Bleach: Dark Souls

Last year, Sega released Bleach: The Blade of Fate for the Nintendo DS, a great fighting game that brought everything an anime fan could ever want to the table. Cast of absorbing characters? Check. Great gameplay, managed by the same development studio behind such games as Guardian Heroes and the Yu Yu Hakusho import games? Yep. Multiplayer options? Plenty. The game worked out so well that Sega green-lit the sequel, Dark Souls, which hits October 7. Like the first, it has numerous options and excellent brawling.

Things now unfold in the game's new single-player mode, with events that take place between the first and second seasons of the anime series, which currently airs on Cartoon Network. This means you'll have plenty of characters picking fights with you, while uncovering specific plot points that help swordsman Ichigo on his journey to save his comrade, Rukia.

Of course, that's not to say multiplayer will die. Up to four players will be able to fight at once through Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection. There are also great local play options, the same as Blade of Fate. If you have only one cartridge, you can have a buddy sign in and engage in versus combat through download play.

Several 2-D fighting arenas are available to choose from, most based on locations featured in the anime series. In addition, there are 44 characters, each with their own individual talents and Spirit Card Decks. The Decks play a tremendous part in this game, as you can customize them to your advantage in specific skill sets, using both old and 30 new cards. Mix and match to see how they vary with your character's fighting style. You may even find yourself playing for hours trying to dial them in just right.

Dark Souls' presentation should be just as sweet as the first game's. The traditional 2-D animation is back, the music sounds great and Sega hired Bleach's anime cast to do voice work. Furthermore, there are plenty of modes to choose from. Along with single-player and multiplayer combat, you also have Arcade, Training and Challenge modes available, just in case you need to test your fighting skills. Two other "secret" modes are available to unlock as well, but you'll have to play the game to see what they are.

Thus far, Dark Souls seems like an excellent follow up to Blade of Fate. With more characters, cards and great online play, it should be one of the DS' premier holiday games. Be sure to preorder your copy and check out our upcoming review.