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Bleach: Heat the Soul (PSP) artwork

Bleach: Heat the Soul (PSP) review


"Still oddly enough, Bleach: Heat the Soul manages to entertain. The action while hardly technical is enjoyable for what it is, proving that style over substance can, from time to time, be quite rewarding. You won't find the depth of gameplay that other 3D fighters are so proud of, nor will you want to indulge in its limited delights for an extended period of time. What you will do however is have a short term blast with a genre that's yet to receive a true, PSP makeover."



15 year old Ichigo Kurosaki is just your average high school boy. He likes girls, practises martial arts, fights with his father... and can see ghosts. After a chance encounter with the mysterious Rukia Kuchiki however, Ichigo is endowed with the mystical life energies of the Shinigami. With this new found power though comes responsibility, and now Ichigo must not only protect the innocent, but help the recently departed anyway he can. All that and homework as well, will life ever return to normal?

This is the story of a boy named Strawberry

Based on the hit, Shonen Jump manga of the same name, Bleach: Heat the Soul is about as two faced as a one-on-one fighter can get. On one hand, fans will be pleased to know that "looking hot" apparently featured quite highly on Sony's things to do list. Bright, colorful, and visually impressive, the smoothly animated cel shaded graphics literally jump off the screen as fireballs of all shapes and sizes are flung about with wild abandon. From the way Ichigo's hakama robes hang loosely from his body, flowing elegantly in tune with each attack, to Rukia's powerful Soul Bind techniques and the bouncing, bountiful chest of Orihime the love interest, everything looks and feels just as it should. Furthermore, the tightly responsive controls make combat a breeze while the simple tap, tap, tap, style combos keep it accessible.

The bad news though, is yet to come...

Massive mammaries and an easy to wield combat system aside, Bleach's instant familiarity serves as an effective slight of hand, concealing what is perhaps the title's biggest shame. Whereby an impressive repertoire of special attacks and assorted combos will maintain the player's interest, a proverbial slap in the face can be found in the limited number of characters on offer. Ichigo, Rukia, Orihime, Yasutora "Chad" Sado, and the energy bow wielding Ishida... that's it. Five characters, five story modes, and enough gameplay to fill 2 hours if you're really, really lucky. Some small consolation however can be found in the unlockable sixth and final character Renji, Ichigo's fellow Shinigami and today's bad dude of choice. Consider how his inclusion has marked a full 17% increase in the size of the roster and you'll be forced to admit that it's good times for all. Huzzah indeed...

But even still, what were Sony thinking? Would it have been that difficult for them to include even a few of the more memorable evil spirits? With a vast array of sizes, shapes and fighting styles, these monstrous denizens of limbo would have been the perfect fodder with which to fill out the ranks. Maybe though, Sony were just looking to get a 3D fighter on the market as soon as possible, variety and the like be damned.

As luck would have it, this becomes a sentiment that sadly rings true once players have had a chance to explore the rest of what Bleach has to offer. A limited number of genre standard play modes appear as generic as they sound, the survival, time attack, and multiplayer options serve only to disappoint. Still, fans are likely to find something to love. Give them a range of fully rendered 3D backgrounds, then follow through with a freshly animated opening sequence that features the song "*~Asterisk" by Orange Range. And if that's still not enough, there's also a bonus art gallery with 133 unlockable cards as well... never mind how they're advertising a Bleach brand CCG.

Marketing genius or something more sinister? You be the judge.

Still oddly enough, Bleach: Heat the Soul manages to entertain. The action while hardly technical is enjoyable for what it is, proving that style over substance can, from time to time, be quite rewarding. You won't find the depth of gameplay that other 3D fighters are so proud of, nor will you want to indulge in its limited delights for an extended period of time. What you will do however is have a short term blast with a genre that's yet to receive a true, PSP makeover. And that's got to count for something, right? Maybe, maybe not. When the biggest complaint isn't the gameplay but its limited presentation you know you've got problems, that or you can expect a sequel in the not too distant future. For now though, +1 to the score if you're a fan of the series, everyone else however should check their priorities and think things through. Buyer beware...


Pros
----

* A handful of play modes give players something to toy with
* The outlandish action faithfully replicates the feel of the smash hit manga/anime
* Each fight is often fast, fluid and frantic
* Responsive controls keep players in charge of the action
* The colorful cel shaded graphics look a treat
* The original voice actors provide the between round dialogue

Cons
----

* You can quite literally count the line-up of characters on one hand
* The load times are often intrusive
* It's not the most technical of fighters
* Bleach: Heat the Soul is an obvious attempt by Sony to fill a gap

Rating: 5/10

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Staff review by Michael Scott (April 12, 2005)

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