Bleach: Brave Souls (Android)

Did you know that phones play VIDEOGAMES!? I sure did, but didn't have anything to play because I had a Windows phone and there is no sadder sight than the app store of a Windows phone. But I've since upgraded, and I've been toying around with whatever interesting free games I could find. This eventually lead me to a Japanese only game based off Bleach, that series that I will never escape as long as I live. Titled Brave Souls, the game is a free to play attempt at cashing in on the he amount of characters in the series massive serial. It's also one of the better free gacha titles I've come across, and a huge time-sink at that.

The game throws you in by retelling the events of the first chapter and episode of the franchise, with screenshots from the anime mixed in with original character arc for dialog scenes. After a few tutorial levels, you're free to play the game as you may, and there's a lot to learn. The game is only in Japanese text, but it's not a huge problem if you have experience with gacha games. A gacha game is a game based around gacha capsules, those little trinkets in vending machines you can get for a quarter or two. As mobile gaming as grown, so has the attempt to take the idea of those capsules and apply them to an entire game set-up to make something addictive and possibly worth spending extra cash on so the user can get what they want from the randomly generating vending machine. The main game itself, though, is a very simplistic beat-em up, and a fun one at that.

Not many gacha games remember the game part of things, at least in my experience, or they have very tiring mechanics (the Love Live game gets a tad repetitive with all the repeating songs). So, making a beat-em up with all the characters in Bleach canon is simply brilliant. It's an entire genre already based around repetition, meaning making an enjoyable title with that set-up for cheap is an easy process. All that matters is how the game feels, and they got that down here. Attacks all come out very quickly and leave impact, especially specials and cut-scene spawning supers. The mechanics are also incredibly simple. You hold a thumb or finger on the left and move it around to order the direction your character moves or dodges in, and you use the right side buttons to activate moves and attacks. To make up for some imprecision that comes from positioning with a touch screen, the game has auto-targeting on enemies if they get into your attack range, and attacks also hit pretty wide.

There's some challenge here within this simple set-up, as every enemy has different reactions to your attacks or placement on the field. You have to pay attention and know when to dodge or attack, and you also need to pay attention to enemy type. Every character, ally and enemy, has a type that decides the effectiveness of an attack or how much they take, a very basic rock-paper-scissors system that's pretty universally understood. This is where team set-ups come into play, as you have to make teams of three, letting you switch out characters on the field, and can even make multiple teams if you want a certain specialization for different challenges.

To shake things up a bit, the game has RPG mechanics in that you can power up every character you have on hand. You can update their status trees, feed them experience items you find in battle, chain them to another character for a particular bonus, and sacrifice characters you're not using for stat benefits, gaining bonus amounts of special experience for sacrificing the same character as the one you're powering up. Of course, everyone on your team you used to clear a level gains some experience as well, raising their level overtime. This makes the grind more addictive, and these are all common elements in most gacha games I've played. The same goes for how you get more characters.

As you complete missions, you earn little orbs that can be traded for a chance at a new character in the shop. One chance is twenty-five orbs, and that takes awhile to get. See, missions give our a total of five orbs, and that's only if you meet the main three extra challenges (everyone alive, time trial, and I believe a combo bonus or maybe avoiding damage). Meaning, you have to perfect five missions for a shot at a new character. You also need to save up for those blue talismans at the left top corner, as you need one to activate a mission. Otherwise, you're not playing. You get them via those same orbs. Other currency includes coins that can be used for minor status boosts for missions and for unlocking status tree branches. You can also earn friend points that can net you experience items (earned via accepting help from characters used by other players and gaining new friends). This currency lunacy is normally where these sorts of games fall apart, but I found Brave Souls more fair than most.

You can get talisman bundles with good values if you spend a lot of orbs, and the game throws a lot of free stuff at you. Logging in everyday nets you a free batch of a single item, and there are achievements you can earn from basic play that net you gifts, including daily challenges that constantly refresh. Actually getting new characters takes much longer than it does in most other gacha games, especially because low star characters are irregularly distributed via drops in missions, but making a squad you're satisfied with doesn't take too long. I also like that it encourages outside the box thinking, like using a squad of low-star fighters and learning their strengths and weaknesses. Star ranking only really comes into play in late game, due to level caps based on stars.

Honestly, I'm just having a lot of fun with my unbalanced squad of a two-star Rukia and three-star Orihime and Soifon. The game really scratches the right itch, helped by how ridiculously Bleach it is. Everything, from menus to the rocking music, screams Bleach. This is easily one of the better gacha games I've found, and it's thankfully simple to understand. It's amazing that a game written in an entirely different language is easier to understand to me than most English titles I've found in the genre. If you like Bleach or just want a fun time-waster, look this up, you can google it and install it on android phones (and I believe iPhones as well).


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