The Bleach series is a little difficult to properly convey to the casual observer. What started with the story of some poor guy who happened to have the ability to see ghosts has spiraled out into something far, far more involved. Massive battles, epic turns of allegiance, angry quasi-teddy bears, faces that may or may not be skeletal, clashes with enemies that would as soon fell a skyscraper as take on another challenger. These are the things of Bleach. And they are woefully inadequate in terms of actually describing what Bleach actually is.
The short version (and trust us, we're seriously whittling things down here) is that normal "I see icky things" Ichigo is well entrenched in the world of the Soul Society (don't sweat that; it's deeper than we can explain here), of felling Hollows (big time bad guys; they've got a pretty gaping hole in 'em, that's how you know), and generally getting along with fellow Shinigami types (they’re the whole Death God folks). Also, they are, all of them, awesome in varying degrees.
And so, on any given week, Ichigo and friends square off for half-hour-long tussles with increasingly ridiculous consequences. “Ridiculous,” is, of course, used in the most reverent sense, but often the scale of the battles (or even just one-off attacks) is so huge that one might wonder how it would translate to a game. In Japan, it’s apparently translated quite well, with Sony Computer Entertainment handling the publishing duties for a handful of titles that have sold well on the back of a phenomenally popular manga (and, of course, the anime).
Here in the States, though, folks are used to getting their mainstream anime fix by way of channels like Cartoon Network (or, more precisely the late-night Adult Swim block), have had to either summon the gumption to import the games and brave the language barrier, or just sit back and hope someone would give the latest HD offering a proper localization.
And that’s where NIS America comes in. Having seen the Japanese sales for Bleach: Soul Ignition in their native Japan, the American wing of the strategy RPG mainstay has opted to bring things over under the title Bleach: Soul Resurreccion. Don’t let the Latin-infused moniker throw you; this is still the same hack-and-slash epic already gifted to Bleach-starved fans abroad.
There’s really not much to explain – take the familiar button mashing fun of Dynasty Warriors, fold in plenty of story-heavy cutscene exposition, and throw in plenty of big baddies and quickly felled mobs alike and you have the basic idea. From there, it’s a matter of simply picking your character (though plenty were available, we stuck to the obviously-announced Ichigo) and plowing out into the desert to hack away at Hollows.
There’s no questioning the Dynasty Warriors influence. Ichigo has a standard quick attack that can be linked and/or finished with a ranged one by tapping Square a few billion times and ending with a press of the triangle button. Should one opt for just that triangle attack, it sucks energy from a special attack meter but spits out lancing walls of energy – useful for taking down airborne enemies, say. Along with an infinite dash that can be used for fast traversal across both ground and air and a lock-on/block move that helps with quick dashes, Ichigo is generally concerned with just hacking enemies to bits. Lots of enemies.
Generally speaking, that’s the bulk of the missions. Though there's a heavy story influence, it has yet to be translated, so we had to skip past the reams of text and watch quizzically as the shout-fest cutscenes played out. Thankfully, there was plenty of eye candy to distract us from our frail grip on the Japanese language, and in much the same way CyberConnect 2’s Ultimate Ninja Storm Naruto games did, Soul Resurreccion looks stunningly close to the anime, with plenty of clean, smooth lines and some slick high-action bits.
Those really only crop up at the end of levels, though, when one has to square off against a boss (and here we saw an interesting variety ranging from a trio of towering shrouded Hollows, to more grounded – literally, with vines and all – baddies). In the mean time, the bulk of each mission revolves around slaughtering hundreds of one-hit-kill Hollow grunts, with the occasional moment where an energy barrier will be thrown up while mini-bosses or harder enemies make an appearance and have to be taken out.
Though our hands-on time with Soul Resurreccion was rather brief, what we played certainly helped scratch the Dynasty Warriors itch that tends to crop up from time to time. The addition of cutscenes that manage to almost perfectly recreate the look and feel of the anime will certainly help sell things to fans, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to get a bit more in-depth with things before the game hits the states this August. As soon as we’ve gotten more, so will you.
May 18, 2011