A gentle jingle told me that my Wii's main menu loaded. Shortly after sliding in the Bleach: Shattered Blade disc, I clicked on its icon, and beheld an atrociously low-resolution menu screen. Foreboding feelings settled in, but I chose to start the game nonetheless, as that was my destiny (and professional duty). Thus began my journey through the world of Bleach.
My first stop was the introductory movie. It was a bunch of random shots of characters from the anime, played over underwhelming and cheap background music. Once it ended, and I was free of pesky things like anticipation and excitement, I selected the first destination any rookie should: Tutorial Mode.
Whenever you're looking to learn, it's good fortune to receive a teacher who's thorough yet to-the-point, and whoever created Bleach: Shattered Blade's wasn't that gifted. Simple, unintuitive sentences are shown to you, and that's it – you're thrown into the battle afterward, and are expected to figure it out. If you don't pull things off right, you won't fail, and you aren't given more hints, you're left to swing the Wii Remote 'round till you see “Success!” without feeling remotely successful.
A small benefit to all that running around was becoming familiar with movement, or so I thought. When I tried Practice Mode next, my invincible foes revealed that their special attacks would home in on me whether I side-stepped or not. So much for the freedom and usefulness of full 3D movement. In fact, to heck with most of the things that tutorial tried to show me. I wouldn't need more than half of it. Special moves? Bankai? Who cares!
Here's a tip for you unfortunate players: In battle, hold down A, and swing the Wii Remote. That's how you deal a critical attack, which always breaks through the enemy's guard. It's the only move needed to win every battle, for each character, throughout the entire Episode Mode. You can even keep your eyes closed for a little spice.
With that in mind, I continued along my lonely path to the Episode Mode. With an endgame character and new storyline created exclusively for Bleach: Shattered Blade, it's what advertisers made a big to-do about. If it was great as marketing claimed, those uninformative tutorials and the underwhelming fighting system could've been forgiven.
They weren't, because it wasn't. Episode Mode is Dragon Ball Z with swords, replacing the Dragon Balls with an executioner's blade shards. No matter whose storyline you select, their cutscenes can be summed up like so: “Are you with me? Are you against me? Do you have any shards? Okay, let's fight.” Sadly, that's better than some of the real in-game dialog.
Take Ichigo, for instance. He's the main character, who at one point faced an enemy that boomed, “My power is fully restored! Now, feel it!” His defiant and equally amazing retort: “No way!” What was I watching, Naruto? I waited for him to scream “BELIEVE IT!” but I was spared that line, even though the mediocre voice acting wouldn't go away.
With the rising popularity of anime and related games and media in the United States, it's doubtful the community is going to stand up and demand better voice actors. Why boycott when you can accept grade school acting at the price of your dignity? Outside of Wendee Lee, most of the two-bit actors churning out their boring lines in Bleach: Shattered Blade should've stuck to the third grade stage. Their supposed exclamations of pain demean their characters, too, since hearing Ichigo scream “Damn-damn-damn-damn-dammit!” whenever he's struck by a combo is irritating. You won't find me feeling sympathetic toward him.
If you aren't deterred, start your own Bleach: Shattered Blade journey, and discover your own feelings for it. As for me, my trip is over, and it's one game I'm never going to revisit. With a move set that's identical for every character, multiple storylines so similar the final boss's same lines are reused each time, and a general lack of variety and challenge, there's no reason to go back to Bleach.