Bleach: Heat the Soul
We do not recommend heating any part of your body with bleach. Import impressions inside.
Fighting games don't make up a large chunk of the PSP's game library but there are a couple of good ones, one of which is Sony's Bleach: Heat the Soul, a 3D brawler based on the popular Japanese manga. After putting this pretty beat-em-up through its paces I'm happy to report that it's a solid import, though if you're used to fighting games that come with a wealth of choices, then you'll be somewhat disappointed.
Bleach's story revolves around Kurosaki Ichigo, a seemingly normal 15-year old boy who just so happens to see ghosts, and I don't mean in a John Edwards sort of way. Not only can he view these spirits, but he can also see Hollows, ferocious monsters that attack the ghosts. When his life is threatened by one of these beasts, a mysterious woman named Kuchiki Rukia instills him with the power to be a Soul Reaper. Together they embark upon a journey to destroy Hollows.
The story is not oh-my-god-this-is-so-original-stuff but it works, though the game doesn't make much sense because you can pick either Ichigo or Kuchiki and beat the hell out of the other. That's the odd thing about this game. At the beginning of the game here are only five playable characters and they include Orihme Inoue, Ichigo Kurosaki, Uryu Ishida, Yasutora Sado, and Rukia Kuchiki. It's not bad if you, like me, play in short bursts, but if you're going to sit down and spend some serious time with Bleach, you'll run through all of the characters and see all there is to see fairly quickly, especially since the modes are your typical fighting game lot. Story Mode is fairly involving because of all the dialogue, but then there's Vs CPU, Soul Versus (Survival), Time Attack, and an Appendix that has over 100 unlockable cards. It's a very bare-bones fighter, and at the $60 import price that it's going for, you're not getting a good value.
Bleach may not be packed with special features but it more than makes up for that with its gameplay, which is highly enjoyable and just about worth the price of admission. I found the combat to be surprisingly solid and fast-paced. There's no lag when you press the buttons, and pulling off moves is fairly easy. The frame rate stutters ever so slightly when larger attacks are pulled off, but it doesn't hinder gameplay.
The game's graphics are also very sweet. The character models look exactly like their television show counterparts and they're animated well. Little touches, such as billowing fabric, are a really nice touch on what's a fabulous visual package. The environments are equally impressive looking, though they're not particularly exciting to look at. Basically, stand in a parking lot and take a look around and you have an idea of what to expect. Lastly, the opening movie is very slick and is accompanied by some great music.
Since anime is fairly popular in the U.S. I won't be surprised if Sony decides to release Bleach: Heat the Soul in America, though on the other side of the coin the same holds true if it passes on the opportunity. If you're a fan of the show or just very curious, I recommend importing it because it's a cool fighting game that shows off what the PSP is capable of, and while there isn't much replay value, you'll have a fun time with it regardless.