While one of the few mainstream manga I read anymore One Piece is easily one of my favorites, even if it did slip a little after the timeskip. When it comes to video games however One Piece has had an extremely rocky relationship. Rarely does a series try so hard to find its place, everything from fighting, to RPGs and basically copying Dynasty Warriors of all things. In defense of One Piece though, at least it makes sense when a single character takes down a small army alone. Not being a huge fan of Dynasty Warriors I was excited to hear that One Piece: Burning Blood was going to be a pure fighting game. I really enjoyed the old fighting games on the PS2 and thought Burning Blood would bring that back with more characters and drastically better graphics. Technically it did, adding a few twist but in the end it didn’t really offer anything better than the PS2 versions. In a generation where developers think quality can replace quantity entirely I was left empty in the end.
It looks terrific, following in the footsteps of the anime the graphics are done in a cel-shaded style. This gives the game a rich comic book feel that you rarely see in games like No More Heroes and Tatsunoko vs Capcom. Animated cut scenes are brilliantly crafted in cel style. Finishers look like a manga come to life with bold lines and colors merging MadWorld style, fast paced and pumped without moving at all. The problem is that there isn’t much of it, most cut scenes are actually made of shots cut directly from the anime. Playable characters look spectacular and really bring the series to a new level. However, while the game boast around 100 characters only about 1/3 of that are actually playable. Most are just support characters and don’t appear at all.
The story and game itself is also especially disappointing. The entire campaign is made up by only the Battle of Marineford arc, an arc that made up a single level at best in previous games and wasn’t especially long to begin with. Players can easily beat the entire story in a day and platinum in two at most. Burning Blood doesn’t have many fights in the main story and players end up fighting the same three or four characters multiple times. There isn’t even much of a difficulty curve beyond figuring out the bizarre control scheme and once you discover the best way to break blocks it’s smooth sailing. A majority of the game comes from special fights in Wanted mode. The more difficult of which forces players to use certain characters to mime the manga. Many of these fights are also fairly simple with the right support character.
Game mechanics are awkward and while some players may be able to use that to their advantage it will frustrate everyone else. While the controls are actually very simple and easy to just pick up, breaking down most moves into a couple of buttons, they can be annoying to master. It also means there aren’t many combos or original moves to choose from, making it far easier to just stick with the first combo. All fights are 1 on 1 with up to 3 characters at a time. Players can also have upwards of 3 support characters with extremely varied effects. An interesting twist is how Burning Blood has made logia users more like the manga in which they can’t be hurt by normal attacks. As a power up it does have a limit but experienced players can keep it going forever. The issue is that unless players have a logia or haki user they are kind of screwed. Many characters tend to either be overpowered or near useless beyond some annoying move the game will spam constantly. If players can make it past the bizarre control scheme they should be fine.
There isn’t much else to the game. There is a standard online mode, ‘collectable’ room and the ability to buy new characters since most are locked from the start. There was one interesting mode called Pirate Flag Battle. A kind of mass scale online mode where players pick a team and fight to conquer islands from other teams. Kind of like Mortal Kombat X had a system where players had to choose a team and earn points for it. All enemies are controlled by AI but are a lot harder than normal. Players can only do so much in a day before having to wait to gain more action points. I never had the feeling I was actually doing anything though. I moved to multiple islands and defeated the occupants but the islands never fell to my team. I have no idea if I was actually doing anything but it didn’t seem like I was.
One Piece: Burning Blood is a step in the right direction. Away from Dynasty Warriors and back to actual fighting games. While so much more could have been done to expand on Burning Blood it does give me hope for the future of the series. While the game looks fantastic it’s still plagued by simple but wonky controls and little actual content. An issue all One Piece games has had is continuity or just trying to keep up with the manga. While previous games overlapped a lot they at least covered more than a single arc. The extensive Wanted mode was a nice touch but too little too late. It is a matter of quality over quantity. The One Piece fan base is massive but will they shell out for such a bare bones game? I did but I immediately regretted it which is normally a bad sign. Maybe if it was cheaper but until then I would have to suggest just waiting it out.