. The idea is to give you a quick, generally sub-ten minute challenge to rack up some Soul Points to unlock new powers for your chosen character.
Once you have cleared nearly half of the missions, Soul Attack mode opens up which isn't all that exciting unless you enjoy throwing up your scores against the online community. It's the only part of the game that has a multiplayer component unfortunately, but passionate fans of the game will likely find a good amount of additional game time here.
No matter which mode you play, I found the gameplay to be too repetitive and linear to make it anything more than a decent weekend-distraction type of game. Obviously, fans of Bleach will surely get more mileage than I have, but it's undeniable that the vast majority of time in Bleach is constantly hacking and slashing, usually against enemies that are severely less powerful than you are. With such a short story and only one-off missions to go to after that, Soul Resurreccion ran out of steam within about three hours for me and trudged along after that.
That said, one element of Soul Resurreccion I never tired of was the slick, cel-shaded visuals which are quite honestly the most impressive feature of this release. From the main menu onwards, the presentation is really pretty and very fluid. I never experienced any framerate issues or any significant camera issues, either. The visual flair of Soul Resurreccion is gorgeous, using a flurry of colors and effects that just about pop off the screen, especially during the Ignition actions. The level art design was a little less interesting, but the on screen action -- including some great looking standard enemies and bosses -- were a treat. The sound package, which does include English and Japanese voiceovers, was not as good. I think I would have liked the voiceovers better if the characters didn't constantly say the same thing during combat.
To the summary...