Bleach: Heat The Soul
If you are not familiar with the Bleach manga and anime series, then this Japanese only PSP import is probably not for you. The game is a 3D brawler that features characters from the hit series and uses cell shaded visuals to faithfully recreate the popular characters. The language barrier and lack of combatants will ensure that this is a game only the hardcore Bleach fans will bother with.
The game stars Ichigo Kurosaki, which is the hero of the series as well as five other characters from the Bleach universe. You only have characters available to you initially with a sixth one that is unlockable. This is a criminally low amount of contenders for a fighting game in this day and age and it has a very big impact on the longevity of this title. Besides the “Story” mode which is going to be lost on anyone that is not able to understand Japanese, there is also the usual, versus, survival and time attack modes to try out. The main incentives for playing these modes is the coins you earn which is used to buy cards in the game. These cards are recreations of the collectible trading card game ones and while they look very nice, I have not really found any purpose for them in the game.
Presentation wise the game is great and opens with the theme from the anime to ready you for the action that is about to follow. The opening theme looks great on the PSP screen and the accompanying theme song is also very good. Unfortunately, the amount of characters shown in the opening theme makes it seem like there is going to be a decent selection of fighters to choose from which as it turns out is not true. All the characters sound like they have authentic voice-overs and visually look great, but it will not be long before you have completed the game with all of them and are left wanting more. There is a “Soul Versus” mode which is the wireless multiplayer, but it requires you to have a friend with their own copy of the game in order to work. If you have lots of friends who are Bleach fans, it might be worthwhile, but for the single players out there the game just does not have enough content.
The moves for all the characters can be accessed from the pause menu while playing so with a bit of practice you should soon have the hang of them. Characters have a rather limited selection of moves and some characters feel more powerful than others do. The gameplay lends itself very favourably to button bashing so this is definitely a fighting game aimed at casual players. While the fighting is lightening fast there are a few occasions where a bit of slowdown crept in during some of the more spectacular moves. The loading times before matches are also quite long and can be wearisome.
If I had to judge the game on its visuals and audio alone the score would have been much higher. If you are a big fan of the series, you will enjoy seeing your favourite characters, but will probably miss a few due to the limited roster. The game is very easy to navigate for western players as most of the menus are in English, but the story mode text is all in Japanese. The cards, movies and galleries that are unlocked provide some incentive for replaying the game, but with only six characters it will not be long before you have experienced everything that this game has to offer.
*Review originally published 2005.