Bleach: The 3rd Phantom DS
One of the reasons why you’ve clicked on this review is probably because you have an idea of what Bleach is. If you’ve clicked thinking that this is a game based around cleaning dirty areas in your bathroom or colouring your hair to get that golden yellow look, then I can safely say this game isn’t for you.
On the other hand if you know that Bleach is a very successful anime and manga property from Japan then this game might just tickle you in the right spot because this new game from Sega, for the Nintendo DS, features an all new story in the Bleach universe.
Written by Tite Kubo (the creator of Bleach) this spin-off storyline takes place before the manga series and then works its way up to the present with all the familiar characters you know and love. The story is based around twins; after getting saved from an attack, they are adopted by 5th Division Captain Seigen Suzunami, and obtain positions as shinigami in the same division as their father. Chuck in Arrancars, betrayals, twists and a huge Bleach cast and you have yourself an interesting back story… for Bleach fans. I just can’t see anyone who isn’t a fan of Bleach enjoying what the story has to offer here.
Unlike the past two games for the DS, which were pure 2D fighting, this is a strategy RPG. The game is set up like a lot of familiar titles in that genre and The 3rd Phantom feels likea a Fire Emblem or an Advance Wars title. This is mainly due to the battle sequences that appear on screen when you get into a fight. When you attack or defend against an enemy a screen appears showing the two units taking their turns.
Moving characters is done on the traditional grid based system with an isometric viewpoint. A downside is that you cannot move the camera and there where some instances in battle when fighting a huge enemy I could not tell where my character was going to move to as I couldn’t see the movement square. A bit of trial and error gets past this but the ability to spin the camera is something that should have been included.
A unique feature in The 3rd Phantom is the pressure metre. It takes a turn to build pressure up, but it’s something you should do often if you aren’t in the range of attacking because having a maxed-out pressure metre allows you to summon your Bankai – a powerful transformation form of your Zanpaktou (weapon) – or other powerful attacks. It also allows you to recover special points faster so you can dish out more special moves.
The rest of the features are pretty standard when it comes to strategy RPGs. You gain levels, you learn new moves and you can send out a total of eight characters on the map to fight. What fans will love about the game is you can play pretty much as any of their favourite Bleach characters – there are over fifty characters useable in battles and each can work with pretty much any other character for a cooperative attack.
Outside of battles there isn’t really much to do. The story progresses through still images with scrolling text. After a fight or a story scene you get a free time period, a sort of mini-game. On the top of the DS screen you have Kon and some items to collect while on the bottom screen you have panels of characters that you can talk to. It’s a bit of a pointless mini-game because everyone can easily get all the items by simply selecting the right panel.
Visually the game looks allright and seems to use some of the sprites from past Bleach DS games for the fight animations. These look good and the characters and the overpowering attacks stay true to the art style of the material and animation style of the anime. The field view makes the characters turn into cute chibi forms of themselves, which is kind of weird as when they get into battle they appear as normal. This is probably due to the isometric view plus having chibi versions of the characters requires less detail on the sprites.
There’s something up with the letter m in this game. throughout any dialogue that is present on screen the letter m appears squished, it looks more like a n but with the first part set in bold, it’s just darn weird why it’s like that when all the other letters are fine. There’s no touch screen input whatsoever.
Bleach: The 3rd Phantom is a solid Strategy RPG and fans will enjoy its 25 chapters. There’s a VS multiplayer that is just a general “my team vs. your team” approach, nothing really exhilarating. There are other Strategy RPGs on the Nintendo DS that will bring a more complete and better experience without having the need to know the characters or franchise to get the most enjoyment out of it. Sega have released Bleach: The 3rd Phantom truly is for the fans and I’m sure they will be thankful for that; for everyone else, you probably won’t want to check this one out unless you are truly a hardcore Strategy RPG player.