Last year’s Bleach: Blade of Fate was a pretty awesome title. Not only did it succeed in being one of the best anime-inspired fighting games of all time, but it was probably the best 2D fighter available on the DS in America. It had great control, a variety of modes, and incredibly deep online functionality.
So naturally, the bar was set quite high for the game’s successor: Bleach: Dark Souls. Luckily, this title has really succeeded in bringing back nearly everything we loved about the first title and improved upon it slightly. Bleach: Dark Souls barely edges out its predecessor as the best fighting game for the DS, but it is definitely a title worth picking up for both fans of the Bleach series and for fans of 2D fighting who have been watching their DS gather dust.
Last Year’s Blade of Fate featured a very deep and long story mode that took you through the events of the Soul Society through the lens of different characters. Bleach: Dark Souls picks up right where the last title left off. It takes you through the end of the Soul Society arc and into the anime-specific Boundt arc. The game takes all the major characters from these arcs and fits them into the story mode, much like last time. Fans will be happy to see many new playable characters such as Don Kanoji and Lirin making the cut this time, getting incorporated into the story mode. There is a total of over 40 characters in this title, which is quite impressive considering the last iteration only had about 30.
However, even though the core mechanics of the story mode are the same, the structure has been altered quite a bit this time around. Instead of having different character vignettes to go through, there is an overarching story where you can “zoom in” to different levels and stages in a non-linear manner. The story mode is structured much like this year’s Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit, but with a much less linear progression. You are able to select from optional missions as well as story missions, and you will be able to obtain “keys” to unlock more content as the story mode progresses.
One thing I was really impressed to see in the story mode was the presence of Jump Superstars-style level challenges. Instead of every level involving the singular goal of just beating the enemy to a pulp, you will sometimes have levels where you will have to gather items, perform certain special moves, or gain a certain amount of points before the end of the match. These new challenges vary the gameplay considerably and definitely keep you engaged longer than just beating random opponents over and over.
In addition to the story mode, there is also an arcade mode and a training mode where you can test your wits against the computer A.I. Of course, the ultimate mode here is the online multiplayer. You are able to participate in a variety of matches, and the game has minimal lag. You are able to play ranked and unranked matches and can toggle the use of the different spirit cards. You are also able to make friends online and send messages to different users and invite them directly to matches. One really unique feature is the ability to turn on an online ranking feature that gives you a special title to correspond directly with your online identity. The online mode in Bleach: Dark Souls, as it was in Blade of Fate, really shines, and if you are a fan of online 2D fighting, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up purely for this aspect.
The fighting mechanics remain virtually unchanged since last year and have held up quite well. You will be able to use the D-pad to move your character around and the buttons for simple attacks. The touch screen is used to trigger special “Spiritual Pressure” attacks. You can also use the touch screen for special “Sprit Cards” that will temporarily boost your character’s stats or lower the stats of your opponent. You can unlock more powerful spirit cards as you go through the game, and you can build custom decks using your favorite cards.
The graphics are also improved slightly since Blade of Fate. The characters sport a little more detail, and some of the new environments look a bit more polished than those in Blade of Fate. Although, it should be noted that the sprite-based graphics do pale in comparison to some more modern DS titles, but that is primarily because the game was originally released over two years ago in Japan. But for it’s time, the graphics are quite good, and manage to stand up well, even by modern standards.
The sound in Bleach: Dark Souls is quite good. The background music is sampled directly from the anime, and the English voice cast does all the voiceover. My one complaint about the sound in this title is the repetitive in-battle voiceovers. Because each move is tied to one specific sound, if you are trying to chain together a few of the same move, the repetitive sound can get very annoying.
Although Bleach: Dark Souls is not that big of a departure from last year’s Blade of Fate, there are enough new features to bring fans back for more Bleach. This title has the great control and excellent assortment of play modes that made the original title so impressive, and it adds more characters and a new story mode to make the whole experience feel new. Even if you aren’t into the manga or the anime series, Bleach: Dark Souls is an excellent 2D fighting title and is unrivaled on the DS in the US market. Bleach: Dark Souls is definitely worth your time, and unless you hate fighting games, you are pretty much guaranteed a good time with this.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Graphics are fairly good, despite being somewhat dated. 4.3 Control
Controls are very tight and work well. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music and voiceover are taken directly from the anime, but some move-specific phrases get repetitive. 4.5
If you aren’t drawn in by the long story mode, the deep online mode will definitely keep you coming back for more!
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.