Much like Koei’s infinitely marmite but consistently popular range of Musou hack ‘n’ slash videogames, NIS’, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion is largely dependent upon your love of the square and triangle buttons on your PlayStation 3 controller…..well, that and at least a passing interest in the long running and hugely popular Bleach anime and manga.
A traditional hack’n’slasher in just about every way, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has spent time with the Dynasty Warriors, Gundam Musou or Sengoku Basara series of videogames. With never ending waves of identikit enemies, repetitive gameplay and bland, uninteresting environments, Bleach makes all the same mistakes as its genre predecessors. Like those games however, dig below the surface and you will find varied move lists, a diverse and vast selection of playable characters, some fantastic animations and more content than you could ever hope to point a stick at. To put it bluntly, if you love any of the aforementioned series, you’ll love this too. If not, well, Bleach: Soul Resurreccion certainly won’t change your mind.
With a cell-shaded look that perfectly captures the visual style of the show, fans will certainly be happy to see all of their favourite characters recreated in such painstaking detail. With much of the show’s cast unlocked as playable character as you progress through the Story and Mission Modes, the fantastic animation work for each character really helps to distinguish them beyond their basic visual differences. Sure, you can play through the game with just about any character by spamming the mid and high attack buttons, but for those eager to crunk up the difficulty setting (a wise choice for any veteran Musou fan), you’ll soon find that many of the characters have clearly distinguishable skills and capabilities. With a pleasing mix of fast-paced fighters, cumbersome heavyweights and ranged attackers to choose from, you’ll soon find yourself picking out specific styles and characters for specific mission types on the higher difficulty settings.
That said though, as great as the character animation is, as is so often the case in games of this ilk, the environmental work by comparison is hugely disappointing. While those available aren’t the ugliest that the genre has delivered in recent years, each of them are repeated en-masse. The same goes for the enemies. Other than some of the cooler looking boss battles, most of the enemies you come across will be repeated a thousand times over, leaving you to cut through the same old selection of headless chickens time and time again. I was actually a big fan of the enemy design in Bleach, but like the environments, repetition really did take its toll after a few hours of play.
In terms of the core game modes available, Story Mode is actually surprisingly slight. At just 3-4 hours long, this mode can be blitzed in one committed sitting. The real longevity of the Bleach package is delivered via the Mission Modes that, thanks to the huge array of playable characters, has the potential to deliver hours upon hours of classic hack ‘n’ slash gameplay. While inevitably rather repetitive, I found the Final Fantasy-esque grid upgrade system hugely addictive. With new moves and powers to learn for every character, there is plenty to do for those eager to wring every drop of content out of Bleach: Soul Resurrection.
If anything, Bleach is one of those games that actually gets better as you progress. With only a few basic moves available at first, upgrading your character has a relatively profound impact upon their performance and move set making long term play a very attractive prospect for those looking to dig a little deeper under Bleach’s initially basic exterior. Fans of the more casual approach shouldn’t worry too much though as the game’s array of impressive special attacks and the visually arresting Ignition Mode help to deliver an immediately gratifying combat system. Rounding off the core combat package is a surprisingly solid lock-on system that may not sound all that exciting on paper, but given the infamously poor attempts of its peers, really is worthy of note.
While you don’t necessarily need to be a fan of the Bleach anime to enjoy Bleach: Soul Resurrection, given the fact that the game’s story is set smack bang in the middle of the long running animated series, prior knowledge certainly helps. It’s not like the story plays a huge part in the overall experience but there are quite a few screens of scrolling text that list off names and locations at an alarming rate. As someone with only a vague knowledge of the series rather than an encyclopedic one, I certainly struggled to keep pace.
While it won’t mean too much to your average gamer, fans of the series will be glad to hear that Bleach: Soul Resurrection includes both the English dub and original Japanese voice work. Don’t get me wrong, the American voice cast (taken from the anime) all do a very decent job, but hey, the option to play the game in its intended language is certainly a nice little touch. As great as the voice work is though, it’s a shame that many of the show’s extremely catchy tunes are missing from the game. The pop-rock soundtrack delivered isn’t bad by any means, but none of the tracks found here will stick in the noggin quite like the originals.
Bleach: Soul Resurrection is yet another in a long line of love-‘em-or-hate-‘em hack ‘n’ slash videogames that seem to have found a sizable niche in the West. It certainly doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting with the well-worn template, but what it does, it tends to do rather well. The environments and enemies are far too limited and the core gameplay is initially rather basic, but stick with it and Bleach: Soul Resurrection slowly reveals its not inconsiderable depth.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.