Review by Jekefka
"You should enjoy the fight."
Bleach: Shattered Blade features unique controls and gameplay, a great selection of characters and a ton of things to unlock and do, but also a lot of small problems. Being one of the only fighting games on the Wii, Shattered Blade stands out in that regard, but many may find themselves disappointed with the shallow gameplay. However, despite its simplicity and issues, Shattered Blade still manages to be a somewhat enjoyable title worth playing if you're a fan of Bleach or Anime Fighting Games in general.
Ichigo Kurosaki, Substitute Soul Reaper, finds himself stuck in Soul Society and unable to go back home through the gate to the living world. He must find and use the incredible spiritual power found in the shards of the Sokyoku in order to open the gate and return to where he belongs.
The story of Ichigo is found in the game's Episode Mode, in which there are 7 other characters to choose from.
However, the story is lacking and not much happens at all, which is a shame.
It's mildly interesting, and each character in the mode has a different motive for trying to find the shards, but it's all very irrelevant and bland.
The visuals in Shattered Blade aren't amazing, but they still look decent. There are nice effects on the attacks and the character models are well done, but the backgrounds could use some work, as they are quite blocky. Still, the moves look great, the character models look clean (despite the occasional clipping issues) and animations are nice and smooth. The end product is a game that looks just like the show it's based on, which is a good thing.
The Bankais are also fairly impressive and behave like they do in Bleach.
It's fun to watch a giant bone snake tear through the battlefield, or see thousands of flower-petal-like blades being hurled at the opponent. People who haven't really watched Bleach won't necessarily get the relevance of attacks like the ones just mentioned, but those who do will probably like how true most of them are to the show.
The English voice actors for the show lend their voices to the game and for the most part do great work. There are a few poorly delivered lines and sometimes particular pieces of dialogue can get repetitive, especially in the instances of Clashes (which will be explained later), but for the most part, sound is decent.
On the music end, there are plenty of original, albeit generic sounding songs that fit the mood of the game, and the music that plays when a character enters their Bankai State is epic and cheesy at the same time. The sound effects on the attacks aren't spectacular, but they do their part well enough.
Fans of the show who have been watching it in Japanese with subtitles may miss the voices of their favourite characters, but the English actors do their job fine. It would have been nice to have the Japanese voices as an option for those who wanted it, but unfortunately, that's not the case.
However, while the overall quality is fair, there are a couple of problems with the game's presentation.
The first problem is the relation between the voices and the mouths of the characters.
Too often, characters will talk while their mouths are closed, or will be seen saying nothing while their mouths are moving. It catches the eye in the wrong way.
The second problem is "Big Bankais", like the giant bone snake mentioned earlier.
When the character using a Big Bankai is knocked down or for some reason needs to change the direction he/she is facing quickly, the Big Bankai (Bone Snake, Slug-Baby, etc.) just...vanishes. It disappears completely, then pops back into the fight in an instant when the character gets back up.
It looks terribly sloppy.
This is where the game has the most issues.
Using the remote and nunchuck, if you swing up with the remote, your character will swing up. If you stab with the remote, you character will stab, and so on.
The game utilizes motion control in this way very well but it's a little shallow.
Gameplay elements common to most fighters (like cancels or even jumping) are missing and missed, so most of the gameplay is just swinging or holding a button and swinging.
There is some depth, but it comes mostly from the way your attacks behave.
There are Basic Strikes, Special Attacks and Critical Attacks.
Whenever you attack in either of these ways, a Spiritual Power Gauge will deplete. When it's gone, you can't attack at all. The gauge charges back up on its own as long as you don't attack, but the problem with this is that it charges so quickly that it may as well not even be there. You can throw the same powerful move multiple times in a row without stopping, then just not attack for a couple of seconds and be able to do it all over again.
The speed at which the Spiritual Power Gauge charges totally defeats the purpose of that gameplay element altogether, and there are only a few characters that have moves that need a great chunk of the bar. The Gauge would have been a good way of balancing out the fights a bit better, but it ends up being pointless.
There are a lot of interesting Special Attacks based on the spiritual weapons of the characters and most of them are handy tools for you to use to win. However, too many of them are useless. Almost every character has one that you may as well not bother using. Of course, you have other moves to choose from that will surely help you win, but it's still an issue that could have been easily fixed.
Critical Attacks are an area where the game really could have been improved, and are what hurts the game the most.
These Critical Attacks cannot be blocked and take big chunks out of the opponent's health bar. Because of this, Critical Attacks can be (and usually are) easily exploited, and the gameplay suffers. In close combat, Basic Strikes and Blocking become mostly useless because Critical Attacks tear right through them both.
Sometimes they even have higher priority that Special Attacks.
Simply put, they're unbalanced, but that's not to say they're unstoppable.
For example, you can dodge or run away from these Critical Attacks if you get too close, bringing the fight back to middle/long range, and some Special Moves are good counters for them. Also, they're not exactly the fastest attacks in the game and usually have a lot of lag after each strike.
However, the AI doesn't seem to know how to counter them and can be easily defeated simply by using enough Critical Attacks, even on the hardest difficulty. Fortunately, human opponents know better. People are well aware that the Critical Attacks can't be blocked, and will try to find ways around that, making the fights a bit more fun.
Using strategies such as when to use which move when, or using basic strikes to fake the opponent out become important as most of the game's depth becomes apparent in this way. The computer doesn't use these techniques and so the fights are much more fun and interesting against human opponents. It's just too bad that the AI wasn't better, because even on the hardest difficulty it's a little too easy.
Another thing about Critical Attacks is the Clash.
A Clash is when two opponents use Critical Attacks at the same time and "Clash" their weapons together. When this happens, a five-part Rock-Paper-Scissors type match begins. When a bar passes over a green area, you must swing vertically, horizontally or stab with the remote. The three directions form a triangular relationship. Vertical beats Horizontal, Horizontal beats Stab, and so on. The winner deals some damage with a stylish attack. If there's a tie, nothing happens. It should also be worth noting that the controls become a bit touchy in these Clash situations, so you have to be really precise with your movements.
While they're fun distractions from the fast-paced gameplay, they happen way too often and sometimes get on your nerves. The audio during these clashes is irritating to say the least, as the characters constantly shout the same couple of syllables over and over again for five rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Sometimes most of the match will consist of these Clashes, and it can become both annoying and boring.
That said, the Clash does have its place and can be exciting, especially when a win or loss in the Mini-Game-like feature could mean a win or loss of the match.
Finally, there's Bankai. Fans of Bleach should know what this is, but to those who don't, this is basically the deal:
Your character becomes powerful and cool things happen.
You can achieve Bankai by charging the Guage at the bottom of the screen to full by fighting or charging it manually with by shaking the nunchuck. Once full, you shake the Nunchuck to activate your Bankai State.
Most characters have nice looking transformations when they enter this state, some have new moves, some don't have either, but all characters become much stronger. A few characters can also gain "Flash Step," allowing them to move so fast they're hard to control, or "Hyper Armor" in which they cannot be knocked down.
However, the most impressive of feature of the Bankai State is the Bankai Attack.
These are Super Moves that can only be used during a character's Bankai State are very stylish (and also very powerful). These huge attacks usually end the match, but most of them are fairly easy to evade by running away. Some of these Bankai Attacks need nothing short of a miracle to connect against a skilled opponent, but when they do, the move does great damage. On an opposite note, some Bankai States and Attacks are very exploitable, hard to avoid, and a bit unbalanced.
Also, while most of these attacks look really cool, you'll be seeing the same attacks all the time. Thankfully, the developers made the attacks interactive. You can shake the remote to make the attack stronger, so even though you may be watching the same move every other round, at least there's still something to do while you watch.
The gameplay in Shattered Blade may seem to have a lot of problems, but despite its issue, it is pretty fun. It's not complicated, anyone can play it, it is fun to watch and it's fairly entertaining all-around. It does have its issues, but overall it manages to be enjoyable. It could have used a bit more complexity, but what is there is good in its own way.
There is a lot to do in this game.
There are a great many things to unlock, like characters, voice work, alternate costumes, art and more. Winning a given number matches with a character or completing the arcade modes of specific characters is required to unlock most of the stuff, and the amount of time this takes will depend heavily on things like how many rounds you've set the matches to and what difficulty it's on (and thus how easily you can win your matches and get through arcade mode).
All things considered, the average person can expect to take over 15 hours to unlock everything. Of course, if you enjoy the game, feel free to spend many more hours fighting the computer or your friends in the game's verses mode.
The game suffers from shallow gameplay, exploitable attacks and the repetitive Clash, but while it is a shallow game, it can be a fun one as well. Just know that this title is not for everyone. While somewhat enjoyable, many people, especially those who are used to playing deep, complex fighters, may be left wishing that there was more to the game than there is.
Overall, Bleach: Shattered Blade for the Wii is a fun title with a lot to do and has plenty of fan-service, but it also has a lot of small issues that result in a mediocre game. It's a game obviously geared towards fans of the series, but those who are unfamiliar with Bleach may still find something they like.
I would suggest that you rent this game to see how you truly feel about it.
Purchasing it could certainly be worth your time and money, but don't buy Shattered Blade expecting it to be the next great fighting game, because you will probably be disappointed. I'd recommend against buying it before you try it, but younger audiences who are fans of the series would likely be happy with it as a gift and probably wouldn't mind the shallow gameplay as much as an older player.
If you're not a fan and are curious, hopefully I've given enough information here to allow you to make the decision best for you.
If you are a fan, you should enjoy the fight...but play it to find out for certain.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/07, Updated 04/16/08
Game Release: Bleach: Shattered Blade (US, 10/09/07)
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