Bleach: The Blade of Fate Exclusive Hands-On

Treasure's upcoming DS game may not whiten anything, but it slices and dices like a champ.

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Bleach: The Blade of Fate is the latest game to be based on the popular Japanese manga comics to hit the US. Although the series has been around since 2001, it came to the US only in 2004, but nevertheless quickly found a following. As a result, we're starting to see the various games that have been based on Bleach also find their way to the States. One of most interesting is Bleach: The Blade of Fate. The fighting game is being developed by 2D sprite gods Treasure for the Nintendo DS, and it's one of the few 2D fighters for the system. We had the chance to try out a work-in-progress version of the US game, and we have much to report.

The game features a meaty selection of modes that include story, arcade, versus, training, and challenge. The story mode casts you as Ichigo Kurosaki, a high-school student with the ability to see ghosts. Ichigo winds up battling ghosts and other afterlife phenomena after accidentally absorbing the powers of Rukia, a "shinigami" sent to patrol his hometown. You'll play through various scenarios based on his early adventures. Story sequences offer setups for the many fights you'll engage in, and you'll face off against a broad array of quirky fighters. Arcade mode lets you pick whichever character is available and fight through a series of enemies, whereas versus mode lets you take on a friend. Training mode lets you practice against a customizable artificial intelligence opponent. Finally, challenge mode features a series of character-specific battles with specific requirements for success. In addition to these play modes, the game also has a gallery where you can check out artwork, and an in-game shop to buy cards, character colors, 2D art, and audio.

Get ready for an anime-inspired beatdown on your Nintendo DS.
Get ready for an anime-inspired beatdown on your Nintendo DS.

Combat in the game is an engaging blend of traditional 2D fighting that lets you mix standard attacks, special moves, and super moves. The basic action is tricked out with the addition of a second plane to fight on and up to three enemies to face off against. The system also features a card system that lets you use cards during battle. Each card offers unique effects during combat that will enhance your abilities or cause a negative effect for your foes. The whole system works well on the DS and makes effective, low-key use of the touch screen. You'll mainly use the D pad, face buttons, and shoulder buttons to attack, guard, jump, and switch planes. You can use the touch screen to activate one of the cards you're holding and trigger any of the special and super moves. Overall, the system seems to work well, though the touch screen makes the moves dead easy to do. The plane shifting is cool and is one of the many elements in the game that reminds us, favorably, of Treasure's awesome Sega Genesis classic Yu Yu Hakusho from back in the day.

The visuals in the game impressively display both the DS's sprite-pushing power and Treasure's creativity. The battle arenas are clean and spacious, and they offer a good amount of detail that doesn't distract you from the core action. The two-plane system helps give the areas a nice sense of depth. Combat is complemented by a host of special effects for everyone's special attacks as well as the various card effects. The fast action stands out thanks to smooth animation and little touches such as animated clothing. Other than the in-game graphics, the game also has additional 2D art used during the various story sequences, and this artwork is all nicely done.

Audio in the game is quite robust, featuring the standard assortment of collisions for punches, kicks, and weapons clashing, as well as a number of other elements. You'll hear a good number of voice samples as you play, both during combat and in the game's cinematics. You'll also hear a hefty dose of fist-pumping rock that perhaps only anime can get away with.

The game offers plenty of colorful 2D artwork.
The game offers plenty of colorful 2D artwork.

Based on what we've seen, Bleach: The Blade of Fate is a tight little fighter on the DS that features impressive visuals and a solid fighting system. The Bleach license fits well with the way the game plays, and it should please fans, who will get to see a bunch of familiar faces. Factor in the local and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection multiplayer options, and you have a significant amount of content to explore. Anyone looking for a fighter on the DS will want to keep an eye out for Bleach: The Blade of Fate, which is looking like the most promising fighting game on the DS in a long while. The game is scheduled to ship this fall.

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