If you haven’t heard about Bleach, you’re missing out. It’s hugely popular in Japan and has a worldwide fan base thanks to all those hardworking fansubbers out there. The story stars a fifteen year old boy who has the ability to see ghosts. When Ichigo Kurosaki runs into a female death god his world gets turned upside down. Then Shinigami transfers her powers over to Ichigo, who now has the task of hunting fallen spirits. Sony was lucky enough to pick up the license to make Bleach games, but after the rushed PSP game Bleach: Heat the Soul gamers have been weary about SCEJ’s use of the license. Bleach: Selected Soul is just another reason why PS2 owners should be happy that Treasure is going to make another Bleach title.
Bleach is begging for a game, it’s an action anime with a huge fanbase. There are so many routes to go with it, a fighting game (ok that was done), a RPG, a tactics game, even a restaurant sim game would have sold. SCE went for the more obvious route of a 3D beat ’em up game. There’s nothing wrong with the genre, but bad hack ‘n slashers end up being awful titles. Bleach: Selected Soul lets you pick from five characters: Ichigo, Chad, Uryuu, Rukia, and Orihime. Instead of just having one ghost hunter you actually get to pick two. You control one character and the other is moved around by the computer. During missions you can switch between controlling either of the characters on the fly. Ichigo specializes in close range combat. If he gets in real close he can cause some major damage with swift sword swings. Chad has the most powerful attacks, but he’s also the slowest character in the game. He’s also got jerky control, which makes him better suited as a partner than who you’re playing with. If you want a ranged attack look to Rukia or Uryuu both can shoot haunts from a distance. Playing a character like Uryuu isn’t quite as fun as one of the brawling characters. There isn’t a lock on feature or anyway to quickly switch between enemies. Add in a clunky camera and you’ll be missing too often. The best teams end up being ones with one close combat expert and a back row sniper.
Bleach ignores gameplay mechanics such as puzzle solving and jumping. It’s straight to combat here. Bleach: Selected Soul gives you a bunch of different combo options. You can play around with the standard light attack to heavy attack finisher. Simple combos like that build rise to your concentration meter indicated under your life bar. Performing more complex combos requires using up that stored concentration. If you press circle during a combo you can call in your partner for an attack. Had Chad been your partner of choice he’d come crashing in from the sky to slam his fist in the ground damaging a group of enemies. If you want to get more technical you can do a “change combo”. Change combos start out with your character doing a combo then you quickly switch into your partner and continue the combo. The mechanic looks awesome when executed, even if it’s a gimmick.
You’ll have plenty of time to master combos during the thirty plus missions in the game. Even though it seems like there’s a lot of missions gameplay is between each one is the same: punch your way to the finish. There are boss battles in between missions, which keep bordeom down. You’ll match swords with Renji and later fight Byakuya. Once you beat the game you’ll unlock a bunch of playable characters and a new difficulty. This is all good, but since the game can be beat in less than six hours there really should be more.
Where Bleach: Selected Soul falls apart is in it’s presentation. You’ve got a solid anime intro in the beginning. Props for that. Beyond that you have shoddy graphics. Character models don’t have any style to them and have less technical value than most PS1 games. Special effects don’t fair any better. The glow of Uryuu’s arrows have and Orihime’s orb have a fuzzy look to it. The backgrounds are barren and repetitive. You’ll see the same textures reused for a couple levels in a row. For such a stylized anime, these graphics don’t cut it. The only chord the game hits in presentation is with the voice acting, done by the original Japanese cast.
Ok so you might say “Bleach wasn’t designed for every gamer out there, just fans of the anime”. That’s probably true, but there’s going to be a lot of disappointed fans out there with the quality of the title.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
As you probably guessed Bleach doesn’t have English subtitles for the tutorial or the story mode. Although, the game does have English menus. If you’re unsure about your language skills pick up the Asian version of the game, it comes with a handy pamphlet (in English) explaining the necessary controls.
This game won’t come over until Bleach is licensed and on TV. Don’t hold your breath for it.
+ Pros: Some neat gimmicks like the change combo system and calling a partner character.
– Cons: Lackluster gameplay that barely suits the PS1 era.
Overall: I can’t imagine anyone who would say Bleach: Selected Soul is a great game, even fans complain about the lack of moves (no Shi-kai or Ban-kai) from the manga.
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