There’s been no shortage of video games based off of One Piece, as the popular manga and anime tends to get a new one on a yearly basis. Surprisingly, though, most recent ones have been musou titles, and there hasn’t been one based around the series’ intense combat. That all changes with One Piece: Burning Blood, a fighting game that makes the anime’s signature action playable.
The 3D fighting takes place from a behind-the-back perspective, not unlike the Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. In fact, both of these games share a lot of similarities from a gameplay standpoint. Not only can players bring in a team of three fighters, but they can also use support skills during combat. Nothing here is groundbreaking, however, nor does the combat really require much more than mashing the square button to pull off a combo attack.
The simple gameplay is both a blessing and a curse. Considering there’s a huge cast of characters (with over 50 of them available at launch), it means that players can jump into different characters without having to learn new combo attacks. There are unique specials (which are done by pressing the left bumper and then a face button) for each character, but that’s really all the depth there is to learning one. This keeps the game from being like the more competitive fighters out there, though it should be said that it’s also not aiming for that audience.
The main draw in Burning Blood is the game’s story mode. Called Paramount War, the mode is an adaptation of the arc of the same name. Any One Piece fan knows how important this is to the overall story (it precedes the 2 year jump the series then takes), and how pivotal the battle between the Marines and Pirates is. It’s really exciting to see it finally adapted (especially as the cutscenes that precede each battle are really well done), but it’s far from perfect.
Paramount War’s biggest issue is that it tells the story from four different perspectives (Luffy, Whitebeard, Akainu, and Ace). This leads to a pretty disjointed story, especially for those that haven’t already seen this story play out in the manga. By the time Ace’s story plays out, players will have a full view of the events, but it would have made more sense if they’d told the tale chronologically.
It’s also rather short, as each story only takes about an hour to play through. There’s also no difficulty setting for this mode, which is a bummer considering how difficult some of the fights are. Since it’s a faithful adaptation, players will often be tasked with fending off a complete team of enemies with only one fighter. When the odds aren’t stacked on your side, and your opponents demolish about a quarter of your health in a single combo, it can get increasingly frustrating to play. I eventually persevered through the story mode, but some of the missions are definitely more frustrating than fun.
Beating the story mode will only unlock a handful of One Piece: Burning Blood‘s characters for use in other modes. If players want to unlock more, they’ll have to purchase them through the in-game store. The best way to earn money is in the game’s Wanted Versus mode, which is essentially a bunch of themed battles. Some have specific conditions (such as using Luffy to beat some of his most powerful foes), but they all essentially boil down to beating up the AI in order to earn some Beli.
One Piece: Burning Blood also has standard online functionality where you can play ranked matches (or create rooms for player matches). It’s pretty barebones, and I ended up going back to the Wanted Versus mode more often than not. There’s simply little to write home about regarding the online play, and more money was made available through offline modes.
Rounding out the package is the game’s Pirate Flag Battle mode, which is sort of similar to the clan feature that Mortal Kombat X used. The major difference is that you’re not always repping your clan online, as you can also battle computer opponents. It’s nice in that it gives matches more meaning than jumping into free battle, but I never felt connected to my team in a meaningful way.
While One Piece: Burning Blood has its fair share of issues, it’s really great to see such an important and interesting story arc get an interactive adaptation. Sadly, though, splitting up the narrative to fit different character perspectives makes it harder to understand for those that don’t follow the manga. That said, this fact is ultimately pretty fitting as it shows that the game is only for dedicated One Piece fans.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which we were provided with.
One Piece: Burning Blood does a solid job of adapting such an important story to a video game, but doesn't do a great job at letting newcomers know why it matters. Die-hard One Piece fans will get some enjoyment here, but there are definitely better fighting games out there.