The X Button
Bleach Blanket Bingo
by Todd Ciolek,
I normally avoid discussing anime and manga here unless they're connected to games. I'm afraid that this site's other columnists will seek some horrifying revenge if I impinge on someone else's territory, and that I'll be found, stripped of my clothes and memories, in the dumpster behind a Halifax convenience store. But I have to break that rule once in a while, and I'm breaking it now for the new volume of Hiroki Endo's Eden: It's an Endless World.
See, Eden's been in limbo for about two years. It was never a huge seller in the waning days of the anime and manga boom, but Dark Horse avoided canceling it because, by all accounts, they like the series. But times are hard for manga sellers in the U.S., and so Eden's trickling out at a very slow rate.
The shame of it is that Eden's an excellent series. It's staged in a post-apocalyptic world, but a thoughtful, realistic one where civilization endures, and the series covers corporate-backed warfare, political struggles, and criminal empires all under a broader story of a bizarre, humanity-ravaging virus. Endo's depictions of cinematic action and cybernetic technology owe clear debts to Katsuhiro Otomo and Masamune Shirow, but his story's made of far more humanistic stuff. It's also violent and depressing and shows naked people all the time, so it's definitely Not For Kids, as those old Streamline videotape labels said.
Most of the good manga titles available here don't want for promotion: people have talked up 20th Century Boys to no end, for example. Eden's won some praise, but it's fallen off the radar for a long time. So if you've got volumes one through twelve, remember to grab the next one this month. And if you've never read Eden, it's not that hard to find the first volume.
DRAGON QUEST X UNVEILED FOR WII, WII U
Dragon Quest games tend to take their sweet time when they feel like it, and Dragon Quest X certainly feels like it. Originally announced for the Wii in 2008, the RPG sat in deep, dark mystery for years, and some were expecting Square Enix to shift the game to the Wii's successor, the Wii U. In a way, Dragon Quest X plays it safe: it's a multiplayer RPG for both the Wii and Wii U.
The game spans the five continents of a world called Astorida, home to races of elves, ogres, dwarves, the water-dwelling Wedi, and the chipper little Pukuripos. Oh, and humans. Of course. Much of the gameplay's patterned on Dragon Quest IX: players customize their main characters, and quests are given out for groups of players to undertake. Battles appears to be menu-driven and turn-based, but the exact flow isn't yet finalized. Players with the Wii version can join those with Wii Us (and vice versa), and the game will use the 3DS and its tag mode.
Square Enix is serious about the online side of Dragon Quest X. While the game's playable as a solo experience, Siliconera reports that players will only get a couple hours offline before the game requires an Internet connection—and, presumably, the subscription fee. Square Enix haven't announced just how much Dragon Quest X will cost to play, or how it'll handle online play on the Wii.
Dangerous new pay-to-play demands aside, Dragon Quest still has its old guard at hand. Series creator Yuji Horii returns to script the latest game, and he's joined by two longtime Dragon Quest contributors: character designer Akira Toriyama and composer Koichi Sugiyama. There's at least one surprise in the staff, however, as producer Yosuke Saito recently worked on Nier, an inventive action game that couldn't save its developer, Cavia. Dragon Quest X's also the work of internal Square Enix teams, and this takes the reigns away from Level-5, developer of the last two major Dragon Quests. The game's release date, always nebulous where Dragon Quest games are concerned, is a vague 2012 for the Wii version, and Square Enix won't even pin down a year for the Wii U edition.
There's another Dragon Quest coming out much sooner: Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3, or Rocket Slime 3, is due out for the Japanese 3DS this November. It's the latest in a line of surprisingly fun action-RPGs starring…well, slimes, and it has all of the familiar Dragon Quest monsters crewing a pirate ship, a promising concept in itself. And speaking of pirates…
ONE PIECE MUSOU ANNOUNCED
There's an ongoing trend of giving popular anime the Dynasty Warriors treatment, which consists of huge battlefields full of easily pounded enemies. That's why there are three Dynasty Warriors Gundam titles, a similar Fist of the North Star title, and spiritual imitators like Namco Bandai's Saint Seiya: Sanctuary and Sony's Bleach: Soul Resurrección. The next anime in the Dynasty Warriors sights? One Piece.
Few details are solid right now: it's being made by Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force, it'll be shown at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show, and it's called One Piece: Pirate Musou (“Musou” being shorthand for the Japanese title of Dynasty Warriors). I'd say it has a bit more potential than the typical Dynasty Warriors adaptation. While all of the games get ridiculously overblown in terms of battlefield chaos, One Piece's cartoonish style is a slightly new direction. The game's slated for the PlayStation 3 with no firm release date. Once it's out, we can all look forward to Fairy Tail Musou, Boogiepop Phantom Musou, Princess Tutu Musou, Cosmos Pink Shock Musou, and Angel Cop Musou.
STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN TEASES, POSSIBLY FOR NAUGHT
It was easy to see through Capcom's past teasers for new Street Fighter X Tekken characters. The most recent ones, however, have more people guessing. The first trailer seems to show Heihachi, patriarch of the Tekken series, or possibly his grandson, Jin. But there's open debate as to whether the second trailer shows Sean or Rolento. Or both.
The shots of this mystery contender's costume suggest Rolento, the mercenary Final Fight boss (and Fist of the North Star villain) inducted into Street Fighter Alpha 2. On the other hand, the last image flashed before us is of the miniature basketball that Sean, the young disciple of Ken, tossed around in Street Fighter III.
Of course, these hints and half-glimpses might not matter if the leaked Street Fighter X Tekken roster really is accurate. According to the list, the Street Fighter side of the game has Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Cammy, Guile, Abel, Juri, M. Bison, Sagat, Sakura, Karin, Poison, Hugo, Dhalsim, Ibuki, Guy, Cody, Makoto, Sodom, Zangief, Rolento, and, for some reason, Rainbow Mika. The Tekken side gets Jin, Kazuya, Julia Chang, Hwoarang, Nina Williams, King, Bob, Lili, Steve Fox, Alisa, Jack, Marduk, Paul Phoenix, Law, Bryan Fury, Xiaoyu, Raven, Heihachi, Yoshimitsu, Asuka, and Kuma. The hidden characters are supposedly some assortment of the evil incarnations of Ryu, Akuma, Jin, and Kazuya.
XSEED READIES CORPSE PARTY FOR THE FALL
One could joke about Xseed Games releasing an adventure title called Corpse Party on a system that's practically dead, but we have to be fair: the PSP is only dead in terms of physical releases and GameStop shelf space. Its spirit lives on through the ether of PlayStation Network games, and that's where you'll find Xseed's localization of Corpse Party in the fall.
Corpse Party isn't nearly as static as the typical “adventure game.” Originally created with RPG Maker, Corpse Party has students wandering around like 16-bit RPG heroes as they explore their school in the wake of a strange earthquake. As the building was supposedly built over the scene of a gruesome crime, it's now infested with murderous ghosts and stranger things. Characters survive more through their choices than any reflex-driven gameplay, though many unpleasant endings lie behind the wrong decisions. At first an independent release for Japanese PCs, Corpse Party was licensed by larger publishers and brought to the PSP by 5pb, makers of the recent anime-fan catnip Steins;Gate.
BLEACH: SOUL RESURRECCIÓN
Developer: Racjin/Japan Studio
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation 3
It's common practice for reviewers to proclaim games “for fans only” when they're based on movies or cartoons. It sounds like a cop-out, but it's the unfortunate truth: a lot of licensed games bob around in tide pool of competence, made just well enough to satisfy players who want only to control Batman or Aeon Flux or Monkey D. Luffy in a half-decent game. And that's the best classification for Bleach: Soul Resurrección. It's a fan-only affair from the moment one character barrels down a palace hall and shouts “Tell your master that a Quincy is here!” What's a Quincy? If you have to ask, you'll never like Soul Resurrección all that much.
Soul Resurrección starts smack-dab in the middle of the Bleach series, not bothering to explain that it's about soul reapers and their adventures in a world that's part-afterlife, part mystical alternate dimension. With his friend Orihime kidnapped by Major Villain Sosuke Aizen, series hero Ichigo Kurosaki and his soul-reaper allies arrive in the world of Hueco Mundo, where vengeful spirits called Hollows reside in abundance. Soul Resurrección breaks up much of this plot into short missions, following different characters as they slice through Hollows and face down Aizen's masked Arrancar cronies.
The wastelands of Hueco Mundo teem with all sorts of hollows, from shadow-apes to bubble-spitting turtles, and the player's chosen soul reaper takes them on dozens at a time. There's a good bit of Dynasty Warriors in the mix; characters roam limited areas, but they have to wipe out certain enemies before proceeding to the next area or boss encounter. The available attacks build on jumping and simple slashing, with harsher strikes linked to a steadily building power meter. Most welcome is an unlimited dashing move. Characters can jet all over the battlefield as much as they like, and it spares players the tedious walking that bogs down many older games that focus on large-scale battlefield carnage.
It's folly to expect Soul Resurrección to include every last character in Bleach's ridiculously large universe, but the game manages 21 of them. Most of the usual suspects are present, from Hitsugaya and Yoruichi to more recent arrivals like Tia Harribel. Many Arrancar villains are unlocked after they're defeated, and developer Racjin even threw in Kokuto, the villain from the fourth Bleach film. Still, it's a limited roster for a game that's mostly about sating fan preferences, and Soul Resurrección often taunts Bleach geeks by showing non-playable characters like Renji and Yachiru taking part in the storyline. At least the playable characters feel right. While a lot of the swordfighters share similar play styles, most have unique attacks and specialties. Players are also free to enhance them by spending points on a board that resembles Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid.
Soul Resurrección lays the ground for an engaging action game, and yet it can never quite stand out as a massive-scale brawler. The enemy hordes are never as thick as they are in Dynasty Warriors, and most of the levels are too focused in their approach; it's actually more fun to dash around, breaking boulders and columns, than it is to fight another Hollow. In fact, Soul Resurrección's greatest flaw is Bleach itself. It simply doesn't do enough to entice a casual player. The stark castles and empty deserts of Hueco Mundo make for dull scenery, and tossing around shadowy creatures isn't nearly as fun as facing down entire armies in ancient China or pounding through dozens of sadistic biker punks in the ruins of a nuked-out city. It's not as though an anime license limits a game's audience; in fact, Treasure's Bleach fighters were solid attractions by any measurement. Perhaps all of this nonsense about soul reapers and Hollows just goes down easier as a one-on-one fighter.
In bringing the look of the Bleach anime to a PlayStation 3 game, Soul Resurrección succeeds only halfway. The character models are all cell-shaded and sharp, but they animate stiffly in cutscenes, and a lot of them have odd overbites. The voice acting's straight from the anime's cast, though they're all forced to give rushed versions of the manga and TV show's storyline. The intro's also an odd disappointment. Anime-based games usually get some crisply animated footage, but Soul Resurrección's opener looks like it was pulled from a low-budget episode of the TV series.
Bleach: Soul Resurrección turns out a shade better than many anime-based games, as its play mechanics show a fair bit of thought from Racjin (who I'll always remember for Trap Gunner and Sub Rebellion). Yet the rest of game stands empty, brought down by repetitive stages and limited gameplay. That's not so bad in the grand scheme of anime-licensed backwash. Considering what else is attached to the Bleach name, Soul Resurrección could've been a lot worse.
But it's still just for fans.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
BIT.TRIP SAGA/BIT.TRIP COMPLETE
The Bit.Trip series has long lurked in the background, putting out simple games with a hypnotic blend of colorful pixel graphics and upbeat music. Bit.Trip Beat is a Pong-like experience where each rebounded projectile gives off musical tones, Core has players firing from a stationary cross at the center of the screen, Void involves a dark circle that grows with each dot absorbed, Runner is a side-scrolling action game, Fate is a horizontal shooter, and Flux goes back to the paddle-based nature of Beat. And throughout all of these games, there's a pulsing chiptune soundtrack, its bloops and bleeps influenced by the dots you bat around, the chasms you leap, or the oncoming enemies you shoot down.
Bit.Trip Saga includes all six games with revamped 3-D graphics and the option for motion-based controls. Complete packs the same games on the Wii, adding 20 brief bonus stages to the various games. It's likely to annoy anyone who never got used to old-time video game music, but any Bit.Trip is perfect for fans of Rez, Child of Eden, and other musical shooters. Yes, I think that's a genre now.
WHITE KNIGHT CHRONICLES II
White Knight Chronicles II completely understands if you didn't play the original White Knight Chronicles. In fact, the original game is included as a bonus for those who skipped it, just so they can get up to speed on an RPG that never quite made the best of its good ideas. It had an action-driven battle system and let players create their own towns, but the results still felt a touch generic. Perhaps that was due to the storyline, in which a kid named Leonard, complete with a Mysterious Background, took up the mantle of a massive armored knight-creature and…well, he starts up a love triangle with the local princess and his childhood friend. Not much was resolved at the end of White Knight Chronicles, but the sequel promises a finale and introduces a few new characters. The ongoing plot still involves a villain's bid for world domination and heroes who manipulate Knights, summoned warriors that are as close as this medieval-fantasy world gets to giant robots. They figure prominently into the game's real-time battle system, where a lead character and several AI-controlled comrades hack at some rather large monsters. That's half of White Knight Chronicles II.
The other half of the game has players creating a personalized hero and taking on various online quests with up to six other participants. This also ties into the single-player campaign, as your made-up avatar can fight in the same party as the game's lead characters. The original game's Georama system returns as well, and it lets players unlock special items as they put together individual towns to display online. It remains to be seen if White Knight Chronicles II can please both focused-plot followers and online RPG fans, but it's hard to fault Level-5 for trying.
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