Bleach: Dark Souls
Anime-based gaming done right.
There's no doubt about it -- Bleach for the Nintendo DS is anime-based gaming done right. While Dark Souls feels more like an update than a full-out sequel to its predecessor, it provides just the right amount of action, story, and new content to warrant some attention from fans of the series. With tweaked controls, more balanced characters, and engaging combat to boot, Bleach once again raises the bar for all DS fighting games.
- Plenty of new moves and characters, entertaining story mode provides plenty of bite-sized challenges
- Many fights can't be managed without the auto-block option, ridiculously overstuffed battle system still needs a little fixing
Bleach: Dark Souls isn't just a good sequel, it's undoubtedly one of the most impressive fighting games on the DS.
Bleach is one of those anime series that hits all the right buttons -- good writing, decent animation, and tons of memorable fight scenes. Bleach: Dark Souls for the Nintendo DS also hits the right buttons, while improving on a lot of sore spots from last year's title, Blade of Fate. Any DS owner should try it at least once, even if you're not the kind of Bleach fan who keeps a full-size replica "Zanpakuto" blade in your sword collection.
Dark Souls, like the previous title, puts you in control of main character Ichigo Kurosaki, your archetypical "spiky-haired Japanese teenager turned Soul Reaper with attitude," as he fights his way through allies and enemies in Soul Society (a.k.a. Japanese Spirit World). As you progress though the game, you'll access many characters from the Bleach series that can be used in various modes. It's also refreshing to see that the story mode in Bleach: DS has been updated to follow the most recent plot arc in the American dub, along with new characters and a wider pool of special moves.
While the plot isn't anything ground breaking, the combat in Dark Souls is a different story. In a typical Bleach: DS fight, you'll clash swords and fists in two-to-four-man battles, being able to freely move between the foreground and background, much like Fatal Fury or the Naruto Ultimate Ninja series. Being a bit of a button masher, I found myself relying heavily on using the DS's button pad to dish out quick combos and special attacks. The touch screen can also be used to dish out your high-powered moves, via hot buttons on the lower right side. However, it's not the most intuitive use of the touch screen -- once I got comfortable with the pace of combat, I used it rather sparingly.
There's also the returning card system, which lets you use a pre-built deck to boost your strength or drain your opponent's abilities. While it's a good idea, the card system actually overcomplicates Bleach: DS just a bit too much. When I'm in the middle of a match, it's awkward to shift my hands and tap the touch screen while simultaneously trying to keep my enemy at bay. It's really only useful for special moves, since doing extended "fireball motions" doesn't really work too well on the DS D-Pad to begin with. Eventually, I stopped paying attention to my card deck altogether once I turned on the auto-block option.
Speaking of which, the auto-block is a necessity for getting through the harder parts of Bleach: DS, which doesn't say wonders about the difficulty. Honestly, it's probably more than the average player can handle, and I'm no slouch when it comes to fighting games. Even with the auto-block activated, I still had to fight tooth-and-nail against enemy A.I. that seemed too damn crafty. Even with that minor gripe, the game still kept me coming back for more, especially when I was on the hunt for unlockables and secrets.
All things considered, I'd have to say that Dark Souls is a much better (if largely similar) game than Blade of Fate. There are over a dozen new characters, the story mode retains the almost-adult humor of the anime series (making the game's "T" rating well-deserved), and the combat system is MUCH more refined. Overpowered characters have been fairly de-powered, recharge meters now prevent "attack spamming," and the flash-step/damage-canceling mechanics have been adjusted, putting a bigger emphasis on dodging. If you didn't buy the first game, you'd do well to pick up Bleach: Dark Souls -- especially if you've got a willing friend to play against.
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