One Piece: Burning Blood Review

"One Piece" is a Japanese Manga series written and illustrated by Eiichrio Oda. Bandai Namco and Spike Chunsoft have brought a few of these games to life with the previous in the series being J-Stars Victory VS in 2015. The name "One Piece" refers to a piece of pirate treasure that may or may not actually exist at all. It's basically the white rabbit that all pirates yearn for that might just be a myth.

One Piece Burning Blood is a 1v1 fighting game which also allows players to pick a team of three characters to switch between during fights, essentially making 3v3 melee fighting game. In the usual Japanese format, the fights are larger than life, with oversized attacks performed by crazy outlandish characters with special effects that launch everything well into the sky and make a total mess of the environment around you.

There are a few different gameplay modes to choose from with them being the obvious story mode which is known as "Paramount War" and within this story mode there are four episodes which span a single story arc within the One Piece world. Each episode will tell the same story from another main character's perspective.

I would say that it's fairly important to mention that I am playing Burning Blood as the first introduction to the One Piece world which unveils a pretty important issue that I want to bring up early. So to put it plainly, I know nothing of the world, characters or stories of past. Now in playing Burning Blood's story mode is where I would usually start with a new game to get a basic idea on how the game works and what it's all about. Burning Blood's story mode takes place in Marinefort where you start playing the game as Luffy (Luffy is a member of the Straw Hat Pirates) in Episode 1. I've heard on the grape vine that this is one of the most iconic story arcs in the history of One Piece but this is where it lost me entirely. The story basically throws you into the game and story without any background for players that are just picking up the series for the first time. So many questions flowed through my head such as "Who is Luffy and what is this battle all about?" Now that's just a couple of the hundreds of questions that aren't really answered.

So you begin the game at the front of a battle trying to save your brother Ace's life. I don't know why or how he was captured and I definitely don't know who by. I figured I would just keep playing and maybe the mysteries would be revealed. The story that unfolds is interesting and well told in its own little bubble, without venturing outside that bubble with substance or lore beyond the main story. Essentially this is all there is here. You battle some enemies to further your quest to save Ace and in between each fight you are treated to some nicely animated cut scenes that could very well be made into their own little movie. It's a short story mode which will take people with general fighting game experience around 3-4 hours to complete. It really does feel as though the story mode was placed within the game just so it had a story. After playing through it all, it felt like I had watched an episode from the middle of a TV show series without starting from the beginning. This probably doesn't matter too much though because I don't think many people really worry too much about story modes in fighting games.

One Piece has a game play style that is different from the normal 2D fighters out there like Mortal Kombat or even the closer related game Nitroplus Blasterz. One Piece is played in a 3D arena where you are free to move around for the entirety of the fight. You will come across invisible walls if you venture too far to one side though which can make it hard to dodge incoming attacks if your spacial awareness isn't very good. On top of that, at times the out of line camera angles and mid-arena obstacles can often block your view of the opponent entirely. It's worth noting though that even though you're able to move around a 3D environment, you are still locked onto a 2D plane with your enemy. This felt natural and made the game manageable from the get go. So regardless of the direction you move in, when you move towards your enemy you will be in line to attack. Unless your enemy dodges to the left or right, you won't miss your attacks.

The controls are easy enough to get the hang of for the basics but can get pretty tricky when you're trying to pull off bigger, harder hitting moves. Unlike other fighting games that I usually do well in, this game isn't too friendly with the old button mashing method. You need to put a little more thought into your play style if you want to have any chance of beating the harder enemies or even more so, an online multiplayer match. Don't get me wrong here, button mashing still has its place here but it won't make the ultimate warrior that other games can.

With the addition of support characters, you can switch out your character on the fly to suit your battle needs. This gives way for moves such as "Unity Chain" where you can swap characters mid combo to increase the damage dealt and punch out bigger and better moves. The support characters can also assist you in times of need by using "Unity Assist". If you're having your ass torn off, you can bring in another character to help break the opponent's combo and turn things against them. Using these features will cost you some of your special metre which has four segments. These segments build up easy enough but it does stop you from spamming your assists over and over.

Overall the gameplay is what makes a good game and the experience here is fantastic. Pulling off big moves and using assists treats you to amazing animations that really do convey the intended impact of the hits. When you're playing well, you feel like you could move worlds regardless of the relative size of your onscreen character.

A select few of the story missions yields specific conditions that if you're able to meet, can unlock secret episodes to the game. These special optional conditions include some of the following:
  • Win with successful first attack
  • Win with over 80% HP total left!
  • Use an Ultimate Attack
This is a neat addition to the game that can make a decent reason to revisit the game to try and unlock all of the content by ticking all of the boxes for all of the optional fight conditions. The only thing is that the story mode contains serious difficulty spikes that might not make you want to come back for more (seriously, how does he have that much HP). Fortunately there are other ways to unlock the characters and content.

Further to the game modes is "Wanted Versus" which gives you a list of wanted posters depicting enemies that you can fight to earn Pirate Points and in game currency which can be used to unlock playable characters and unlock battles beyond the story.

You can set up "Free Battle" mode to set up the rules as you see fit for a couch co-op session or to hone your skills in the training section.

"Pirate Flag Battle" is where you'll join a force of your choice to fight in an online season which runs for a week. In this mode you will be given a map of the seas with famous locations (from the series) that you can take over by travelling to islands and fighting other human controlled enemies. Winning battles here will award you "Victory Points". The force with the most Victory Points will capture the location. There are a lot of locations available to try and take over and at the end of the season, the player with the most secured locations is the winner. This is an interesting game play mode which is not usually seen in fighting games. The difficulty is high, so casual players might find this to be a bit of a challenge and you might want to do some training and work on your skill level before checking out this part of the game. You can leave your Force before the end of a season, but this will make you unable to join another before the end of the current season. Seasons will generally run for one week in length.

"Online" mode is pretty obvious what you're getting here. It's where you go to play either ranked or player matches against people via network play. Unfortunately, like my experiences with games that are predominantly of a niche market, the online world is pretty baron. Now although the game was not available in my local region at the time of review, it had already been released in Japan so I would have expected some form of player base to be present. I couldn't find any online matches to test out how this part of the game works. Please keep in mind that this is before the game's official release.

One Piece: Burning Blood is most likely to impress the fans of the series with impressive graphics that manage to look very much like a 2D Manga comic book, while still retaining a nice 3D look. The story, although short and thin won't have too many people talking about it, but is a nice touch to a game that will predominantly be played online by the hardcore niche market. I am not sure I would recommend this to Mortal Kombat fans or typical 2D fighter game players, but it's definitely in the vein of games like Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. One Piece has definitely been built on a solid foundation and plays very nicely on the current generation of hardware.

If you're looking into getting this game, let us know what your thoughts are and if you're already playing the game, shoot us a comment below on what you like most about it. Thanks to everyone for checking out this review.

  • Smooth gameplay animations
  • Large character roster
  • Unique fighting styles and attacks for each character
  • Story lacks background and substance
  • No English voice overs - English subtitles only
  • Short single player campaign feels like an afterthought
SCORE:  6.5 out of 10
  • Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Fighting Game, Action Game
  • Initial Release: 3rd of June 2016
  • Developer: Spike Chunsoft
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express.

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