While we get Naruto games almost every year, Bleach hasn't been as lucky. While even in Japan, the slew of Bleach games have slowed down, they still got a lot of games that we didn't. Case in point, the Heat the Soul series, developed by Eighting, of the Naruto Clash of the Ninja fame, guess Western countries just want nothing to do with Eighting's fighters!
Heat the Soul series was a 1 on 1 fighting game series up to the seventh installment, but this one added various mods for up to 4 fighters. You get tag battles, free for all or team battles. The game not only boasts a decent amount of types of battle, but also modes. There's a unnecessarily lengthy Story Mode made up of 25 battles, then you unlock an extra fight, and then another 25 battles which are the same battles from before but now you play as the villain. The story mode covers from Ichigo's duel with Ulquiorra to the Vizards arrival to Karakura town to help the Shinigami against the Espada, and fights are preceded by short cut-scenes reenacting dialogue from the series. Then there's Hueco Mundo Conquest, a challenge mode of sorts made up of over 100 challenges. There's a rather underwhelming Arcade Mode, in which you pick routes(VS humans, VS Shinigami, VS Vizard, VS Espada), it would've been nice to have a more randomized ladder, but it's alright. Rounding up the options there's VS CPU, VS Player, Training Mode and Gallery. All in all, there's a decent amount of stuff to do, even if not all of it is as engaging as it could've been.
My biggest issue with the game is that it feels just like every other recent fighter by Eighting, like Naruto Clash of the Ninja and Kamen Rider: Hero Climax. If you played any game of those other two, you'll feel right at home with this one. Battles take place on a 3D plane, on a 2D angle, and it plays like a 3D fighter as well. You have sidestepping and free 8 way movement, and combos are executed by linking strings rather than command specials. That's not to say that the game lacks projectiles, there's plenty of characters that specialize on ranged combat. As for the more unique mechanics, the Square button charges energy, and letting go of the button unleashes a wave around your character, if the enemy doesn't block it, he or she will get stunned for a while. The energy bar serves a few purposes: Cancelling combos by tapping the R button or unleashing special attacks. If you charge both stocks of the bar, tapping L+R will make your character go into his or her next form, if available, or grant them unlimited uses of the energy bar for a few seconds. Disappointingly, forms and energy bars revert to 0 after each round, so there's no point of hogging the energy, and since you can't pick individual forms of a character in 1 vs 1 mods, it makes transforming a but disappointing.
The game has a huge 83 character roster(Counting transformations), and all play different from each other, characters with alternate forms usually play very different on each form as well, except a couple of Vizards who only get stat boosts. Sadly, characters don't have very extensive movesets, but at least they are fairly unique from each other. One thing to keep in mind, if you have the UMD version, loading times can be a bit on the long side, so installing the game is definitely recommended.
Visually, the game is very colorful, even if the backgrounds feel a bit simple at times, at least they are from the show. Models are not very detailed, but they look good enough, however, certain animations feel a bit off. It's easy to see that not every character had the same amount of care put into, some have some very awkward looking attacks, while others get some smooth and good looking animations, it's a bit jarring at times. Ulquiorra's basic Strong attack string, and a most moves from Grimmjow are good examples of this. The soundtrack is alrightish, but it would've been nice to get music from the show. Every voice actor from the show voices their characters on the game, as per usual on Japanese licensed games.
Bleach: Heat the Soul 7 is a very decent fighter, and if you are a fan of Bleach, there's no reason not to get it. It's a bit disappointing how every Eighting fighter feels so similar to each other, but at least they use a solid engine. If you don't care about Bleach, there are a dozen better fighters on the PSP, so unless you are a fan, there's no reason to get it.
7.5 out of 10.