What? I posted something?! Heresy, surely… but frankly, with a long list of journalism classes in my future I figure I should keep my writing ability somewhat sharp if only to make up for my terrible people skills when I’m forced to start engaging in interrogative conversation. But enough about me- on to gaming!
Every once in a while I feel compelled to play a game even if I know it won’t go well. I can just tell a game is going to be disappointing or stupid in some way, but I still want to play it for just a little bit because I’m excited by the trailers or something. Typically this happens when I end up playing a movie tie-in or something made by Michael Bay. Pffft racing games, I love them.
Bleach: Soul Resurrection, or Resurrecion if you’re feeling authentic, is a hackn’slash game based on the popular anime and manga whose name is basically unfathomable. It’s a fairly straightforward series where Soul reapers slay demonic “hollow” creatures for the sake of the innocent spirits they prey upon. Explosions and manly yelling abound. One aspect present in Bleach that makes it a staple of the current shonen genre is that most of the characters are extremely similar in terms of functionality. This is true of pretty much the entire series with nearly everyone having transforming swords, single-tone uniforms, and the universal ability to ignore physics. The protagonist, Ichigo, is basically the archetype for all the other characters in the series as well as in the game. He wields a sword that purifies his monstrous foes while making his more squishy targets bleed copious amounts of blood. Every other Soul Reaper, or Death God, is basically a twist on this theme, not to mention most of the in-game antagonists. As a result Ichigo is one of the smoothest characters in the game, and while many of the other characters have their share of hiccups, for the most part it’s a party of button-mashing goodness regardless of who you play as.
As you could probably guess from any picture of him, Ichigo has a fairly simple playstyle- hitting things a lot with your sword. That’s the square button. There’s also a ranged homing attack (triangle) which drains your self-charging MP bar, and a special circle-button attack that drains it completely, forcing you to wait for the bar to recharge before you can use more advanced tactics again. As you take and deal damage, a side bar known as the Ignition gauge fills up, allowing you to enter a powered-up state with the L2 button that deals more damage for a limited time. As a bonus, if you use the button again while transformed, you use a special attack that basically annihilates everything on-screen at the cost of your transformation. Add to that a dash (R2) and block (R1) function, and you’ve got the basic set-up of a hackn’slash with tight, responsive controls that showcase on-screen in beautiful cel-shaded graphics. So what’s the problem?
From a visual standpoint, the levels are faithful cutouts of the environments from the game, those being Hueco Mundo, Soul Society, the skies above Japan and a hellpit. Unfortunately the minimap shows them for what they really are, that being simply-shaped arenas and hallways filled to the brim with assorted cannon-fodder enemies. Sometimes the game locks you in a specific part of the map and spams more enemies than usual, but it’s typically just a mad-dash toward the end. Oddly, however, time isn’t really a factor in your “score.” The game is mostly about collecting little green soul points from enemies and the environment, and spending them on a cheap (yet oddly more functional) copy of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Essentially, the game is built around you hitting everything you see with your sword. Thats the square button, if you forgot.
Unsurprisingly, the story isn’t really the focus of the game; as with most anime tie-ins, it’s assumed that you have a basic understanding of the way the world is set up. This is even more apparent in the case of this game- it seems like the developers didn’t even consider that someone would play the game without being up-to-date with the series. Having read the manga myself I noted several major plot points and fight scenes were glossed over or ignored completely, to say nothing of the relevant characters that are missing. It could be understood if you assume that the game had a limited development cycle, but the fact that the campaign plays out flat and uninteresting isn’t going to endear anyone to the series. Add on top of that the generic half-related music and the terrible English voice acting that seems to derive sadistic pleasure from reciting random japanese phrases every other combo, and you might actually end up wanting some of your own characters to die if only to relieve your own boredom/sanity.
One area the game does excel in however is the visuals. As games get prettier over the years, most surmise that games will look more and more realistic. That’s debatable, but I think that the real potential for HD graphics is games like this. Cel-shading has been around for a while, but with this technology the characters literally look like they walked out of the show. It makes sense; if the developers aren’t trying to make it look realistic in the first place, they can be more faithful to the show and make everything look fantastic.
Admittedly the game is a little half-assed in some areas, but the game accomplishes what it set out to do. If you want to dash across familiar locales from the Bleach universe, cutting a swathe of destruction and high combos through hordes of hollows with little-to-no resistance, then you’re golden. Sure it locks all the characters in their most powerful states, and perhaps the cast of playable characters is on the lean side, but what you do get is perfect for what the game is- a beat em’ up. That, and a cash-in, but what franchise isn’t?
This should come as a surprise to no one, but if you’re not a fan of the series, you won’t know or care about anything happening in this game. I mean it should be self-evident from the moment you look at the box. Most tie-ins in the video game industry fall between mindless cash-grabs and a unique medium to tell an original story within the franchise’s universe, with the small chance of actually turning out to be a good game.
Bleach: Soul Resurreccion was developed by Nippon Ichi Software.
Bleach is owned by Tite Kubo.
I own two cats and a dog-thing.