Bleach: The Blade of Fate for the Nintendo DS is a fighting game in the Street Fighter style that lets you lock swords with the characters from the Bleach comic book and animated series. Fans of the Bleach universe will be thrilled to discover that the game totally captures the characters' personalities and their unique attack moves. However, Blade of Fate isn't strictly for the fans. It's a superb fighting game in its own right and should appeal to anyone who enjoys the genre, especially those who have fond memories of playing games like Samurai Shodown and The Last Blade down at the local arcade.
There are 28 characters to pick from, all taken from the first couple of years of the ongoing story. Ichigo, Renji, Byakuya, and many other familiar faces are here, and their movements and attacks are based on the techniques and spirit powers they've displayed in the comic or TV show. Seeing those attacks in motion is sweet, not just because they're accompanied by flames and explosions, but because the large characters and multilayered backdrops are put together with some of the finest 2D artwork yet witnessed on the DS. Fans of the comic will appreciate the hand-drawn character portraits and bankai cutaway scenes, which are scrawled in the rough style of the comic. Meanwhile, devoted viewers of the animated series will delight in hearing each character's numerous battle cries, which were recorded from the English dub's voice actors. Even if none of that stuff matters to you, the explosive sound effects and intricate techno musical snippets will make you want to keep the volume cranked.
Underneath the hood, Bleach: The Blade of Fate is a solidly executed fighting game that beginners and experts alike can sink their teeth into. Battles can involve as many as four people, and combat takes place on a 2D plane. You would think it would be crowded with four characters crammed onto a single screen, but Treasure, the game's developer, wisely made it possible for you to jump between the foreground and the background. If a four-way free-for-all is too much for you, or you're getting spanked in a double-team, you can escape to the other plane at the touch of a button.
The controls are easy enough to figure out. Movement is handled with the directional pad, while your character's light, medium, and heavy attacks are bound to the main buttons. You can dash by double-tapping the directional pad and perform an additional jump in midair by pressing up again once you're airborne. Each press of a button unleashes a basic punch or slash that takes off a slight amount of health when it connects. To dole out more damage, you can perform one of your character's special moves or super attacks, which you do by keying in a command sequence that typically involves a quarter-circle motion on the control pad and a quick button press. The remaining buttons let you block, switch planes, or execute a Bleach-inspired flash step move that lets you instantly teleport across the screen.