In regards to current games with a basis in One Piece, on the Thousand Sunny pirate ship, there’s little room for novices. A 3D fighter, One Piece: Burning Blood revisits one of the most important plots in the series, sure to be confusing to anyone but loyal fans. But as I’m deeply entrenched in the buccaneer way of life inthe long-running anime and manga series, I was impressed by the depth of the crew on this journey, despite wishing for improved combat along with a more extensive story in the most recent brawler from Luffy.
Anyone that played the disappointing crossover J-Stars Victory Vs.+, will find the combat in Burning Blood very familiar. Burning Blood contains 3D battles that are raucous and colorful. In these one-on-one battles you switch between fighters who are in teams with as many as three assorted characters, and the fighting is filled with flashy action taken directly from the source. This approach creates a visual treat in the early battle rounds, especially when Haki users join in and manage to do some badass combos and dodges. Unfortunately, the flash is needed in Burning Blood, to convince you to figure out its fairly chaotic and whacky style of combat.
One Piece: Burning Blood fight mechanics
Despite having a deep roster that is a commendable 44 characters, in reality their variations are so few that combat feels overly easy. In the early rounds, I beat most fighters controlled by AI by mashing buttons as I passed through Burning Blood’s nine large arenas with sparse décor. There’s a higher degree of difficulty in later challenges, and there’s technique involved in eluding huge attacks from heavy hitters such as Sengoku and Hawk Eyes, but an opponent can be overwhelmed by flooding them with deeply intricate attacks for a win. Despite being disappointed by the limits of the gameplay in Burning Blood, I still enjoyed the game with some adjustments to my expectations.
The battle arenas are too large for this type of action; you end up spending almost the same amount of time chasing after your adversary as you spend initiating attacks. While some of the bigger moves do need space to work, when an opponent runs away the amount of distance can be confusing for a moment. Also, the camera is a little off-center, which requires some time to get used to. Even after I became accustomed to it, having the camera placed over-the-shoulder never felt as comfortable as more conventional camera views in games like Virtua Fighter or Tekken.
Attacks become more and more whacky the deeper you get in the roster, for example, the marvelously ridiculous Face Spectrum attack by Emporio Ivankov, filling the screen with his features. Even after you’ve seen them numerous times, these vivid displays continue to look great. Burning Blood places more priority on style than substance which you could argue, is the right choice for a game that focuses on fan service. However, this is at the detriment of mechanical depth. I was more engrossed with watching Luffy’s various Gum-Gum attacks executed correctly than watching to see if I was really hit by a screen-filling strike.
The story mode
As far as the single-player campaign goes, Burning Blood manages to both under deliver and over deliver at the same time. This solo adventure is taken right out of the most epic escapades in One Piece: The Paramount War, also known as the Marineford Arc. The cutscenes recreate scenes from the series, and have an accurate take on traditional cel-shading which manages to capture the thickly inked Manga style. During the short four hour campaign, you’ll see the tragedy and triumph of Luffy’s endeavor to save his brother, Ace, through several viewpoints. All this happens while marines and pirates have a raging war around you.
However, this means the relatively brief campaign will be hard to understand for non-fans since it explains virtually nothing about the more than 500 previous episodes of anime leading to this narrative. In Burning Blood, there is an expectation of One Piece familiarity from those who play the game. On the other hand, while fans will appreciate playing during this important part of Luffy’s life, the scope is limited and largely ignores the five years of story that have passed since, just stopping at the conclusion of the Paramount War. Approaching the campaign this way creates an unfortunate paradox: it’s too inadequate for diehard fans and too complex for newcomers.
One Piece fighters rooster
While the scope of the campaign may be limited, Burning Blood’s fighters are not. The huge roster and even larger cast of supporting characters gives the flavor of the latter years of One Piece, especially the version of Luffy that’s post-timeskip with his somewhat new Fourth Gear form. His combat changes considerably after this transformation. Another good example of how the gameplay has been influenced by the mythology is watching Sanji find creative ways to avoid fighting female opponents.
Portions of characters’ backgrounds are given every now and then as the fighting continues, sometimes with people like Zoro and Nami, who will shoot off a one-liner before fights that refers to some history. Surprising trivia is even tossed in to jazz up an assist from someone like Ivankov as he stops Sakazuki’s attack. These kinds of moments are the times when Burning Blood is at it’s best – when mythology from One Piece justifies adding cool elements into the gameplay, whether or not there’s room in the concise campaign for them. Regardless, a more extensive picture of the series on the part of the developers would be appreciated, rather touching on more recent mythology only briefly.
One Piece: Burning Blood has an understanding of the compelling elements of pirate life from the source material, and successfully channels that roguish atmosphere into its hectic fights. While it will confuse everyone else, the flash and commitment to the action will be welcomed by the biggest fans of One Piece. It’s fantastic to have something created specifically for the fans, but the limited and brief campaign will be a letdown to even those who support Luffy most. This outrageous and wild fighter is most successful providing an enjoyable distraction for fans who’ve been clamoring for more One Piece games.