Setup & Timing
The Single-Card Download content within Bleach: The Blade Of Fate is well placed - within "Versus" and then within its own "DS Download Play" menu. The forced part of the opening credit sequence is fairly short and the download times are within a respectable range.
Menus & Navigation
The options on the main menu are organized in a single column from the top to the bottom of the lower screen and there are so many options that you can't tap comfortable and are forced to use the buttons for navigation while 2/3 of the screen is lest essentially unused. The Versus menu has large buttons and is much easier to tap.
Ease Of Use / Play Control
The two control options cover pretty much every level of player. For new players, the "Auto" control option puts the most complex moves within a tap's reach. For expert players, "Manual" control allows all sorts of additional freedoms and innovations. What about players that aren't new but aren't experts, you ask? Well, there's a "Change" button on the lower screen that allows for as many seamless transitions between the two control styles as you desire without requiring you to take your attention away from the battle at hand.
In the graphics category, Bleach: The Blade Of Fate is a 2D fighter with a multi-layer depth. The graphics, while not containing 3D elements, look great. In the sound category, the game includes a few voice clips, but is mostly sound effects in-game. It's got the fighting, which is the basis of the main game. There were a couple of odd programming decisions made, however. For some reason, only the host can pause the game - so if another player needs the game paused for a reason that cannot wait (for example, if they've got something in their eye), they may have to wait for the host to finish a move (and keep in mind, the host is usually the most likely of the bunch to be an expert and, thus, to be doing the fancier moves manually). While the game is paused, players can see their move sets, but again they're at the mercy of the host and the other players, too. If one player wants five whole minutes to memorize their move set, but another is done after 30 seconds, someone is going to start complaining and the host is going to have to deal with it. The most annoying creative decision, however, is that there cannot be less than four players, requiring the game's AI to take over for open spot on the battlefield less than four.
Category Score: 11.5 / 15
Bleach: The Blade Of Fate is the first "traditional fighter" I've played on the Nintendo DS (excluding card battlers). When I played the game, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot of thought put into the control of the game. The touch screen was integrated in a way that boosted that game's overall feel. Too many games force touch controls just because the touch screen is there. In Bleach: The Blade Of Fate, buttons are created for the Spirit Cards and, in the case of "Auto" control, for the special and super moves, but the players aren't forced to control the characters via touch screen. Don't get me wrong - if a game can be programmed to control everything via the touch screen successfully, I'm all the more overjoyed to play it. If it's forced on, however, it can be bad... really bad. But I digress: here, the control is excellent and provides the first true Single-Card Download fighting experience, and it's a blast. With four players, things are nuts - and that's just how you want it.
Allow any player to pause the game.
Include each special move's button combination (graphically) on the buttons in "Auto" control mode to assist in learning the moves manually.
Permit two- or three-character games via Single-Card Download.
Category Score: 12.5 / 15
Overall Single-Card Download Rating: 87 / 100 (a.k.a. 43.5/50)
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