Bleach: The 3rd Phantom

While we won’t for a second attempt to convince you that we possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the popular Japanese anime on which the first two DS Bleach titles – Blade of Fate and Dark Souls – are based, we can say without any reservation whatsoever that we enjoyed them immensely. As far as 2D brawlers are concerned, you’ll struggle to find two better examples of the genre on Nintendo’s handheld.

Bearing this in mind, you can probably imagine our disappointment when we discovered that this third portable outing would ditch the intense fighting of its predecessors and instead opt for the more methodical turn-based strategy approach, akin to that seen in games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea.

Get ready, fight!

The premise of Bleach: The 3rd Phantom is simple. Two opposing forces take to a grid-like battlefield and attempt to give each other a bloody nose. The isometric viewpoint showcases some appealingly cute character designs and when a combat situation is triggered the familiar graphics of the first two titles make a reappearance – although sadly you have no direct control over the actions of the belligerents.

To be brutally honest there isn’t much here that can be described as innovative. The battle system’s biggest selling point is the ability to buddy-up your characters by placing them on nearby squares when initiating an attack – which in truth is something we’ve already witnessed in fellow DS title Valkyrie Profile: Convent of the Plume.

The game’s storyline has apparently been written especially for this particular outing – and by the creator of the Bleach series, no less – but if you have anything less than a passing interest in the exploits of Ichigo and company then it’s likely to sail clean over your head.

Some pain, no gain

Granted, this was true of the previous DS Bleach titles to a certain extent, but at least they possessed enjoyable amounts of 2D fighting action to make up for it. While The 3rd Phantom’s gameplay is certainly agreeable, the plot isn’t anywhere near as compelling as it possibly could be – which is made all the more painful thanks to the massive chunks of dialogue you have to sit through before you actually get to marshal your forces around the field of conflict.

Bleach: The 3rd Phantom certainly isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination and fans of the series are sure to lap it up but when you consider just how oversubscribed the DS currently is with turn-based strategy RPGs, it’s hard to recommend this title whole-heartedly.

Bleach: The 3rd Phantom

The 3rd Phantom is a workman-like tactical RPG which will come as manna from heaven for hardcore Bleach fans but fails to distinguish itself from the many other titles of this type already available