Developed by Spike Chunsoft and Published by Bandai Namco, One Piece: Burning Blood is the latest game from the popular One Piece anime series which follows the tale of Monkey D. Luffy, a young aspiring pirate with the ability to turn his body into rubber after eating a Devil Fruit and dreams of finding the legendary treasure known as “One Piece” in order to become the next Pirate King. With a cel-shaded art style that fits in perfectly with the style of the show, and attacks that are richly detailed and flashy, Burning Blood does a great job of making each punch or kick you throw feel powerful and deadly. Is this an adventure worth setting sail on the Thousand Sunny, or one that should be left in the shores of East Blue?
One Piece: Burning Blood: Xbox One [Reviewed], PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: 03 June 2016
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
When you begin the game the only option that is available on the menu screen is the Paramount War, which is the main story mode for the game and covers the final moments of the Marineford Arc in the manga and anime. The first missions in this mode serve to act as a tutorial for players, walking through the controls and each of the combat mechanics. Following the tutorial, the rest of the story chapters dive into several missions which chronicle the events of the Marineford arc from Luffy’s perspective as he attempts to rescue his adoptive brother Ace who is scheduled for execution by the Navy Marines. Each mission is presented with a brief introduction which sets up the explanation for the ensuing fight, along with a few stills from the anime. Fans of the anime who have seen this arc will be able to dive right into this and understand everything that is going on in the game, but newcomers who are unfamiliar with it may feel a bit lost as to who is who and what their relationship with the other characters are, as the game assumes that everyone playing Burning Blood are already fans of the show so it does little to explain the necessary background details leading up to this arc.
Completing Luffy’s story arc unlocks a new chapter in the story called “Episode: Whitebeard” which follows the same story arc by from Whitebeard’s perspective. The final two arcs are Akainu and Ace, which are also the same storyline and events from the previous episodes, from the perspective of these characters. Since each of these episodes is taken from the same story arc, there are several fights which are exactly the same as the previous episode, with the only difference that you play as the other guy. Coupled with the same re-hashed cutscenes in several of the chapters, it doesn’t take long before the story mode starts to feel a bit tedious and repetitive. There are several bonus chapters that can be unlocked by fulfilling bonus objectives in certain chapters however, but none of these really add to the story or offer anything especially unique. As such, completing any chapters after the initial one with Luffy’s feels quite redundant because it’s essentially the same story arc which all lead to the same conclusion.
The controls for Burning Blood are fairly simple and straightforward for anyone who have played a beat-em-up or fighting game. There are short and long range attacks, a jump button, guard and special attacks which can be activated by pressing the special button with another button. Anyone who has played a game from Namco Bandai’s Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm will be quite familiar with the playstyle of Burning Blood, as the camera is the same over the shoulder perspective and the movement/combo system are similar, but there are notable differences. For instance, characters who are Logia fruit users are able to change the structure of their bodies into the element their fruit is based off of, giving them the ability to avoid taking damage if they get hit. They can only use it for a limited time however, which helps balance out the game and prevents them from being completely invulnerable to attacks.
Burning Blood also adds “Unity Chains” and “Unity Assists”, which are moves that involve allies. Unity Chains are moves that swap out your current character with your partner mid combo in order to do more damage to your opponent, while Unity Assists can be used to help save your character if he or she is caught in a combo themselves. Both moves require a certain number of bars from your Burning Gauge bars (which is bar that builds up as your dishing out or taking damage). These mechanics add a bit more depth to the fighting mechanics, as they can be used to help secure a K.O. when an opponent’s vitality is low, or save your current character if they are about to get knocked out.
There are a sizeable 44 fighters in the game which span across various arcs in the anime. Each character brings their own unique set of skills and abilities to the roster, giving it some much-needed depth. Certain characters such as Kizaru and Moria excel at long range attacks thanks to their devil fruit abilities, while other characters such as Whitebeard and Zoro are much better at close range combat. There are also support characters that aren’t controllable, but offer unique perks and upgrades during the fight such as increased health, damage, or a full burning gauge. Some of these characters are unlocked through the story and WANTED posters, while the majority can be bought at the shop in the Pirate Base through Beli that are earned simply by playing the various game modes.
WANTED Versus mode offers the most gameplay matches alongside the story. These battles involve fighting against one or a group of enemies that are all based around different themes such as their crew, relationships with other characters, common interests, etc. It’s a nice nod to anyone who is a fan of the show and knows the characters quite well, but newcomers will not understand certain relationships like why Mihawk and Zoro are grouped together, or what the Grand Line has to do with a bunch of young rogue pirates, as the game does little to elaborate on who they are and their relationships to each other. There is also a mode called “Pirate Flag Battle” which allows you to choose a faction and travel across a map fighting against other human players or AI characters from other factions in order to help rank up your faction. It’s a novel idea that allows players to feel like they are part of a crew trying to help their faction reach the top. Finally, the online caps the list of modes for the game, and includes both ranked and player matches. Ranked matches allow you to fight against other human players of the same rank, while player matches offer a chance to play with friends through private lobbies or public rooms.
Overall, One Piece: Burning Blood is an enjoyable game for anyone who is a fan of the One Piece anime. The fighting mechanics are simple enough that even those unfamiliar with fighting games will be able to do well with some button mashing, while also allowing for more complex strategies for competitive players in the team composition and unity mechanics. The character selection is varied and diverse to satisfy most One Piece fans allowing them to pick virtually any of their favorite character. However, the story mode is rather disappointing as it does little to set up the story for newcomers of the series to understand what exactly is happening during the Marineford arc (arguably the best arc in the series so far).
The four episodes may as well have been cut down to one because it’s exactly the same story from a different perspective repeated several times again, making it more tedious than fun. For an anime that has over 700 episodes, the game tells very little of the vast story in the series, which is rather disappointing. There is no option for English voice-overs as well, so those who aren’t interested in reading through the subtitles in order to understand the story are out of luck. The other modes in Burning Blood help to alleviate the content shortage in the story mode, but the player’s enjoyment of those modes will depend largely on how much they enjoy the show and the combat in the game. The online modes offer a nice chance to test your abilities and show off your skills against your friends in local multiplayer or online against players all over the world. While not as polished the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, One Piece: Burning Blood does enough to satiate even the most passionate One Piece fan looking for a game to play as their favorite pirate against friends.