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Bleach DS: Souten ni Kakeru Unmei was released in January 2006. Its gameplay takes pages from the Guilty Gear and Fatal Fury series, among others. The game features several online play modes, although user experiences outside of Japan vary in quality.
Movement along two 2D planes is possible in this game. To dash in either direction (forward or backward), simply doubletap that direction. Dashing is faster and more efficient, furthermore it's possible to cancel this dash into any normal move or special move. You will keep some of the momentum from the dash if you do this maneuver. Various characters have different running speeds. Jumping is done by pressing any of the upwards directions. (Up, Up-forward, and Up-backward) While in the air, one may perform an Aerial Dash by double-tapping in the forward or backward direction. This may be performed twice; in addition, the player may use a double jump while in the air. (simply one of the upwards directions while already in the air) All of these aerial moves can be used in any order. Like Dashing, Aerial Dashes have varying speeds and Jumps have varying heights depending on the character. It's also possible to crouch in the game, done by pressing any of the down directions (Down, Down-forward, Down-backward).
There are 2 basic types of special movement in the game--line/plane shift, and shunpo/flash steps. Line/plane switch is activated by pressing the L button, and it will drain one of the stocks of the Reiryoku Gauge. Switching Lines is like switching battlefields, were most of your opponents moves won't hit you. Shunpo/Flash Steps are activated by pressing the B button. For most of the characters in the game, this will act as a small teleport that you can direct in 5 face directions (Forward, Up-forward, Up, Up-backward, Backward) on the ground, and all 8 while in the air. Shunpo or other forms of Flash Steps are very defensive in nature (although very important in offensive strategies--see Basic Strategy) either granting the user full body invincibility (Shunpo teleport), Super Armor (Ganju, Kon and Tatsuki [?]) or Autoguard (Orihime). Bonnie cannot use the B button for any type of special movement. One can cancel into any form of Shunpo from normal attacks. For the teleport shunpo that most characters have, it will leave them vulnerable to attack at the end when they rematerialize (there are a few frames where you can't guard). To counter this and to open up a myriad of attacking possibilities, one can also cancel mid teleport into any Special Move, Super, or another Shunpo.
There are 3 types of attacks- Light, Medium and Hard. As the name says, each of them have varying strengths and speeds to go with them, carrying the general pattern of Light attacks being weaker and the fastest, while Hard attacks are stronger but slower (with a few exceptions). It's interesting to note that all normal moves are cancelable into Special Moves, Supers or Shunpo. The corresponding strengths are mapped to the X, Y and A buttons, respectively. These moves will be abbreviated as L, M, and H for future reference. Characters will have different Normal Attacks in the air, and while crouching. Throws are performed when you're close to your opponent with f/b+M or f/b+H. Throws are unblockable, but can be "broken/teched," although the timing is extremely strict.
Guarding is done by pressing the R button or by pressing the opposite direction of your opponent's attack (the traditional way), although the latter method will only work in 1v1 play. There are 3 forms of blocks: standing, crouching and aerial. Standing with guard against aerial and standing attacks, crouching will work against standing and crouching, while aerial with work against any height of attack. There is chip damage in the game, although it is minor because of the sheer size of the lifebars in the game. There is no "Guard Meter" or "Guard Crush," only unblockable moves and/or throws to nullify your opponent's guard.
Special Moves are signature moves unique to that particular character. They are activated by inputing a Street Fighter-esque motion input, or by pressing the touch screen shortcut button. Special Moves vary depending on the strength used, and the majority of the special moves in the game follow the pattern of: Light Special Moves are faster, but with greater recovery time. Medium Special Moves are slower, but have fast recovery time and often give frame advantage on hit/block. Strong Special Moves are special in that they cost a "prerequisite stock" from the Reiryoku Gauge, but have the best qualities of both strengths--fast startup time and recovery time, and often with extra hits/damage. These Special Moves are called Reinforce or RF Special Moves, much like SFIII: Third Strike's EX Moves.
Supers are usually powered-up versions of certain special moves, and are commonly the most powerful techniques in your character's arsenal. All Supers cost 1 or 3 stocks from the Reiatsu Gauge (aka Super Meter), but are worth it. Besides having great priority, damage, and speed, Supers nullify your opponent's ability to Damage Cancel out of the combo.
This meter is the game's token "Super Meter," located directly next to your lifebar. It builds only when you hit your opponent (not when blocking) and when you get hit. Furthermore, the player who gets the "First Attack" in the match will be rewarded with 1 stock, making match openers very important. This gauge is used for Super Moves and Damage Cancels.
This meter is in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen, with 3 distinct stocks and 2 "color indicators" on either side of the gauge. This meter will build in time on its own. The rate goes fastest when you aren't doing anything, but will refill at a relatively slow rate if you're engaged in an action. The RF Move part of the gauge always fills at a slow rate, regardless of your actions. (It seems that it fills faster if you are being hit too) The gauge has 2 sections, one used for Special Movements and Guard Cancels, and the other used exclusively for Reinforce Moves. Both have 3 stocks, the stocks used for RF moves act as "prerequisites" for the Special Movement part. It's like the RF move part is the meter's border, and when that is taken away, the inside can't be there. Thus, if one uses 3 flash steps and 3 RF Moves, the gauge will be depleted. However, because of the "prerequisite" properties of the RF part, if 3 RF Moves are used, the gauge will be fully depleted. It's hard to explain, so I'll find a diagram somewhere. The Reiryoku Gauge is also depleted when you use a Flash Step or a RF Move as a Guard Cancel, where it takes the same amount away if you used it normally.
Guard Canceling is extremely easy in this game, and requires no meter by default. To Guard Cancel, simply input a Special Move, Super Move or Shunpo during blockstun. There is no gained priority or special bonus of Guard Canceling, so often-times it is just best to continue to Guard or Shunpo away from your opponent.
Damage Cancels are the C-C-C-COMBO BREAKERS of the game. They cost 1 stock from the Reiatsu Gauge and are activated by inputting B+L/M/H during hitstun. There are no differences between the strength used. When performed, a small energy burst (Guilty Gear, anyone?) will surround your character, knocking down any enemies near you. The burst will damage your opponent slightly, and it can KO them.
Certain characters' special moves give them unusual abilities instead of directly attacking the enemy. Colored sparkles rising from the character indicate the ability given.
Blue: Restrictions on normal move chains are lifted. It is possible, for example, to chain c.H into itself, or c.H into s.H.
Gold: The character gains super armor; attacks are not interrupted if the character is hit.
The combo system in Bleach DS is one of its strong suits. It allows for a wide range of links, cancels, juggles and air combos to cater to pretty much any crowd.
Bleach DS uses a Chain Combo system, where one can create a combo in the Light to Hard direction. Thus, every character (except Bonnie, who lacks normal moves) can do a simple L, M, H combo. Furthermore, standing attacks can be canceled into crouching attacks of the same or greater strength. For example, Komamura can do L, M, H, cr.H or L, M, cr.H. One cannot, however, go from a crouching attack to a standing attack of the same strength. For example, Chad cannot do L, M, cr.H, H.
Launchers and Air Combos
The majority of the characters in Bleach have Normal Moves that hit the opponent up into the air to be juggled and have the ability to be jump canceled. These are called Launchers. After one connects, jump canceling the move is done by pressing a jump direction. From here, one can procede into an Air Combo, which has the same type of chain combo system as ground combos, but without crouching attacks. This is important for 2 reasons: it does extra damage because you're effectively doing two separate combo strings (albeit with damage scaling), and the large amount of hits produced by these combos means lots of Reiatsu Gauge for you.
Instant Air Dashing
Instant air dashing (IAD) is a technique where one air dashes as close to the ground as possible. This is normally done to perform a quick overhead attack that links into a ground chain. To perform an IAD, input up-forward immediately followed by forward. The game recognizes the up-forward as both a jump and the first input in the dash.
A typical IAD combo starter in Bleach is M, H. Almost all characters can link this IAD combo starter into their ground chain. The M usually covers space and is fast, and the H leaves the opponent in enough hit stun to link a L attack upon landing.
There are a few juggle states where your opponent is free to hits in the air, but is in an irrecoverable state unlike a simple Launcher. The 2 particular states are thus: the wall-bounce state, and the flip state. The wall-bounce state is more common, as it happens in the majority of the throws in the game, and there are a lot of special moves that have these qualities. Basically, the opponent is blasted backwards where they eventually hit a wall. The opponent is free to a juggle at either portion of the state (blow backwards and post bounce) and this particular state enables the use of "Grounding." (More later) The flip state only happens in a few select Normal, Special, and Super moves. (Chad has the only throw that causes this state as well) The key characteristic of this state is that your opponent is in a knocked-down pose; they're being blown backwards. In this, there are 2 distinct parts, the acension and the fall. During the acension, the opponent's body will be titled upwards. This is the period where they are vulnerable to juggles. After they reach the apex, they'll start to fall angled downwards, and the juggle state ends. It should be noted that Bonnie has no "fall" state. This means that after move that causes a knockdown, she is vulnerable to a juggle at any time. This means bad things for Bonnie, such as Bonnie-specific combos usually consisting of an infinite loop.
Reinforce Special Moves
Because RF special moves usually combine the two good aspects of Light and Medium strength special moves, they are ideally suited for large combos--they're fast enough to combo into, and have fast enough recovery to give frame advantage. Some special moves are so tailored for this, that it's quite obvious that's what their purpose is (Ichimaru's Akanna~ and Kurotsuchi's hand...thingy come to mind). Using these moves, you can extend combos a great deal, as you will be able to include new combo sets constantly.
The flash step (FS) has at least two important applications beyond simple mobility: The "flash step rave" and instant overheads.
The "Flash Step Rave"
Many combos can be extended through the use of flash steps by repeatedly canceling an attack chain into the same attack chain. For example, Ichigo has the following combo:
s.L -> s.M -> s.H -> super A
By using flash steps, it is possible to perform repeated iterations of [s.L -> s.M -> s.H] before cancelling into the super:
s.L -> s.M -> s.H (FS) s.L -> s.M -> s.H (FS) s.L -> s.M -> s.H (FS) s.L -> s.M -> s.H -> super A
Flash Steps can also be used to extend air combos.
The flash step can be used to produce "instant" overhead attacks by flash stepping upward and quickly cancelling the flash step into an attack.