It’s amusing to imagine that, in modern times, One Piece has become synonymous with the video game developer Omega Force thanks to their small but impactful series of Warriors-style games of which introduced the West to One Piece video game adaptations. Three strikingly similar games later, and a few offshoots similar enough to the original, it is now an odd sight to behold when a video game based on the Shonen Jump legend One Piece is more than just a one-vs-thousands Dynasty Warriors clone. The release of One Piece: Romance Dawn in 2013 was like a breath of fresh for Western fans of the series simply due to the fact that it was NOT part of the One Piece: Pirate Warriors series. Despite the fact that it was reviewed heavily as a sub-par Role-Playing Game, it still differentiated itself from the norm, and thus made somewhat of an impact.
It’s now 2016, and the long-awaited One Piece: Burning Blood has been released worldwide, exciting and delighting One Piece fans thanks to it’s lack of similarities to the Pirate Warriors series. Unlike those that came before it, Burning Blood is a pure-blooded fighting title that handles itself similar to that of Spike Chunsoft’s former Shonen Jump-based endeavor; J-Stars Victory Vs. Thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment who have allowed us a chance to review the game for ourselves, we see if One Piece: Burning Blood truly is the One Piece video game fans have been waiting, or if it’s just another title waiting to be forgotten.
Despite what you may assume the game covers, in regards to the One Piece story line, based on the playable characters featured in the game, One Piece: Burning Blood only re-tells the events of the Paramount War arc which saw the end of Portgas D. Ace’s life and the beginning of a brand-new string of post-timeskip arcs of which both the Anime and Manga are currently in the midst of. The game allows you to tackle the Paramount War from four different perspectives; Monkey D. Luffy, Edward Newgate (Whitebeard), Sakazuki (Akainu), and Portgas D. Ace. While Luffy and Whitebeard’s stories are quite long, Akainu and Ace’s are quite short, but the game makes up for it’s stout length by raising the difficultly level to incredible heights. So high, in fact, that many people simply are not skilled enough to move past certain matches, opting to instead ignore the story mode and moving on to the game’s many other options.
This is, as all games based upon source materials of this kind, for those of you out there who have experienced One Piece either in it’s Anime or Manga form in the past. The game’s story mode details enough of the events for a player to understand the reason why they’re fighting against certain opponents, but it doesn’t get anywhere near as close as the Manga when it comes to story intricacies and character development…but this is what we’ve come to expect of games like this, so it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, and nor should it you.
Infuriating difficulty level aside, Burning Blood is actually one of the more enjoyable One Piece games to have been released in the West. It features a gameplay style that can be compared to that of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series, albeit nowhere near as cinematic nor anywhere near as fast-paced. As mentioned; it plays much like the developer’s previous work J-Stars Victory Vs. It’s an alternative fighting game that features major additions to the genre which, in turn, make it overtly “One Piece”. The game puts a great deal of focus on using characters’ Haki or Logia powers to overcome opponents, which is sometimes a real struggle when there are characters who feature neither, and therefor are mostly ineffective against all that have one of the two. Burning Blood features your standard Light Attack, Heavy Attack, Guard system that, when used in synchronisation can unleash devastating attacks. The learning curve for this title is not too steep, which is great for those of you out there who find themselves lacking in fighting game experience.
Unfortunately, as I’ve already detailed; the Burning Blood story mode is one that is, for lack of a better word…unforgiving. One wrong move and it could mean a loss, and it only gets more and more difficult as you work your way through the story, coming to a point wherein which I felt as though I could not move forward. Thankfully, the game has a couple of other modes that do not rely on you having to complete the story past Luffy’s arc which is, for all intents and purposes, simply a long-winded tutorial. Online Battle, Free Battle, Wanted Versus, and Flag Battle, are the four alternative gameplay options that will occupy more of your time than that of the Story Mode. The first of the two are fairly self-explanatory considering they’re in most, if not all, fighting titles, but the latter two are unique to Burning Blood and are quite interesting additions to the game.
Wanted Versus simply allows you to earn money by taking on particular enemies who may have certain buffs that one must overcome for their chance to win. Completing individual Wanted Versus matches will earn the player a great deal of money that can then be used to purchase new playable and support-type characters. There are more than enough matches here to keep a player busy for hours on end, lasting longer than that the story mode. Flag Battle is a mode wherein which you’re asked to choose an allegiance and fight for it over the course of many weeks in an attempt to make your selection the victor.
Your individual fights while in this mode will tally up at the very end of a season and add to that of the thousands of others who have been fighting under the same flag. The winners will get certain bonuses which mostly come in the form of a large some of cash that, once again, can be used in-game to unlock characters. Both of these modes are great additions to the game, especially because it’s story mode is so lacking. It allows players the opportunity to get their money’s worth.
Burning Blood, at first glance, has a greater sense of style than the Pirate Warriors series. While it’s nowhere near as smooth as the aforementioned titles, it does feature a visual presence that I feel as though combines the Anime and Manga versions of the series in a way that does them both great justice. Burning Blood features incredibly vivid colours and a cell-shaded style that will put a smile on the faces of One Piece fans the world over, but looking close enough, you can see that it is lacking in it’s character model details. This is especially obvious with Luffy whose arm, when performing one of his special techniques, can be seen folding over into itself. While this doesn’t come up too often, it is fairly obvious when it does. Thankfully, this is only in regards to in-game models of characters. During cutscenes they are as smooth as you would expect, and they look absolutely brilliant.
One Piece has always featured, in it’s Anime adaptation and all of it’s video game adaptations, a strange but wonderful soundtrack full of songs that are fantastically memorable. Much like all that came before it, One Piece: Burning Blood features a classic One Piece soundtrack that does not feature the songs heard in the Anime series or in past games, but have a likeness to the amalgamation of genres that One Piece is now known for. A mix between sea shanty and hard rock, the game’s soundtrack features riffs and tones that match combat well, but also feature the whimsical components of a sea-bound adventure. The voice cast for the game is the same as the Japanese dub for the Anime series, and as you can imagine; each of the performers brings their very best to respective roles, making it a treat to not only One Piece fans who’re invested in the series, but also to those who can appreciate great voice work.
One Piece: Burning Blood is, arguably, the greatest One Piece video game title to be released in the West. Unlike those of the Pirate Warriors series; Burning Blood does not succumb to the same monotony as those games, despite how frustrating it can sometimes be thanks only to the unforgiving nature of high-level opponents featured in the later sections of the game. While there are a list of minor setback that, to anyone looking for issue with it, would make this game unworthy of your time, there are enough positive attributes to keep you invested in the game for hours upon hours. It is an incredibly fun One Piece title to play alongside friends, or even with yourself alone, battling your way through the Wanted lists, earning money, unlocking characters, and fighting for your flag.
Burning Blood is a tempting tittle to own, simply because it’s presence on your shelf constantly urges you to play it. I’ve found myself going back to this game again and again despite my already extensive list of games to complete. It’s a game that can aggravate you to your absolute breaking point, but one that you will welcome with open arms whenever you have a spare forty-five minutes to kill. Spike Chunsoft have done well with this game, and with a few tweaks and changes here and there, it could have been a perfect One Piece title, but regardless of that it is one that you will remember for years to come as one of the most enjoyable Western-released One Piece video games of all time.