One Piece: Burning Blood is the most recent release in the video game subgenre best known as “Anime Fighter.” For the most part, these games have received a mediocre reception from fans of the shows, fighting game enthusiasts, and reviewers alike. The games almost always stay true to their source material, and the mechanics are usually at least up to par. I’ve played my fair share of Dragon Ball and Naruto games, but the one anime fighter that I have never stepped in the ring with was One Piece. So, I am excited to tag along with Luffy and his crew in the most recent offering from Bandai Namco.
Burning Blood offers a story mode called Paramount War. This mode covers perhaps the largest battle in the history of the series. It’s actually sort of a relief to only focus on one small part of the series. While I’ve read all 800-plus chapters of the series, this is an accessible invitation for those who don’t have the time or fortitude for that much story. To fully encompass what happens during the war, we get to play the story from four different perspectives. Each chapter is broken into missions that vary between defeating a trio of fighters, to surviving for 60 seconds against an overpowered foe. While this is an interesting concept, the execution falls flat. The events that you play in the first chapter as Luffy are nearly identical to the other three chapters. By the second chapter as Whitebeard, you understand almost every aspect of what is happening and the game starts to feel repetitive. I’m not saying that a fighting game requires an incredibly in-depth story, but with such strong source material, it does feel like more could have been done to not only appease current fans of the One Piece story, but to entice new audiences into coming along for the journey.
While the story itself leaves much to be desired, the mode is useful for filling out your roster of characters and earning in-game currency. You begin the game with roughly a dozen fighters unlocked. Simply playing through the story will nearly double your roster. In addition to the characters, the currency that you earn in this mode can be spent on unlocking even more characters. This alone at least makes playing through the story mode worth it. As a fan of the show, I was disappointed in the story mode. As a fan of fighting games–at least it’s better than Street Fighter V’s story mode.
The story mode also acts as a tutorial. These tutorials range from how to attack and defend, to how to link your combos. These tutorials actually really slow down the progress of the story, and take away from the narrative. This game desperately needed a tutorial mode, or at least the option to not have to sit through these boring missions while attempting to enjoy the story.
You quickly learn that the game follows a rigid rock-paper-scissors fighting format. Blocking beats normal attacks, guard-breaking attacks beat blocking, and normal attacks beat guard-breaking attacks. The fighting felt like a mixture of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja and Pokken. Much like the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series, you can build a team of three fighters and do battle in 3v3 combat. You can certainly build a balanced team that can handle most situations, or you can be like me and put bitter rivals like Luffy and Akainu on a team and laugh about the thought of them having to work together.
Combat in the game feels incredibly fluid. You can combo and link normal attacks, into special attacks, and finish with your super attack. At times, I felt like it was actually too easy to pull off some of these attacks. Since you only have one button for normal attacks, all you really need to do is play a fast character and spam your normal attacks until your opponent drops their guard. All fighting is done in a 3D battle arena. This allows your characters plenty of space to dish out a variety of interesting and creative attacks.
Every character feels unique. You can play as Luffy and stretch your limbs the entire length of the screen, or you can play as Whitebeard and use your incredible strength to punish opponents that get too close to you. Perhaps the most broken character types are known as “Logia” types. These character possess the power of different elements (ice, light, sand, etc.). In addition to having all of the same fighting abilities of the other fighters, they also have the power to become their element and negate all damage received. This doesn’t stop at normal attacks. They can negate special attacks and super attacks. If they were required to input a difficult button string, this may be more acceptable, but all a Logia user needs to do is hold one button to channel their element. Oh yeah, they also can still attack while in this mode. I’m sure if I had more time with this game, I could play around with ways to counter these characters, but for now, I’m just going to keep including these guys on my squad.
The issue with receiving a fighting game early is that I did not get to experience a main component of the game. Neither of the two online fighting modes were available. The game has a standard online component where you can face off against other pirates from around the world in either casual or ranked play. There is also a mode called Pirate Flag Battles. In this mode, you get to choose a pirate flag to fight under. After you make your decision, you are locked into this crew for a season, and you will work alongside other people to make your crew the strongest. This involves taking over islands and doing online battle with other pirate crews in order to accrue the most points. This mode is the most intriguing part of Burning Blood. It is exciting to know that you and many other individuals will be teaming up to become the best pirate crew.
After spending a decent amount of time with One Piece: Burning Blood, I am regretting not playing any earlier iterations in this series. The game provides enough fanservice for fans to be content without fully alienating those who may not be die hard One Piece fans, and the fighting, with the large roster of characters, is fleshed out enough to stay interesting long after the story mode is completed. Overall, I’m looking forward to fulfilling my lifelong dream of joining a pirate crew and becoming the king of the pirates.
Patrick Stenglein is one of the main video editors for TOVG. Check out the Super Beard Bros. and The Completionist if you liked his work here!