Bleach: The 3rd Phantom, a strategy role-playing game developed by Sega and based on the popular anime, wants Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics to notice it. Like a high school student with low self-esteem, The 3rd Phantom tries hard to fit in with different cliques, but ends up sitting awkwardly at lunch with the chemistry teacher.
Choosing between twin siblings Fujimaru and Matsuri Kudo, newcomers are given a speedy introduction to the Bleach universe. Saved from certain death by Seigen Suzunami, the twins grow up in his household and become Soul Reapers. As you beat up on piles and piles of hollows (creepy, corrupted spirits that eat people’s souls), the story moves from past to present, with familiar Bleach characters delivering obligatory fan service.
The grid-based combat starts off promising, but falters. Shaping an eight person battle party from a pool of over 50 characters is cool. Planning movements to better utilize support attacks, properly sucking up spiritual energy and juggling your characters against the rock-paper-scissors combat of power-speed-technique is as fun as the blaring butt-rock guitar licks suggest. Battling remains independent from your Bleach fandom; you don’t need to know Ichigo Kurosaki’s shoe size to enjoy the beautifully animated and entertaining battles.
The problem? Pacing. The 3rd Phantom moves through never-ending conversations like a Segway driving on an expressway, and the limited text speed options never alleviate the pain. Beat a battle, chug through the monotonous free time scenes, read boring dialogue (repeat this 19 times every chapter) and move onto the next battle. The game’s slow pace simply rips the fun out of everything. As it is, the only real zing The 3rd Phantom offers is the Bleach flavoring (which only fans will appreciate), but it's not enough to justify the game on its own.
Oct 8, 2009