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DS  header logo

Bleach: Dark Souls

For: DS

Whiter than white

Product: Bleach: Dark Souls | Developer: Treasure Co. Ltd | Publisher: Sega | Format: DS | Genre: Fighting, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Bleach: Dark Souls DS, thumbnail 1
The problem with perfection is it leaves no room for improvement. It's a conundrum that's stumped philosophers and theologians for centuries.

And although we doubt highly respected Japanese developer Treasure worried too much about whether the greatest perfection is imperfection, the attempt to outdo its previous DS fighter - the sublime Bleach: The Blade of Fate - must have got it thinking.

We simply adored 2008's multi-faceted 2D brawler: not only did it offer lots of kinetic action to get the pulse racing, it also featured online play, a robust Story mode and almost 30 different characters to master.

The fact it felt like the long-lost brother of Treasure classic Guardian Heroes was merely a bonus. In short, it was exactly what the DS needed after many barren months in the beat-'em-up wilderness.

A tough act to follow, The Blade of Fate has nevertheless been given a follow up in the shape of Bleach: Dark Souls.

As was the case with its predecessor, Dark Souls is hardly what one could describe as a new game. It was released in Japan before The Blade of Fate had made its English-language debut. Once again, western gamers are fashionably late to the party.

Dark Souls is based on a massively popular Japanese anime show, but surely by now we don't need to explain this. The ramifications of this licensing tomfoolery are a massive roster of zany characters and a flimsy adherence to an incredibly detailed backstory.

Thankfully, being a hardcore fan of the Bleach franchise isn't a pre-requisite to enjoying the game, although the Story mode sometimes cheekily throws in multiple choice events that require a loose grasp on anime plot.

For those of you who have had the pleasure of experiencing The Blade of Fate, the battle engine here will be instantly familiar. The typical dashing, line switching and Flash Steps are all present, but newcomers needn't be disparaged by this bewildering mumbo-jumbo.

A tutorial mission gently guides you by the hand and the story mode has a particularly forgiving learning curve, which gives ample opportunity to gain the intricacies of the game in easy-to-digest chunks.

Once you've become accustomed to the controls, you'll find pulling off insane juggle combos in mid-air becomes second nature - which is handy because success in this game rests heavily on your ability to string together attacks smoothly and instinctively.

The computer-controlled opponents are merciless with their own attacks and once they discover a chink in your defences will launch your hapless character skywards and dish out a beating that would make Mike Tyson wince.

If this all sounds a little overwhelming then it's worth noting the game also contains several features that enable novices to gain a foothold in the hostile pugilistic environment.

Just as in the previous outing, special moves are mapped to sections of the touchscreen and can be executed with a simple tap of your finger, saving you the bother of having to input numerous finger-taxing Street Fighter II-style commands.

Next to these indispensable shortcuts is a series of Spirit Cards, each of which has a special effect. For example, one card limits the amount of damage you take (albeit for a limited period), while another prevents you from becoming dizzy when your opponent pummels you with an insane 32-hit combo.

These cards are dealt out randomly from your pre-ordered deck, and as you progress through the game you'll find that more are added to your collection. You can also edit the deck from the main menu - deciding which cards make the cut is almost a game in itself.

However, as was the case in The Blade of Fate, the cards sometimes become a distraction, and when the combat becomes particularly intense you simply don't have time to check which card to use: taking your eyes off the top screen for even half a second is sure to result in your opponent kicking seven shades out of you.

As for differences between the games, while functionally minor, you now have 17 more characters to select, learn and master, while some of the fighters have been tinkered with, making the weaker ones stronger and the stronger ones less annoying.

Multiplayer - which was one of The Blade of Fate's best features - is more impressive too. Standard four-player local matches are possible but the online mode now boasts a matchmaking option, which makes it easier to hop into the battle that best suits your own personal preferences.

Better still, you can now switch off the use of Spirit Cards during online fights, which removes the random element of luck from each bout and allows you to truly settle the argument of who's best.

So with Bleach: Dark Souls, Treasure hasn't exactly deviated from the superlative template laid down by The Blade of Fate; that game was so accomplished it's hard to see how the developer could have incorporated radical changes without upsetting its perfect balance.

Indeed, you could place this alongside the previous game and most people would be hard-pushed to tell the two apart. Simply put, Treasure has come up with the best fighting game on DS, again.
 
Bleach: Dark Souls
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 21 March 2009
With its cracking fighting mechanics and excellent multiplayer options, Bleach: Dark Souls lives up to the very high standards of the beat-'em up series on DS
 
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Anonymous | 20:35 - 16 July 2009
are there any new bankai moves? if so give a few examples.