Yep, going to try and get that “SEO synch energy” going… or so i planned, only to forget, but regardless, it’s still worth pointing out that somehow Bleach is back, with the anime getting new episodes to continue where they stopped years ago, the manga resurrected itself on its 20th anniversay with an one-shot chapter to set up either a new arc or a “Boruto” style follow-up series about Ichigo’s kid, so i guess it’s time to talk about this forgotten Bleach game.
You might argue that this isn’t a “proper” musou but i feel it deserves to be called at least a “musou-like”, and one that nowadays it’s hard to own in any legal sense, as it was released exclusively on PS3 in 2011 and there still remains, most likely due to being an anime licensed videogame, or being co-developed by Racjin and Sony’s Japan Studio.
One that nowadays it’s hard to find and commands some “interesting prices”, FIY.
So yeah, Soul Resurreccion (or Soul Ignition, if you wanna use its japanese title) is the closest thing we have to a “Bleach musou”, and as most avid Shonen Jump readers could guess, it’s mostly based on the Hueco Mundo section in the Arrancar story arc of the Bleach manga-anime, which makes sense since there’s nothing but sand, monsters and bigger monsters in this desert world, so let’s mostly adapt that part of the arc, since it’s very videogamey anyway, with the various encounters against the Espada and then the final confrontation again the big bad Aizen.
This isn’t exactly the game you should pick if you wanna immerse yourself in the story, since it assumes you know most of it, definitely all the material preceeding the Arrancar arc/saga, it gives you some context and briefs you on the story as it progresses, throwing out some cutscenes with the in-game engine, so you aren’t completely lost on what’s happening and why it’s happening, but don’t expect much since the game skims through the portion of Bleach story presented here.
I mean, the episodes/chapters just give you a wall of text and voiceover to explain what it’s gonna happen for basic context, but don’t expect the game to tell you who are these characters and why you should care, there’s not even the usual internal encyclopedia with explanations of the terminology, character profiles, and what-not that’s in pretty much every Warriors game, and might be useful if you like this kind of games but don’t know much about the anime license/series.
On the flipside, presentation fares noticeably better, with some good cel shading models and a visual style that makes the Tite Kubo designs stand out even more, with some anime style cutscenes to boot, but not much attention to detail in presenting the story content, and there is the fact that the backgrounds to the levels themselves tend to be monocromatic or vague, which is most likely a clever workaround with a lore-accurate excuse, as most of the game takes place in Hueco Mundo, so outside of the city levels, there’s plenty of sand, rocks, and the occasional interiors that are sleek in design but also pretty simple in terms of color and more utalitarian than stylish.
There’s also a decent soundtrack and a fairly solid english voice acting, with the option to switch to the japanese one for the purists.
Gameplay wise, Soul Resurreccion it’s exactly what i would count as a “musou” game, but definitely feels like a “musou-like”, and it plays pretty similar to some of the hack n slashs under the Koei brand at the time, as in it doesn’t features bases to capture or big maps to wade through, defeating officers, activating stratagems and the like, but it’s more in line with the first Pirate Warriors and – especially – the first Ken’s Rage, since it opts for a more linear level design and tries to balance out some issues by tweaking the formula to be more like a traditional hack n slash.
There are no puzzles, platforming, bikes to ride or walls to climbs here though, for better or for worse it’s pretty straightforward linear affair, with some slim chance to explore but just some small distractions to the usual rooms full of enemies you gotta kill to clear and proceed, pretty typical.
Combat system it’s also simpler than expected, so you get a melee attack, strong attack, ranged attacks that consume the mana bar, specials/musous, with a transformation-Rage mode you can enter when the Ignition bar is full, a dash, parry and dodge. Again, the usual.
But i do mean when i say it’s simpler, since there is no Charge System copying, nor you need to combine weak and power attacks in order to make combos, for example to do the ranged melee attacks you keep pressing the Square button, mash away on both ground or mid-air and you’ll perform moves. I guess this is to assure even pretty young players can progress easily by button mashing away, to the point there’s the option to execute all combos just by mashing Square.
Which is iffy and personally feels kinda pointless, but then again it’s something optional you can toggle off, and it’s something Omega Force now puts in its games, and can be found in entries as recent as Touken Ranbu Warriors, speaking of entry-level hack n slash or musou (or “musou-esque”, if you really don’t dig the “musou-like”) games.
Despite this side of things being simpler than i prefer, it’s fun anyway, characters feel different to use and have specific quirks (like Kenpachi having throw moves, Ishida has an offensive parry that can instakill weaker enemies if timed well, etc), and while it starts pretty easy, it ramps up the challenge fairly well, so eventually you’ll have to worry about what you’re doing, and even parry.
Though more expert players might as well just immediatly set the difficulty to Hard and ditch Normal all together, as even with some nice ideas to balance out things (like you and bosses being able to recover the red tinted pieces of the health bar if you don’t get hit for some time), on the standard difficulty even bosses take a while to become challenging.
On the bright side of things, enemy variety (while having the three tiers of fodder peons, officers/mid levels and bosses) is bigger than what it usually is in a musou game, and bosses are more challenging, more akin to those in standard hack n slash/beat em style games, and not just officers with a souped up health bar you can still push around like mid-tier foes.
In terms of rpg elements and upgrades, Soul Resurrecion does things a little differently, so you don’t gain exp and as expected, but instead you get souls as a “currency” to spend improving stats, passive abilities and even new moves, all set up in a grid-structure that reminds me a bit of the Sphere Grid system in FF X, as in the characters’ grids are often connected but non-communicating, meaning – for example – you can’t access Kenpachi’s grid from Ishida’s until you grind up Kenpachi to level. It’s a nice way to incentivate the player to try out and use the various characters.
The only issue is that souls are NOT a shared currency among the characters, so you’ll most likely stick to upgrading and using Ichigo’s arsenal as you’ll be using him for most of the story mode anyway, since the advanced abilities will turn out useful for the battles offered by the game secondary mode, Mission Mode, which the game encourages you to tackle, for various reasons.
The first one is that Story Mode it’s pretty short, like 4 hours, not that surprising given the cheap choice of adapting – and not completely to boot – only one arc/saga of the manga/anime.
The second is that while you unlock most of the roster by playing through the story mode, some characters can be unlocked by playing through the various battles offered in Mission Mode, which reuses locations and enemies from the story stages but also introduces new types, some new bosses, with many being challenge battles often sporting some restrictions or rules, like no Ignition mode, time limits, instadeath matches, disabled moves or abilities, all with a rising challenge curve.
It’s a pretty good secondary mode, the kind needed for a game like this, especially with a short story mode, and it gives you a good reason to keep coming back, increasing replayability a lot.
In terms of the roster, we have 21(ish) playable characters, which is a pretty good number overall, even thought that isn’t exactly true, and it’s frustrating to see here the many obvious omissions of characters that were fairly important or otherwise partecipated in a not-small way to the Hueco Muendo arcs, which also reflect the already lamented cheapish narrative.
You don’t get a playable Mayuri or his Arrancar/Espada nemesis, Syazel Aporro Granz, which i’ll decide to take as somewhat of a insult, but then again there’s no playable Chad (yes, there’s a character in Bleach called that, remember, the manga started on Jump in 2001), god forbid we have that instead of 4 versions of Ichigo. And the villain from the 4th Bleach movie, The Hellverse, which seems random but makes sense as the movie was by then fairly recent, so cross promotion it was.
Aside from the aforementioned Story and Mission Mode, there are also a score AND time attack modes, complete with online leaderboards, all further upping the replay value.
Though sadly it’s a single player only deal, so not even couch co-op, and there were/are no DLCs.
Overall, it’s not a game that i recommend seeking out unless you like musous or hack n slash games AND are already fairly familiar with the anime/manga series in question, since it assumes you already know a lot about Bleach, isn’t interested in getting you up to speed, and it’s kind of a beginner’s hack n slash game anyway, with simplified combo systems and assist options.
But it’s still fun while it treads the line between a traditional linear hack n slash action game and a “musou-like” (if you have better names for these, please write them out in the comments), it’s a decent game that just makes you wish they didn’t treat it as a mid-budget release, so it could cover more than a single (kinda) arc of Bleach with better narrative and story… or that they re-released it on more systems instead of being a PS3 exclusive with very few physical copies going around.
It’s also a game from that period in time when musou or musou style games (especially anime games) could come from somewhere outside of Koei supervision, and that even those that were tried – with various degrees of success – to improve the formula and address various criticisms.
Given the newfound interest and spotlight the series is experiencing, it might be the perfect time to actually give Bleach a proper and well made Warriors treatment, as it definitely it’s a perfect fit, a lot more than some of the other popular Jump series it shared the spotlight with back in the day.
I mean, it’s more likely to happen than my dream of a D. Gray-Man Musou.