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Bleach: Shattered Blade


Released in tandem with Bleach: The Blade of Fate for the DS, Sega brings Bleach: Shattered Blade to the Wii. Expanding the amount of fighting games available on the Wii, Shattered Blade is an adequate release that unfortunately does little to innovate within the 3D fighting platform. Originally released as a launch title in Japan, North America receives this title after it has been localized with English speaking voice actors and subtitles. This delay has given the anime a chance to gain in popularity and has allowed the game to have some justice done to it instead of releasing it sooner with sub par talent.

Picking up fairly far along into the anime series, those unfamiliar with the story line may feel a little lost. That does not, however, detract terribly much from the mechanics of the game. The heart of the game is very much a 3D fighter that is easy to pick up and play. The story, while drawing on prior knowledge of the characters and the anime series, almost feels a bit superficial and ultimately unnecessary.

Gameplay:

One thing that you will notice upon starting to play is just how responsive your characters actions are to your movement of the controllers. Employing the Remote and Nunchuk, your character will slash and dash around the environment in sync with your movements. Using the Remote, your character will attack an opponent using one of three motions. By moving the Remote up and down, your character will attack with a vertical slash, while moving the Remote side to side will result in a horizontal attack. In addition, thrusting the Remote forward will result in a stabbing attack. While these motions form the basis of your arsenal, the strategy comes in the use of the A and B buttons to augment your attacks. By holding the A button while you make an attack, your character will perform a move that will almost always be unblockable. The use of the B button in combination with the standard motions of the Remote will result in the characters' special moves.

Your use of the Nunchuk will allow you to move around the 3D environment so that you can gain an advantage over your opponent. Using the Z button will allow you to defend against attacks, unless the opponent uses a Guard Breaking attack. The C button, when held down, will allow you to dash instead of the normal movement speed. By employing these tactics, you can move in for a quick attack and dash away before your opponent has a chance to counterattack.

One of the more interesting aspects of the game is a gauge at the bottom of the screen that builds up for each successful attack you employ. The other way to fill this gauge is by shaking the Nunchuk back and forth, as long as you are not being attacked. Once this gauge is filled, a quick flick of the Nunchuk allows you to enter into the characters Bankai mode and execute their signature move. By holding the B button and thrusting, you can attack with an unblockable assault that does a great deal of damage to your opponent. Some characters can execute multiple attacks as the gauge diminishes, whereas others are only able to attack once. While this does add a little bit of strategy to the game, it almost seems to be an unnecessary level of complexity added on.

Starting out, you can play through three initial character story modes. By completing these story modes, you unlock other characters and story lines. Each character's story resolves around finding shards of the Sokyuku, which is known in the anime series as the Executioner's Blade. Each character battles others looking to secure more shards until the final battle ends and their story line is resolved. There is little in the way of complexity in the story and as I commented earlier, it is almost unnecessary in the game. However, it is a nice touch, and it is rendered well on-screen and faithful to the anime series. You will not find FMV cut scenes to drive the story. Instead, you will see scenes and spoken dialogue during these parts, as still frames with audio and subtitles complete the experience.

In addition to the story mode, there is an arcade mode which allows you to choose from the 32 characters (once they are all unlocked) and battle against the computer. Versus mode allows you to battle against another player on your console. Training mode is a useful option that introduces you to the mechanics of the controls and explains how to use the various attacks. There is also a shop that lets you buy artwork, music and other extras using money you gain from completing Story or Arcade mode.

All in all, the game is entertaining and something that fans of the anime series should naturally be drawn to. However, for all the excitement and responsiveness of the controls, I cannot help but feel a bit let down. The game loses some points for its very repetitive nature and the fact that you can win battles easily enough by doing nothing more then frantically shaking your Remote. Still, there aren't many fighting games on the Wii, let alone anime-based fighting games. It is nice to finally play a game in this genre that has decent production values.

Graphics:

While the Wii is Nintendoís next-gen system, it was never touted as a graphically superior system. Its graphics simplicity allows for more focus to be placed on gameplay and content, and while this works, the games still do look quite nice. Bleach is no exception to the standards of the Wii graphics and will look familiar to those that have watched the anime. Character animations are fluid and responsive to the motions of the controllers. The camera placement never seemed to interfere to the point where you could not tell where your character was at or where he/she would attack. Whether moving slowly, running, or in the midst of a furious attack, the animation never displayed any glitches. Where the game does suffer is the loading screen between each battle. Aside from that, the game does look good compared to other Wii titles.

Audio:

Employing the voice talent from the English cast of the anime series, Bleach: Shattered Blade will sound familiar to fans of the show. I do have to admit to a slight bias when I watch anime. I always watch the Japanese audio with English subtitles as there is usually just something a little off in the English voice actors delivery in trying to capture the animated persona. As such, I would have preferred the ability to choose either English or Japanese dialogue. Still, the voices arenít terrible by any means. Sound effects during battles are adequate and sync up well with the action on the screen. The background music during the fights, while nothing remarkable, is done well even if it does get a bit repetitive after a while.

Replay Factor:

Bleach: Shattered Blades offers much in the way of extended game play with the addition of unlockable characters, story lines and bonus features. You begin the game with three playable character storylines. By completing a story, you gain additional character storylines as well as unlocking characters to play in arcade mode. At the conclusion of a storyline or arcade session, you also gain credits which allow you to buy extra content such as stages in which to fight and gallery content which lets you view artwork and listen to voice dialogue. However, much of the game boils down to the same controller motions and very little variety.

Conclusion:

While it would be a nice notion for a successful anime series to equate into a successful video game release, such is not always the case. While Bleach: Shattered Blade doesnít exactly fail, the repetitive nature of the game does wear thin after only a short time spent playing. That isnít to say this game isnít worth playing, especially if you are a fan of the series. It would probably be best served in short doses so as to not let boredom detract from the game. There is certainly a depth to the game that allows for repeat play in order to unlock other characters and extras. The unique incorporation of the Wii controls gives a new dimension to the fighting genre. The game is well-suited for fans of the series looking for an easy to pick up and play game centered on the major characters in the anime series. For that audience, the game succeeds and offers a mostly satisfying experience.