Don’t let the anime license fool you; this is a surprisingly competent fighting game.
For those of you unfamiliar with Bleach, here’s the crash course: Ichigo Kurasaki, a 15-year old high school student, can see and interact with spirits. This gift brings him together with Rukia Kuchiki, a soul reaper (agents of the Spirit World who guide the recently departed into the afterlife, as well as assassins who eliminate evil soul-devouring creatures called hollows), and needless to say, here begins an action-packed adventure. The Blade of Fate, the series’ first outing on the DS, covers the arc dealing with Rukia’s unjust imprisonment by her soul reaper superiors, and Ichigo’s quest to save her and clear her name.
Naturally, since Bleach has a healthy amount of swordplay and various other degrees of combat, this is a fighting game. What makes it a bit more special than your average licensed product is that it’s developed by Treasure, the company famous for games like Gunstar Heroes, Sin & Punishment, and Ikaruga. Blade of Fate’s break-neck speed and twitch controls definitely hearken back to those releases, even if there isn’t quite as much depth.
The Story Mode starts out with Ichigo, though you’ll eventually unlock over a dozen other characters and complete the game through their plotlines, essentially battling your way through the tier tree with portrait-laden cut-scenes coming before and after each bout. Though you’ll still find the usual genre fare here (combo-initiated specials, throws, dashes, etc), each character also has an ultimate attack, which can range from being briefly invincible to a massive beam of energy.
The game takes advantage of the DS’s touch screen via the use of cards that act as status enhancers during battle. Though limited to eight cards per fight, with only two available at a certain time, you can do anything from restricting your opponent from jumping to boosting your Soul Meter (normally filled by landing attacks and needed to use the aforementioned ultimate attack). You’ll get new cards by winning fights and by buying them at Urahara’s Shop.
While these cards definitely put a fresh spin on fights, it is a little cumbersome to reach over from the face buttons to the touch screen; since things happen so quickly, having your thumb on the touch screen disallows you from reacting without a moment’s notice. It definitely isn’t a huge flaw, but it can be a bit annoying at times.
Once you feel you’re ready to take on your friends, the game offers a host of multiplayer options. Three of your friends can hop in via single-card multiplayer in addition the regular local play. Blade of Fate also takes advantage of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where different online options include playing without cards, ranked, and unranked matches. Finding enough players for a four-person bout wasn’t exactly easy, but if you’ve got some patience, you can put one together in time.
When it comes to games with an anime license, this is definitely in the upper echelon. Though it doesn’t do too much to separate itself from other 2D fighters out there, it’s an overall very solid package that’ll satisfy series fans and fighting enthusiasts alike.