Bleach: Blade of Fate
- Publisher: SEGA
- Developer: Treasure
I'm not quite sure what to make of Treasure these days. Venerated for making some of the most tightly-produced shooters of all time, it now seems to be temporarily stuck in a rut with remakes and semi-sequels. With the ethos it's built for itself, shouldn't we expect more fuel for the fire of invention rather than ideas reheated in the gaming microwave? (Tell me: is the backlash justified? Time will tell, I suppose.)
Until then, Treasure's earning a crust with this, a licensed game based around the popular ninjas-and-demons Japanese anime series Bleach. Such a fight-based confrontational story could only mean one thing: all the major characters from the series facing off against one another in a traditional 2D biff-'em-up. Just like the dozens of other anime-licensed 2D biff-'em-ups. But that isn't to say this is an unthinking cash-in. There are elements here of Treasure's attempt to approach things from a slightly different angle. Unfortunately, that's also where its faults lie.
Those prepared to put the hours in on Virtua Fighter can forget how complex and frustrating the beat-'em-up can be to the novice. Unless you're prepared to pluckily button-mash, there are too many moves to learn and master to easily fight with the big boys. Trust Treasure, then, to come up with a solution. Every special move is mapped to one simple touch-screen button. No more 'down, forward, down, forward, X' when tapping the screen does it for you. In fact, it's entirely possible (but never certain under an experienced opponent) to win a round purely by blocking and spamming those buttons. That's what I call wish fulfilment.
Go ahead and use the traditional controls if you want. The button presses are still there. But bear in mind that you're also constantly exposed to special touch-screen cards which imbue temporary powers on your fighter or hinder your opponent for a short time. I'm not entirely sure I like all this extra hand-holding, considering it can't be turned off, only ignored, but there's no denying that it does allow me to perfect moves more quickly than I ever would, and for those who want it there's still some depth left in learning combos and mastering defence. Really, though, it's a gentleman's agreement whether you want to indulge in its fighting aids, and in a sticky situation it's often too tempting not to do so.
While there are a lot of similarities in the execution of most moves within the fighter's roster, Bleach's universe contains enough characters to broaden the spectrum from light to heavy fighters. There's the occasional barrage of hundred hit combos to activate, yet its fireball and sword slash ethics force some restraint, not straying too far into ridiculous territory.
Single-card multiplayer and Wi-Fi are present, allowing four players to compete at once, or make up the numbers with the CPU. Inevitably, too many fighters turns it into an unholy mess where nobody knows what they're doing to anyone else and lag rear its ugly head. Two-player fares better, but, again, allowing your opponent to poke one special move after another can be a little irritating if you're trying to prove your skills.
To say it's one for the fans is probably damning it with faint praise. But it's fair to say that as much as you don't go to Wii for a hex-based Battle of the Bulge simulator, you don't come to DS for a hardcore beat-'em-up. That said, if you're prepared to ignore its shortcomings and get to know it, there's an approachable beat-'em-up in here, even if it yields to your whim far too easily.