"Almost every character in Bleach carries a sword, which opens up Shattered Blade to a swashbuckling Wii control scheme. Of course, this one-on-one fighting game doesn't tell you what those swords, those zanpakuto, mean; they're the manifestation of spiritual power. It doesn't explain how Ichigo Kurosaki, a roughnecked teen, came to carry one, or how he suddenly found himself traveling between the human and spirit worlds as a substitute Soul Reaper, defending his friends a..."
Almost every character in Bleach carries a sword, which opens up Shattered Blade to a swashbuckling Wii control scheme. Of course, this one-on-one fighting game doesn't tell you what those swords, those zanpakuto, mean; they're the manifestation of spiritual power. It doesn't explain how Ichigo Kurosaki, a roughnecked teen, came to carry one, or how he suddenly found himself traveling between the human and spirit worlds as a substitute Soul Reaper, defending his friends and city from supernatural threats. It doesn't reveal the nature of the other true Soul Reapers, some of whom are more friendly than others. In fact, the events here occur after the anime's third season, the conclusion of the Soul Society arc, a period that fell ahead of the show's North American release schedule when this game dropped. Shattered Blade, however, does provide one important point: a reason for everyone to fight amongst themselves.
You engage in combat by manipulating the Wii remote like a sword. Strike vertically to slice your opponent from head to toe. Swing horizontally to slash someone running around your flank. Thrust forward to stab right through your foe. The system is simple and accurate, and it will even bring up different animations if your attack begins low or high, to the left or to the right. It's a visceral thrill to dash towards your target and unleash a blinding flurry of blade work.
Unfortunately, that results in virtually no damage and an empty stamina bar. (It's impossible to attack while exhausted, though it will refresh quickly.) To leave a mark, you must perform the same action while holding down the A button. These critical attacks take a split second longer, but they do a chunk of damage and are completely unblockable. They cut through any guard, negate light blows, even overcome special moves (performed by holding the B button during motion). It may be necessary to develop little combos playing against a friend (local multiplayer only), but on the normal difficulty level, these are more than enough to overwhelm the computer.
On the highest setting, the CPU wises up and begins to respond in kind. This leads to an outbreak of the most annoying aspect of Shattered Blade, the clash. Clashes occur when fighters simultaneously strike with similar critical attacks. For example, you may have maneuvered around behind your now defenseless opponent, but they attempt to counter in the entirely wrong direction. Doesn't matter, the attacks are considered equal. The clashes themselves are a rock-paper-scissors contest, substituting in the basic slice, slash, and stab. The winner of a best-of-five series emerges to attack the loser, with damage proportional to the margin of victory. Clashes are bothersome because they pull you out of the action, especially when two or three occur in close succession. But they're laughably unacceptable because they can reduce the outcome of a fight to pure luck.
The new villain is a somewhat ridiculous as well; his heavy Spanish accent sounds like a complete joke. Arturo Plateado is supposed to be a supremely powerful being sealed away by Soul Reapers 1,000 years ago. He manages to reach beyond his bounds and trick everyone into fighting over spiritual shards that actually trigger his release. Of course, he ends up getting beaten down by each of the seven characters graced with a story mode. That includes Ichigo, along with other favorites like Hitsugaya, Renji, Byakuya, and Yoruichi. Well, there is one additional scenario where Arturo can shine.
Fortunately, many more fighters appear in the arcade mode, bumping the roster size up to thirty-two. Added are Ichigo's expected friends: silent Chad, dour Uryu, and the busty Orihime. All combat-oriented Soul Reaper captains make an appearance, including rarely spied powers Ukitake of 13th Division and Yamamoto-Genryusai, founder of the Soul Reaper academy. Many of the lieutenants are present as well, including the even bustier Rangiku Matsumoto and the popular, yet little seen, Shuhei Hisagi. Going further down the ranks, you'll find the fight-thirsty Ikkaku, vain Yumichika, and weakling Hanataro (as a joke character – his blade heals his opponent). The list is even cracked by future villains: arrancars Grimmjow and Ulquiorra.
It's a full field, and the cel-shaded style does everyone justice. Especially impressive are the flashy bankai transformations. When Hitsugaya takes the form of the frozen dragon Hyorinmaru, frosted wings emerge out of his back and he can whip around an icy tail. For Komamura's tenken, a giant stone soldier appears behind him, taking up most of the screen. The heavenly blade rains an avalanche down on his foe. Even Rukia gets to show off some of her power, unleashing her white moon. The attack traps her opponents in arctic column that extends into the sky. The banter between familiar characters is sensational as well. Even though it spans only a couple of lines, this dialogue is specialized between certain pairs, capturing the nature of friendly or tense relationships.
There's other fanservice, too, like unlockable picture albums, voices, and alternate costumes (school uniforms). But these attractions only begin to cover for Bleach: Shattered Blade's real problems. The game has no finesse, rewarding exclusive use of overpowered, unblockable critical hits. And in the worst cases, victory comes down to luck in jan-ken-pon. It's a glaring stain on an otherwise interesting fighting mechanic and exciting licensed game.
Featured community review by woodhouse (December 15, 2008)
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