Fighting games are slim pickings on the Wii, short of busting out a classic controller and downloading some old-school favourites. And with Super Smash Bros. Brawl being a while off yet, Bleach: Shattered Blade aims to be the ticket for Wii fans.
It’s common knowledge that fighting games are relatively refined in the gameplay area, with a lot of the lasting value being directly tied to the amount of depth the fighting system has. People in Japan train in schools to learn how to play Virtua Fighter.
Unfortunately, Bleach: Shattered Blade has very little depth. The gameplay revolves around shaking either the Wii remote to execute moves, or the nunchuk to charge and unleash your Bankai special state.
In theory, this is all fine – and it even compliments the Wii remote nicely. The gameplay is fast, flowing, and frantic, and at times really immersive. However, the downside is that matches often become hit and miss affairs based on luck rather than skill.
Now, those who have never heard of command lag might not even really care about such things as depth. And in a sense, the engine at work with Bleach: Shattered Blade could be used for great effect when creating an accessible fighting game for the blue ocean masses. It is ironic, then, that it is Bleach’s license that prevents it from having a mainstream accessibility.
For example, rather than starting from the beginning of the Bleach story, Bleach: Shattered Blade acts as an exclusive chapter in the Bleach story. The story assumes a knowledge of prior events and who these characters are, making it hard to appreciate anything. Given that the story itself is also largely throwaway material, only a diehard Bleach fan will find joy here.
Another downside of the license is the dragged out Bankai transformations. Although not too bad the first few times, after a while they begin to break the flow of combat far too frequently. Being in Bankai mode also replaces the soundtrack with the same dramatic music every time, which can also start to grate after a while.
Bleach: Shattered Blade isn't, at its core, a terrible game. It looks fantastic, like a manga cartoon, and the voice acting and soundtrack aren’t that bad either. The gameplay is accessible and, taken as a samurai fighting game, people could do a lot worse.
The real problem with Bleach: Shattered Blade is that it is a paradox: on the one hand you have this accessible if simple fighting system and on the other hand you have this license and presentation that will only appeal to a niche audience looking for the depth this game is so absent of.
Hardcore Bleach fans and those looking for another fighting game for their Wii might want to pick this one up, but for everyone else there is better elsewhere.