It’s always surprised me that Bleach games have almost solely been on handheld consoles. For a franchise that relies on flashy, over-the-top pyrotechnics one would assume that the brawn provided by the more powerful home consoles would be the obvious choice. Well it’s been a long wait, but finally Bleach has hit the PS3 in ‘Soul Resurrección’.
For those who are unaware what Bleach is, prepare yourself for a severely condensed explanation of the story so far. Are you ready?
Ichigo Kurosaki seems like an average 15-year-old teenager, although there is one major difference; he can see the spirits of the dead. His life changes dramatically when a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki stumbles into his world. A Soul Reaper is a powerful being who seeks out and destroys evil spirits called ‘Hollows’ who have forced their way into the world of the living. During a battle with a strong Hollow, Rukia becomes seriously injured and transfers her powers to Ichigo. A good indication of the power of a Soul Reaper is the size of the sword they carry, so Rukia is shocked when the mist clears and there stands Ichigo with a sword the size of a person.[drop] Whilst waiting for Rukia to recover, Ichigo decides to help her by taking over her duties to fight off the Hollows and save Karakura Town. Several months later, Thirteen Court Guard Squad Captain Byakuya Kuchiki is sent to the world of the living from the Soul Society (the world of spirits) to arrest Rukia and sentence her to death for transferring her powers to a human.
Incensed, Ichigo and his friends decide to save her; and cross over into the Soul Society. By doing this they put themselves up against the extraordinarily powerful Soul Society Squad Captains, such as the feared Kenpachi Zaraki.
During the rescue attempt, Ichigo and the other members of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads discover that the attempt on Rukia’s life was actually a plot orchestrated by the traitorous Captain Sosuke Aizen, who wanted to gain the Hogyoku; a powerful orb that was hidden within Rukia.
There are only two ways to obtain the orb; set fire to Rukia to burn it out of her, or use a special tool to extract it. When Rukia’s execution is thwarted, Aizen resorts to the second method. Aizen succeeds in obtaining the Hogyoku, then betrays his fellow Soul Reapers and retreats with co-conspirators Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tousen to Hueco Mundo, the world of the Hollows.
There, Aizen uses the Hogyoku to create an army of powerful Arrancars. He now threatens the peace of both the Soul Society and the Human World. This is where the game kicks off.
Ok, and relax.
That may have seemed slightly long winded of me, but Soul Resurrección absolutely requires you to know your Bleach history. There is precious little in the way of explanation, and within thirty seconds words such as “Arrancars” and “Hogyoku” are being brought up frequently. The story mode is purely for the fans, and whilst this in itself is no bad thing, it’s something that needs to be made very clear.
Soul Resurrección is in a similar vein to a Dynasty Warriors game. Played from a third person perspective, your aim is to get from one side of the level to the other by ploughing through wave after wave of enemies.
To start with your character has a basic melee attack. This can be chained into a combo, and if you build up a big enough multiplier you’ll be rewarded with a slightly flashier, more powerful attack to finish the combo off. Most of the time the melee combat is smooth, although some of the attack animations are too long (in my opinion) and actually leave you open to a bit of a kicking. The target lock can also be problematic when facing flying enemies, as it’ll cause the camera to zoom in and out, spinning around trying to keep up.
For those who like a bit more pizzazz, you also have access to an energy based attack that varies from character to character. For example, Kenpachi Zaraki has a deliciously destructive wave of energy that can be flung for what seems like miles, whilst the Quincy, Uryū Ishida, will fire a shot from his trademark energy bow. Using this attack drains a bar at the top of your screen that takes a while to recharge, so you need to keep a close eye on your consumption.
That energy meter will also come in handy when you want to unleash one of your powerful attacks. Again, these vary depending on what character you are using, but they all produces similar results: lots of dead Hollows.
Soul Resurrección also has one more trick up its sleeve, for when the situation is really dire. There’s a bar on the left hand side of the screen, and when that is 100% full your character can transform into their ultimate form, so for example Ichigo will turn into the slightly unhinged Hollow Ichigo. From here you can fight in this buffed state for a limited time, or unleash your ultimate attack (which gets its own fancy cutscene). The only downside to this attack is that you will immediately power down to your normal state.
Defeating enemies, or smashing up the scenery, will earn you soul points. These points are vital for progression, as they allow you to upgrade your character. The upgrade system is actually pleasingly simple, yet deep enough for those who like to tinker with their character. Standard stats such as health and strength can be increased, but you can also gain access to improved abilities. You can upgrade every character that gets unlocked.
The first place you’ll want to head when booting up the game is Story Mode. This is broken down into 14 chapters, each putting you in control of a new character. Rather than go down the cutscene route, you get a block of text at the beginning of each chapter which summarises what has happened and what your mission is. In truth cutscenes might have been the better option. Bleach is an incredibly loud and dynamic series, so having it all condensed into a wall of text feels somewhat like removing the heart from it all. There are cutscenes in the game, but again they seem to be lacking in energy.[drop2] Surprisingly for a game in this genre the Story Mode can be smashed through in a couple of hours on normal difficulty. As a Soul Reaper you are infinitely more powerful than most of your enemies and as such can flatten them without much hassle. The boss battles provide an interesting challenge though, as here you face those equal to, or above your level.
It’s during these fights where the game really comes alive, as you are forced into using pretty much everything in your arsenal. The only niggle is when a boss launches one of their powerful attacks it switches to a cutscene showing them powering up, but doesn’t give you the opportunity to block. The result is your health bar getting hammered, sometimes by well over a quarter.
Through Story Mode progression you unlock the Mission Mode. This provides a series of challenges for you to face using any character you have unlocked. You are ranked at the end of each mission (as you are in Story Mode) and rewarded a number of Soul Points which you can use to upgrade. You’ll also win various character statues which can be viewed in the gallery. Even with the Mission Mode you’re still only looking at 5-6 hours worth of content in total.
The final mode unlocks when you have cleared missions 10+. This allows you to play through missions but this time upload your scores to an online leaderboard.
Visually the character models look absolutely superb, with some great animation and suitably crazy special attacks. Unfortunately this doesn’t carry over to the environments, which look barren. Yes, Hueco Mundo isn’t exactly party central, but even so the levels just seem devoid of anything interesting. In terms of voice-work, the English dub is perfectly fine, but I’m sure many people will be grateful for the inclusion of the Japanese dub. I don’t know what it is, but the Japanese voice actors manage to really shine when it comes to the more sinister characters.
- Looks fantastic in places
- Good voice work, be it English or Japanese
- A decent range of characters
- Solid gameplay mechanics
- Good upgrade system
- Lack of content
- The story isn’t handled particularly well
- Barren environments
- Can suffer from occassional slowdown
- Being hit with cheap boss attacks
- A wayward target lock
- Some overly long attack animations
I can’t help but feel slightly frustrated when summarising my time with Bleach: Soul Resurrección. It’s an enjoyable game, wrapped in solid gameplay mechanics, but is let down in several areas. The fact it can be finished so soon is very surprising, although not as surprising as the lack of online (or even offline) multiplayer, bearing in mind it worked so well for the latest Naruto game.
The story also hasn’t been handled particularly well. Having just a wall of text at the start of a level is actually quite deflating, and rather than pumping up the player for a bit of carnage it has the opposite effect. If the story had been fleshed out then the score would have been a fair bit higher.
Overall it’s a fun game, but also a real missed opportunity.