The first home console game based on the popular Bleach anime and manga series to hit North American shores, Bleach: Shattered Blade, published by Sega and released for the Nintendo Wii in October 2007, is a one-on-one fighter that makes liberal use of the system’s motion controls. Obviously, fans of the source material have long since had this game in their collections, but what about the rest of us? Is this a game that even non-Bleach fans can enjoy?
Story (3 out of 5)
Well, I have serious doubts about anyone other than fans of the anime and manga series being able to understand, let alone enjoy, the game’s plotline. Bleach: Shattered Blade touts an original story. The game’s instruction manual says, “Just when it looked like peace had returned to the Soul Society, a brand new conflict sat poised ready to begin.” From what I can gather, the game is set following a major story arc in the series. The main single-player stories are revealed through Episode Mode, in which the gamer must choose one of the main characters (Ichigo Kurosaki, Renji Abarai and Toshiro Hitsugaya are available at the start, but additional characters can be unlocked) and progress through his or her journey to find the shards of the broken Sokyoku sword for their own various reasons. Unless you dig the anime, you probably won’t care too much about what’s going on here, so while this category nets three stars it’s more accurately a 4 for Bleach fans and a 2 for everyone else.
Controls (5 out of 5)
It’s surprising just what an incredible job the developers did nailing the motion controls. You play Bleach: Shattered Blade using both the Wiimote and Nunchuck. Swinging down with the remote performs a downward slash, swinging up pulls off an uppercut maneuver, moving it to the left or right executes a horizontal slash attack and thrusting it forward allows you to stab your opponent. The Nunchuck’s control stick allows you to move your character around, holding the C button while moving causes you to dash, and the Z button causes your character to guard. In addition, there are various strong and special attacks that characters can use by holding down the A or B button, respectively, then performing any of the Wiimote motion attacks. Lastly, characters can enter Benkai state, which is sort of like a powered-up mode that makes them more powerful and grants them access to new special attacks. It all feels incredibly natural, and the game has zero difficulty detecting your motions.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
On the whole, this is a fairly standard one-on-one fighter that has you pit your character against another player or a CPU-controlled opponent of easy, normal or hard difficulty. As you play, you’ll notice three gauges on the screen. One is for health. One depletes as you attack, but recharges over time. Finally, there is one at the bottom that lets you know how close you are the achieving Benkai mode. This increases every time you successfully land an attack, and can also be charged by shaking the remote. In addition to the story-heavy Episode Mode, the game also features a standard Arcade Mode where you run a gauntlet of eight different opponents with no plot development, as well as a Versus Mode, a Training Mode (which is a good way to learn the basics of the game), a shop where you can purchase new items for in-game use and a Gallery where you can view artwork and listen to music you’ve unlocked. Sadly, though, there is no Wi-Fi support and thus no online multiplayer, which is a big negative. Still, there is a decent amount of content here, and if you enjoy weapons-based one-on-one combat, odds are you will have a considerable amount of fun playing Bleach: Shattered Blade.
Graphics and Sound (3 out of 5)
I can’t say I was too impressed with the presentation quality, though. The anime-style characters look decent, but on the whole the game doesn’t really look any better than a late Gamecube title. In fact, it looks remarkably like the Naruto: Clash of Ninja games that are available for the last-gen Nintendo system, so much so that I had to double check and see if the games shared developers. They don’t, but the environments and even the way the menus are set up look remarkably similar. I do have some gripes, namely the way the game presents an unskippable cutscene every time a character enters Benkai mode. It really throws off the flow of the game. Furthermore, every time you pull off a good string of combo attacks, your weapon creates these flashy lighting effects, which in truth is too much. They can be kind of hard on the eyes. Sound effects are pretty good, and the music (which fuses rock and traditional Japanese style music) is easy on the ears, if ultimately forgettable.
Overall Rating (4 out of 5)
Even though I’m not a fan of Bleach, I have to admit I enjoyed playing this game. The motion controls worked incredibly well and made this a lot more fun to play than most other Wii fighters I’ve tried out, and while I really couldn’t care less about the plot myself, it is nice that the developers took the time to craft a new story rather than force fans to relive the same recycled material. I do wish the visuals were a little better, and that there was Wi-Fi support for online matches, but perhaps those issues can be tackled in the upcoming sequel, Bleach: Versus Crusade (which was released in Japan on December 18, 2008). If you’re looking for a solid one-on-one fighter for the Nintendo Wii, this is a good choice, especially considering that you should be able to find a copy for no more than $20-$25 these days.