Bleach: Dark Souls First Look

New characters, cards, and a few bits of candy falling from the sky.

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This past March, Sega announced that it would be bringing the manga juggernaut Bleach back for some more 2D fighting on the Nintendo DS with a sequel dubbed Bleach: Dark Souls. We had the opportunity to see the game running while at a Sega press event earlier this week. Not a whole lot seems to have been done to the formula that turned last year's The Blade of Fate into a critical success. But though Sega and developer Treasure may be playing it safe, fans of the series can still anticipate new material.

The story found in Dark Souls will be almost entirely new. In chronological terms, it takes place right between the first and second seasons of the popular anime show. However, you'll still find many references and call-outs to events that originally took place on the show. As you progress through the story, you'll have the opportunity to choose your fate with branching paths on the progression map. We're told that some of these paths will actually close off for the duration of the story if they're not chosen. To add some replayability, Treasure has elected to add four versions of the story to be experienced by players.

The actual fighting will remain much the same. You've still got two planes of action that you can bounce between, one in the foreground and one in the background. You'll also need to assemble a deck of spirit cards to control your status during battle. However, this time 30 new cards have been added, and a handful of the most often abused cards from the last one have been removed from the game entirely. In addition, the total roster of playable characters has been raised to 44.

Although this may be a fighting game, you'll be able to choose from a few minigames described by the Sega rep we spoke with as "noncombat scenarios." These are little events to help test your reflexes and knowledge of the series. In one of these events, two players have to jump all around the screen to collect candy--yes, candy--falling from the sky. In another, you'll have to answer trivia questions about the Bleach series by moving your character to the left or right side of the screen to signify yes or no. The trick with this one is that you have to battle enemies racing across the screen who might knock you into the "no" side when your gut reaction tells you that the answer to the question is "yes."

Finally, there has been a slight modification made to the game's multiplayer component. You'll still be able to engage in four-way multiplayer battles over Wi-Fi, but now you can group up with teams of two rather than go at in a chaotic every-man-for-himself scenario. Bleach: Dark Souls is scheduled for release later this year.

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