I’m pretty bad at keeping up with TV seasons, and once I’ve fallen behind, it often takes me a while to garner up the courage to sit through three or four 20-episode seasons to catch up. That’s true for western television series, anyway. With One Piece, the current episode count is close to seven hundred and fifty episodes of about twenty minutes each, meaning that it would take just over ten days of solid watching to catch up. Though I do enjoy having some background knowledge of franchise when reviewing a licensed game, I wasn’t quite willing (or perhaps even physically able) to devote that much time to learning the intricacies of One Piece, and so instead, I’ve approached this title with a completely fresh mind.
One Piece: Burning Blood initially directs players into its Story Mode, which is based on the Paramount War story arc. This event, which happens over 400 episodes into the anime, sees Luffy attempting to rescue his brother, Ace, from execution, and sees large-scale battles between the pirate and marine forces. Throughout the course of the Story Mode, which is divided into four chapters (each focusing on a different character), you’ll be introduced to a ton of different characters, some of which hang around, and some of which appear, say their piece, and then disappear again just as quickly. It’s a little confusing if you’re not sure who any of these people are or what their significance is, but the overall story is fairly easy to follow, meaning that even if you don’t know half of the cast, you can still work your way through the game with a general idea of what is happening.
Though One Piece: Burning Blood is a fighting game, you’ll spend as much time, if not more, watching cutscenes and reading story exposition. Thankfully, the visuals are pretty good, and most of the time it feels like you’re watching a high-quality anime. This is helped by a fully-voiced Japanese audio track with English subtitles, and a sense of typically over-powered anime battles, with overelaborate fighting moves and characters regularly being thrown across the arena. One Piece fans will likely be pleased with the representation of their series, and even though there’s a lot of passive time within the game, it’s a testament to the animation that this isn’t much of a downside.
As a fighting game, One Piece is a fairly typical experience. A well-executed tutorial takes you through how to execute the various moves and special moves, and both button-mashers and combo experts are likely to be satisfied with the possibilities, even if they are a little basic. The one major downside, and I noticed this especially when fighting against the AI, is that more often than not a fight is over in a matter of seconds, and this can happen for both an human and an AI victory. Even more frustrating is the fact that replaying the battle can have entirely the opposite effect, in that whoever won last time can be absolutely decimated next time around. There are too many opportunities for one player to spam the other, and it’s incredibly annoying to lose a battle having had next to no chance of doing anything about it.
Progression through Story Mode is fairly linear, with completion of one battle unlocking the next stage on a map that looks somewhat like the World Map screen of SNES-era Mario games. Most battles give you the requirement of defeating your enemies, which is straightforward enough, but sometimes you’re tasked with surviving for a set period of time. Often, this can feel down to luck more than skill, thanks to the aforementioned spamming of AI characters, and these battles are usually some of the more frustrating in the game.
In some battles, you’re given secondary objectives, such as getting the first hit, or finishing the fight with 80% of your HP left. Competing these objectives unlocks bonus fights that often give you the chance you play as and, upon completion, unlock a new character for use in different modes. It’s often a refreshing change to use a character with a different fighting style and move set, and it gives players a reason, to go back with stronger characters and replay battles they’ve already finished.
Story Mode is divided into four chapters, with each focusing on a different character. Once you’ve completed the first chapter, starring Luffy, the game opens up quite a lot, with new modes available from the Main Menu. There’s the usual Free Battle and Online options, but two of the more interesting modes are Pirate Flag Battle and WANTED Versus. Pirate Flag Battle has you choosing a faction to represent and battling for territory across a fairly sizeable map, with regular season breaks resetting progress and encouraging you to try again. WANTED Versus pits you against assembled teams of fighters, often linked by a particular theme, with bonuses awarded for successful completion. Neither mode is really enough to keep you coming back for months after completing Story Mode, but it’s good to have alternatives should you wish to try something different.
One Piece: Burning Blood is an unremarkable fighting game, but remains a decent title for fans of the franchise. There isn’t really enough here to allow Burning Blood to break out of the One Piece fandom, but it’s an enjoyable title with a good amount of content and fan service. There are frustrating issues, particular when fighting against the AI, and some of the battles can feel quite unbalanced, but overall One Piece: Burning Blood is an enjoyable experience, and one that fans are sure to enjoy.