Bleach is the story of a 15 year old guy named Kurosaki Ichigo who can see ghosts. Few people in Bleachville have this ability, but one day he meets up with Kuchiki Rukia who saves him from a Hollow â€“ a pissed-off ghost, up to no good. Rukia is badly injured, and as a last resort she shares her powers with him because after all, he can see ghosts just like her. We learn that Rukia is a death god, with the job of sending ghosts to the afterlife, named the â€˜soul society.â€™ I donâ€™t want to give too much of the story away, but Iâ€™ll tell you that the story begins as Ichigo and his fellow Hollow-seeing friends have entered the heavily protected soul society to rescue their friend Rukia, who had been arrested by her former employers and sentenced for execution.
Those of you who have seen the anime or read the manga up until now are probably well acquainted with the story and the characters, and know that fighting is mainly what itâ€™s about. The Gamecube rendition lets you play most of the big fights in what they call the scenario mode. Here youâ€™ll find three scenarios that begin by telling the story from Ichigo and his friendsâ€™ point of view, then the tables will be turned and youâ€™ll play as two of the â€˜badâ€™ characters.
The story ends at around episode 61-62, so while it leaves out some amazingly big plot-twists itâ€™s quite up to date, and should therefore be interesting for fans of the show.
Besides the scenario mode, which should last you a few hours, you have the â€˜singleâ€™ mode where you choose a character and fight all of the ordinary opponents. Next is the match mode where you play as player vs. player, player vs. CPU, or CPU vs. CPU. Finally you have a nice tutorial/practice mode, and the 13 Bankyoubu mode, which is yet another good way of unlocking more of the many cool secrets you can find.
So how are the actual fighting mechanics? Honestly, theyâ€™re not too bad. There are about 15 characters initially and 25 total, when all have been unlocked. Most of them are armed with some kind of weapon, but theyâ€™re usually fairly well-balanced as to the number of opponents you can steamroll and the ones thatâ€™ll give you more of a challenge. In some of the modes the characters are also assigned difficulty ratings, though in my opinion theyâ€™re debatable.
When fighting you have a few basic attacks. There are combos, counter bonuses, and such, but no grappling attacks. In terms of feel/responsiveness itâ€™s more towards Tekken than Street Fighter.
As you fight your opponents a bar builds up at the bottom left of the screen. This denotes the â€˜fuelâ€™ for your special attacks, which come in a few flavors. R+A / R+X (A is the normal and X is the harder attack) will launch the standard special attacks. These tend to do a fair bit of damage, and normally have different ranges and uses.
R+Y is the characterâ€™s signature attack, and these do a great amount of damageâ€”albeit after forcing you to watch an animated sequence that lasts perhaps ten seconds or so. This attack uses a great big chunk of the bottom left bar, but then again it can be recharged by holding L+R; quite useful when youâ€™ve knocked your opponent down and donâ€™t feel like closing in for the extra damage.
In addition to these you have a few more attacks that turn the screen black and white, and slows down time greatly for your opponentâ€”an excellent time to launch a combo attack or another attack that could easily be blocked otherwise.
Bleachâ€™s graphics are quite good. All of the characters are very nicely modeled and cel-shaded, and move around quite smoothly. The backgrounds arenâ€™t phenomenal but you can easily recognize them from the show, and theyâ€™re not really bad, just a bit dull and lifeless. You cannot interact with the backgrounds in any way either; you just play ordinary and fairly short fights.
In between every fight in the scenario mode you have story elements where the various characters interact with each other. You canâ€™t really understand much of it without knowing Japanese, so eventually I found myself just skipping through them quickly. Technically theyâ€™re not that great eitherâ€”just still images with the standard cheap animation tricks to simulate motion and action. Itâ€™s something you just accept though, while laughing at the occasionally hilarious â€˜Engrishâ€™ phrase.
As a Japanese import game itâ€™s not too hard to play and appreciate. The main menu text is in English, but the sub-menus are in Japanese; but the gameplay isnâ€™t too complex so you should be able to discover most of the attacks and gameplay elements fast.
The audio has just about everything you could wish for, considering itâ€™s an import title and those thatâ€™ll buy it have probably watched most of Bleach up until this point. All of the voice talents from the show have lent their voices to the game, and they sound as passionate as you could hope, which I guess is what matters for us foreigners. It wouldâ€™ve been nice if there were more ways of playing with your friends though.
Bleach isnâ€™t a game youâ€™re likely to buy instead of the big blockbuster fighter titles. Itâ€™s a game for Bleach fans, and thereâ€™s starting to be a lot of us. You will of course need a Freeloader disc or other additional means to play this import title, but if you do pick it up youâ€™ll find a fun game thatâ€™ll let you recreate most of the more or less epic battles. Sure, most of them never reach the same legendary proportions, but still.
In many ways it feels like it has what every fighting game should have, but not that much more. Most of all, it has a presentation that anime fans should enjoy, probably much more so than, I assume, everyone else.
Thanks to Lik-Sang.com for providing us with the review copy.