You'd think by now we'd have learnt not to get swept up in the false promise of a game's opening cinematic. In arcades, the terminology for this was coined as 'attract screens', a feature that did exactly that: showcase what the title offered, thereby attracting gamers over for a butchers. If the intro did the job, coins would swiftly follow.
So even with years of gaming experience under our belts, the fast-paced cinematic that kicks in with an ear-hammering guitar riff and a collage of fiercely-diced fight scenes that caress the eyes with beautiful anime stylings makes us want to play the game badly. But professionalism kicks in fairly rapidly and we prepare for the sudden disappointing reveal of the game proper.
Happily, it never comes. Bleach's visuals don't quite match the beauty of the anime series, but the cel-shaded characters have their own distinct edginess. Imagine Dragon Ball Z with a drop of No More Heroes.
The original premise for Bleach dates back to a manga first serialised in 2001 in Japan. In it, student Ichigo Kurosaki tackles ghosts and evil spirits with the deft swordplay of an Akira Kurosawa film. An anime series followed and a number of videogames. This Wii adaptation forgoes the anime's metaphysical discussions on the nature of man's soul and goes straight for what we want - big flashy sword fights.
Our first grapple with the system is really good fun. The Remote handles as you'd imagine, controlling your chosen character's sword, while the Nunchuk handles movement and blocking. Attacks in the game are all about speed, double figure combos reeled off with a few shakes (vertically or horizontally) of the Remote.
But to rein in any cheap spamming of attacks, Polygon Magic has attributed each fighter a stamina bar, just under the health bar. Combos and special attacks eat up its contents, so the game becomes a tense game of cat and mouse, attack and defend.
Cheap As Can Be
Well, it should. However, gameplay is destabilised by another bar, placed along the bottom of the screen. Every time you attack or defend, this bar fills up slightly. Once full, a quick shake of the Nunchuk activates the Bankai mode, basically a super-charged attack.
Super moves have been in fighting games since the '90s, but have, historically, always complimented the combat system. Once activated, the player becomes nigh-on invulnerable and attacks are hard to avoid. Battles then revolve around who can build and unleash their Bankai move first, becoming an end that you mean to get to, rather than a means to an end in itself.
Like some arcade games, you tend not to think about the cheapness of the game mechanics if you're just having a brief blast. But Bleach has tried to bolster the main game with the usual modes that benefit a fighter in this day and age. The Episode mode is a story driven affair that delves into the characters' histories, while Arcade plays like your typical Soul Calibur variant. There are also training modes and a shop to unlock items from.
There's a game in ONM's local London arcade based on the Fist of the North Star series. The goal is to bash away with your fists at a series of pads in time with them being lit up. It's good fun for a brief work-out but you quickly realise that there's very little strategy at its heart. It's fine for the occasional short burst, but something you couldn't really imagine spending £40 on at the same time. The exact same could be said of Bleach.