Everyone has their reason for why they fall in love with a particular anime. Whether it's the flashy, high-action battles, an unpredictable story, or well-rounded, intriguing characters, there's always a part that some fans cling to more than others. Bleach could have been a Dragon Ball Z clone, but it instead featured excellent character interaction - particularly, the witty banter to make it stand out from the pack. Now, strip this interaction from Bleach and leave it just with its combat. Still interested? Then Bleach: Soul Resurreccion should stay in your good graces; however, for those who revel in the eclectic personalities of Ichigo and company, they’re nowhere to be found here.
It's far from a stretch to say that Bleach: Soul Resurreccion takes a lot of its inspiration from Koei's Dynasty Warriors franchise. However, instead of ploddingly defeating Chinese warriors, Bleach's Ichigo Kurosaki and friends are all about blazing fast attacks against their ghostly enemies. It mimics the anime well, and it’s not too difficult to get into the groove of things. To succeed, all you need to do is mash the same buttons to chain combination attacks. There is some depth to the combat, but it felt almost unnecessary to be competent at anything other than knowing where the square and circle buttons are. As far as the controls are concerned, there's not much to complain about as they're technically sound, but an easy to control game with a clean interface can only get you so far. This is especially apparent in the barebones story mode.
The story arc at the forefront of Soul Resurreccion follows Aizen becoming a Judas to his fellow soul reapers by forming the Espada. Most fans can recall this massive storyline spanning 120 episodes of content. And therein lies the problem: perhaps Soul Resurreccion was simply too ambitious. Any developer setting its sights on 44 hours of anime would have trouble implementing into only 14 story missions and SCEI unsurprisingly bobbled it.
The story mode follows the manga and anime through the final battle with Aizen. The main problem, however, is the execution, as the story just isn't retold in an engaging way. The beginning of each stage features simply narrated Star Wars-esque blocks of text; those looking for worthwhile animated scenes will find them entirely absent. The most that Soul Resurreccion offers is dry, serious dialogue that doesn’t say a whole lot of anything other than, “let's fight!” As it stands, story mode offers a linear ride, while bypassing the Aizen arc’s intensity. It certainly doesn't give fans the ability to relive the great moments from the anime, nor will it enamor Bleach newbies.
Completion of story mode unlocks the game’s playable characters (both allies and enemies) and gives “soul points” for use on the game’s expansive level-up grids. It's fun watching your character grow, but not much on the grid feels worthwhile. There are incremental additions to your characters’ skillsets, but only dedicated players will unlock more than a fraction of these nodes. Mission mode offers over 20 missions; however, they’re mostly a rehash of the levels and enemies in story mode. There are small additions for challenge, such as time or ability restrictions, but the real motivation to play through it is to collect more Soul Points and unlock kitschy extras. If you love to grind, that’s where Bleach most succeeds.
Competitive gamers will also find an online mode featuring leaderboards on exclusive missions. Online’s main issue is it suffers the same fate of mission and story mode: more of the same. While these missions do feature more bosses and enemies, in the end, only those who want to be the very best like no one ever was need apply. Bleach: Soul Resurreccion would have benefited from a co-op mode; without it, online multiplayer is dull.
Aesthetically, the game's cel-shaded graphics on the characters are surprisingly competent. There's a decent amount of detail infused into every one of the 21 unlockable characters. However, the backdrops leave much to be desired. Now, the anime isn't known to have the most varied environments, but with just a few different settings, adding a touch of extra detail to separate each area from the next would have made all the difference. Both English and Japanese voices are available, so whatever your poison, Bleach has it. Still, with such meager dialogue, Johnny Yong Bosch doesn’t mean much.
As it stands, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion doesn't offer nearly enough variety to really draw in the average player. Is it fun to play for a few hours? Sure, but the novelty is bound to wear off due to all the repetition. As fun as it is to abandon the role of observer and actually jump into controlling your favorite character, not much here feels all that exhilarating. However, the game is still technically sound, and those who revel in high energy hack-and-slash gameplay and are completionists at heart will get the most out of the game. Unless you’re a fan of the anime and fit the above description, though, don’t expect this experience to match up to its $59.99 price tag.
Aug 1, 2011