A look back at BLEACH: Heat of Soul series.
Updated: Jun 18
In celebration of the upcoming BLEACH panel for the ReedPOP METAVERSE we wanted to look back at a game series many anime otakus may not have known existed.
Because this game series was only released in JAPAN and other regions. In fact, out of the Twenty-two games developed for the anime series only five BLEACH games made it to the U.S. in the name of BLEACH Soul Resurreccion for the PS3 back in 2008, three Nintendo DS titles from 2006 -2008 called The Blade of Fate (Fighting), BLEACH: The Dark Souls (Fighting), and Bleach: The 3rd Phantom (RTS) along with a game for the Wii entitled Shattered Blade.
However, there is one series of games released in Japan that many importers would believe could have sold very successfully. BLEACH: Heat of Soul series was an exclusive games series for the PSP developed by a company known as 8ing.
The series BLEACH fans with the quality and presentation not seen in most of
its list of games over the years. This was a fighting game series that provided much fan far with some epic cinematic presentations to make you feel like you were immersed in some of your favorite moments of BLEACH with each one being better than the one before it in terms of character models, stage design, and gameplay mechanics. HEAT of SOUL was one of the PSP's most successful games in JAPAN which led to 8ing developing a total seven games for the series. We will take you through each game and let you see what many BLEACH fans missed.
FROM WIKIPEDIA: (ＢＬＥＡＣＨ：ヒート・ザ・ソウル) is the first installment in the Heat the Soul fighting game series, released on March 24, 2005. The theme song for the game is *: Asterisk by Orange Range, which also happens to be the original opening theme for the anime. The game has a total of six characters, all of which derived from the Agent of the Shinigami arc.
DAXAVIER JOSIAH: The one thing that drew me to this game was the presentation which made you feel like you were a part of the anime's experience. For this to be a PSP game it really showed why the portable system was the most underrated and underutilized console in the history of video games. While the playable characters only consisted of the six core characters it gave you enough to really get into and the replay value was above average. With great cinematic scenes with voiceovers from the Japanese cast gamers new that this could be the start of something great. Lucky for them this series would continue to evolve seven times over.
Only released just a few months shy from the first game it provided even more of what gamers enjoyed in the first including double the roster of playable characters giving us a quantity of twelve. This game was the true sequel to HOS1 as they went right into the second arc in the BLEACH series and once again, they delivered an experience that would immerse you into the world of the Soul Society. Even more, 8ing decided to change things around in terms of their story mode. This time the structure and algorithm of the mode focuses on specific characters allowing you to play them in the order of the story arcs. If you play as Ichigo or the other characters looking to free Rukia you have one story with each having their distinct scenes. Whereas, if you played as one of the Soul Reapers you are playing to stop Ichigo and the gang from rescuing her. Overall, this added more heat to the game and had PSP gamers incredibly pleased with their anime investment. How is the series going to top this?!
HEAT of SOUL 3 was a major step up in every way. The cel-shaded character models were more defined. Frame rate and play mechanics also evolved and now felt smoother and fluid. To make this game even more epic they rewarded gamers of the first two games with a whopping thirty-four playable characters and a robust story mode along with other fun modes. This was also the game that introduced the Arancar arc and was also the first BLEACH import I ever bought (I went backwards on the collecting of this series). New additions to the H.O.S. series was two fun modes called SOUL ROAD and KARAKURA HEROES modes. FROM FANDOM.COM: "In Soul Road, the player is to select the desired character and partner character. Afterwards, the player is set on a board game-like map where the goal is to pass through markers in order to fight enemies. After each match, the player is given an amount of "Trust points" (how many received depends on the mode's difficulty) which go towards leveling up partner characters and unlocking bonuses, such as alternate costumes and new partners. To unlock these bonuses, the player must find a blue marker to turn in their points. However, before doing so, the player must answer a multiple-choice question. In Karakura Heroes, the player is put into a humorous side-story, with some extra anime scenes added. Don Kanonji leads a group of Shinigami, initially Byakuya Kuchiki and Tōshirō Hitsugaya, on some sort of wacky adventure which involves battling several other characters. At the mode's completion, a scene shows the gang relaxing at an expensive hotel, doing activities that in some way fit their personalities and/or abilities (for example, Hitsugaya snowboarding)." Those two modes along had me spending hours on end with those games. Granted, I knew little to no Japanese (even though I was tutors for a short bit but not long enough to be fluid) I was still able to play through the game which did provide some English text when navigating through their UI main menus and options. The one thing that is great about fighting games is that no matter what region you are in the gameplay and control schemes are universal. Meaning it will be the easiest way to enjoy an import game without even having to know what is going on with the main plot. Mostly because a lot of plots in fighting games are not that deep or even good. In the case of BLEACH, fans all over the world know the stories based on the version that they have watched whether it be the subtitled versions or even the designated dubbed version of their region. So even if they don't understand Japanese or the Kanji and Hiragana fonts displayed during cutscenes BLEACH fans will have a great idea as to what is going on during a cutscene. Overall, BLEACH H.O.S. is necessary for fans of the series. As someone who had the pleasure of playing it, I would even say start with this one and then collect the others. This has the best of the first two and give you more.
A star studded fifty-one playable characters from the Arrancar and Hueco Mundo arcs which led to a game changer for the series. At this point, the Heat of Soul series provided the depth and attention to detail that almost matched other anime-based games like Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm. So much so that if you haven't watched the certain arcs in the TV series this game is a sure-fire way to help bring you up to speed. HEAT of SOUL 4 brought the heat in many ways including adding character assist which helps you in different ways throughout battles. The only challenge to this was of course the language barrier. As I mentioned before the previous series may have spoken in Japanese during cutscenes, but you didn't have to worry because of the universe language of the control scheme. That changes with HOS4 as within certain battles there are stipulations that you must do in over to advance. There was also a quiz feature in the game that you would gain experience points to unlocked bonuses such as voice tests and alternate costumes for playable characters. This is the part when a non-Japanese speaking gamer would have to find translations online on GameFAQs and other sources to find out what you need to do in that battle. While the process may seem tedious in its execution it was still very fun to figure it out and proceed as the game provide so much fanfare that the idea of having to do all of that didn't hurt the game experience. Part of the fun of import games was the idea that we were opening Pandora's Box and learning great secrets in a particular import game that we were never supposed to play.
By this point I was a complete fan of the HOS series such to the point that I began pre-ordering the series (which was not cheap due to it being a Japan exclusive import). The success of the previous installments allowed game developers 8ing to provide more incentives to their fans.
One of which was giving away special BLEACH themed hand towels for fans as a part of a bundle pack. A towel that I still have to this day and refuse to use it to preserve it. Anime items have become more of a mainstream product these days but back then having items like this were considered a rarity and in the case of this game it is still a collector's item.
The difference between the last game and this game is TAG BATTLE. This time around HOS 5 removed the partner system and in its place, players now can play as two characters to engage into a new form of gameplay in the HOS series. TAG BATTLE gameplay also means that you will be given the ability to perform TAG FINISHERS as well.
You also now have the ability to release your Zanpakuto in battle by pressing one of the shoulder buttons when you acquired two full "Reiatsu" bars. Heat of Soul 5 starts with only thirty-two characters which may seem like a decline from HOS4. However, 8ing had a very clever plan to unlock sixteen other characters from the last game provided you have saved data from HOS4. That would make the total of playable characters from thirty-two to forty-eight overall. NOTE: The unlocked characters from HOS4 did not have the ability to transform nor be included in the TAG BATTLE set up. Also returning to the game is the match stipulations which again if you lack any skills in translating Kanji and Hiragana you may need to resort to GameFAQ sheets to find the translation of those stipulations.
I will definitely take the time to say THANK YOU to anyone who diligently took the time to translate these games for gamers like myself who loved playing imported treasures like the BLEACH series but didn't know completely what I was doing. These FAQs were a tremendous help in my play through of many games that I played from Japan. Trust me when I tell you typing the volume of information for any game is nothing short of phenomenal in terms of diligence and effort to do which is something that has become a lost art. BLEACH HOS 5 was another success that continues to prove its worth in both the anime industry and the fighting game community.
For HEAT of SOUL 6 not much has change when it comes to gameplay and features. It was just tweaked up a bit for better performance. However, the story mode was fleshed out more where it split between narrated scenes using images of characters to actual cutscenes covering some of the events of previous sagas. The latest mode in the game is Championship mode which allows you to play in a tournament-based format much like their "Soul Carnival" game series (which is another Japan exclusive series I enjoyed).
Added for the first time in any HEAT of SOUL games is customizable mode which allows you to configure skills and items to help strengthen your characters.
The roster for this game was the biggest to date which came to an astounding seventy-four playable characters in total. The question is how the next and final installment of the series will do in comparison to the previous six games?
The FINAL installment of the HEAT of SOUL series was met with titanic proportions. Adding the biggest roster ever of eighty-four playable characters there aren't that many fighting games out today that can match that amount. On top of that, HOS7 added the ability to fight giant characters scaling both the character models and the stages to fit into the PSP screen. New camera angles were added to match the optimization of those giant battles. Not only will you fight against those characters, but you can also play as those characters.
There were also new characters added from the series making this the definitive game in all the HOS series. FROM WIKIPEDIA: New characters that have been announced are Allon (Ayon), Coyote Starrk (Los Lobos), Baraggan Luisenbarn (Arrogante), Tier Harribel (Tiburon), Yammy Liargo (Ira), Ulquiorra Cifer (Segunda Etapa), Ichigo Kurosaki (Full Hollow), Muramasa, Hachigen Ushoda, Love Aikawa and Shuren (downloadable content); in all, 84 characters are playable.
OVERALL: The BLEACH: HEAT of SOUL series proved two things and told two stories.
First, the series proved that it was a remarkably successful game series that was met with great fanfare and continued to evolve with every installment. It also proved the power of the PSP which was a very stellar portable console that did not get the respect that it deserved. The respect was not dismissed by fans in both Japan and the U.S. but that of Sony Entertainment and PlayStation themselves who failed to bring this game to the states as well as further promote the PSP product. This lack of attention would later go to their next gen portable console the PS VITA which provided gamers with a much better gaming performance than its predecessor.
The FGC (Fighting Game Community) and BLEACH fans deserved to have the opportunity to play and support this game when it was released. It is sad that many never had the chance to play any of these games as it could have furthered the fandom for the anime series and quite possibly would have become something much more. If you can find a way, go out of your way to play these games especially if you love the series. HEAT of SOUL is an absolute lost treasure.