Bleach as an anime and manga was once at the very top of pop culture… until it outstayed its own success with one story arc too many. It may have ended on an unceremonious note, but Bleach still carries a strong nostalgic punch for many of us, and in 2020 it’s doing a comeback tour of sorts with a brand new anime series with other tie-in properties, among these is Bleach: Immortal Soul, a free-to-play mobile RPG.
To address the proverbial Hollow in the room: Bleach: Immortal Soul has virtually all the trappings and faults we all absolutely despise about current mobile gaming. It has multiple confusing in-game currencies, which all inevitably lead to spending real money, it has the loot boxes, and it is filled with constant notifications and reminders.
While gamers shouldn’t grow indifferent to these ills of mobile gaming, it’s probably not fair to single out Bleach: Immortal Soul for following the same model as other developers. It would be like being that old guy who yells at the cloud, so let’s set that aside and appreciate the game for what it is.
As a video game, Bleach enjoyed some measure of success with multiple games on consoles, one of them even being a somewhat decent strategy RPG, but Immortal Soul is designed as a turn-based RPG adventure. In an ideal world, this could have translated exceptionally well as an RPG epic on Nintendo Switch, especially given the extensive and unhindered use of the Bleach IP with all of its source material. Still, even for a mobile game, the source material has been used well to do the IP justice. It appears that the developers had full unrestricted access to any and every piece of art and material from the official Bleach library. This is why, for fans, the amount of fanservice is simply too good to pass.
The visual presentation is generally strong, where even the paper-doll like character models shine through thanks to the designs which are pretty much spot on. It’s no graphical masterpiece by any stretch, but there is enough attention to detail in the character designs and even the backdrops to satisfy a decent gaming experience. The aspect that underwhelms the most is the music, where none of the tunes are worth remembering. Bleach anime was always known for some brilliant music, but understandably getting the license for all those iconic songs would not have been feasible.
Nearly every nook and cranny of Bleach: Immortal Souls is cram filled with artwork and designs from the anime and manga, and the attention to detail is most apparent in the game’s story mode, which is as comprehensive as any fan could hope for. Each of the chapters and battles of the RPG adventure follows the events of the anime, using images and footage from the show.
It’s as close a virtual recreation anyone could imagine, where the cut-scenes and order events follow the episodic TV series scene for scene and line for line. The story mode alone is worth the investment for any fan looking for a warm nostalgic trip down memory lane, and for the most part, players can enjoy the journey with the basic experience and upgrades without having to invest too much into the currencies and microtransactions.
Speaking of currencies and upgrades, this is where Bleach: Immortal Soul can get a bit too complicated and overwhelming. From character upgrades to weapon upgrades and then getting deeper into the abilities, it all gets confusing, mainly because of the cluttered menu design, which can feel like a sensory overload for even the most seasoned mobile gamers.
Good fonts and consistent icons go a long way in menu presentation, and unfortunately, Bleach: Immortal Soul tends to favor style over practical design. It can be something players get used to overtime, and the frequent tutorials and notifications help even when they interrupt the flow of gameplay.
The core combat system is where Bleach: Immortal Soul shines, and it makes the progression through the story mode quite enjoyable as players revisit classic battles from the anime series. This is a serious turn-based RPG affair that follows the active time battle convention, which means each character needs to wait for when they can initiate a command rather than following a predetermined turn cycle.
Battle commands generally involve tapping and sliding character icons to initiate specific attacks. Still, the key tactic is to tap icons in a specific sequence to initiate chain attacks, which involves figuring out the best combination of characters for a team. In a way, having some prior knowledge of the anime helps because then you can work out which characters would work well together. Battle formations also matter here too, giving the RPG combat system of Bleach: Immortal Soul all the conventions genre fans love while still being streamlined enough for a smooth mobile experience. Speaking of streamlined, the auto-battle system works rather beautifully so as long as you regularly upgrade your party.
Beyond the story campaign, there are other daily quests and events to complete, which earn you some currency, a whole range of boss challenges to pursue, and even a multiplayer battle mode. While the game gives you plenty of things to do at the beginning, a vast majority of the modes and features need to be unlocked once you reach a certain level.
Of course, using real money for fast upgrades can allow you to speed things up, but ultimately the grind to unlock everything the hard way isn’t too bad especially if you focus on story mode first and foremost because that in and of itself helps you clear a heap of quests and milestones for some easy rewards.
It’s worth mentioning at the time of reviewing the build there were a few technical issues and bugs, such as game crashes and a few errors in dialogue delivery where certain lines would be repeated twice. Of course, as a mobile game, these will likely be addressed when the game launches.
Bleach: Immortal Soul can become a real mess once you really get into the various modes and currency upgrades. The learning curve is steep here, but at the same time, it’s a streamlined affair to those only interested in reliving a classic anime series through the story mode. The main point being, this experience is incredibly average, but fans of the series will most likely find an appreciation for the narrative, world, and characters. Here’s to the return of Bleach.
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