|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Treasure||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 7, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Last years Bleach: Blade of Fate was a pretty awesome title. Not only did it succeed in being one of the best anime-inspired fighting games of all time, but it was probably the best 2D fighter available on the DS in America. It had great control, a variety of modes, and incredibly deep online functionality.
So naturally, the bar was set quite high for the games successor: Bleach: Dark Souls. Luckily, this title has really succeeded in bringing back nearly everything we loved about the first title and improved upon it slightly. Bleach: Dark Souls barely edges out its predecessor as the best fighting game for the DS, but it is definitely a title worth picking up for both fans of the Bleach series and for fans of 2D fighting who have been watching their DS gather dust.
Last Years Blade of Fate featured a very deep and long story mode that took you through the events of the Soul Society through the lens of different characters. Bleach: Dark Souls picks up right where the last title left off. It takes you through the end of the Soul Society arc and into the anime-specific Boundt arc. The game takes all the major characters from these arcs and fits them into the story mode, much like last time. Fans will be happy to see many new playable characters such as Don Kanoji and Lirin making the cut this time, getting incorporated into the story mode. There is a total of over 40 characters in this title, which is quite impressive considering the last iteration only had about 30.
However, even though the core mechanics of the story mode are the same, the structure has been altered quite a bit this time around. Instead of having different character vignettes to go through, there is an overarching story where you can zoom in to different levels and stages in a non-linear manner. The story mode is structured much like this years Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit, but with a much less linear progression. You are able to select from optional missions as well as story missions, and you will be able to obtain keys to unlock more content as the story mode progresses.
One thing I was really impressed to see in the story mode was the presence of Jump Superstars-style level challenges. Instead of every level involving the singular goal of just beating the enemy to a pulp, you will sometimes have levels where you will have to gather items, perform certain special moves, or gain a certain amount of points before the end of the match. These new challenges vary the gameplay considerably and definitely keep you engaged longer than just beating random opponents over and over.
In addition to the story mode, there is also an arcade mode and a training mode where you can test your wits against the computer A.I. Of course, the ultimate mode here is the online multiplayer. You are able to participate in a variety of matches, and the game has minimal lag. You are able to play ranked and unranked matches and can toggle the use of the different spirit cards. You are also able to make friends online and send messages to different users and invite them directly to matches. One really unique feature is the ability to turn on an online ranking feature that gives you a special title to correspond directly with your online identity. The online mode in Bleach: Dark Souls, as it was in Blade of Fate, really shines, and if you are a fan of online 2D fighting, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up purely for this aspect.