Who will be King of the Pirates?
One Piece: Burning Blood on PlayStation 4
One Piece is an anime that just brimming with possibility for a fighting game. Dozens of uniquely powerful pirates and marines fighting on the sea and using incredible abilities isn’t something you see very often. Thanks to the series’ use of Devil Fruits, nothing is impossible – a woman can turn men into stone, a man who can move and expand like rubber. Spike Chunsoft (J-Stars Victory VS+), sought to capitalize on this endless potential with One Piece: Burning Blood, and while the studio delivers in some regards, the game’s singular focus ultimately weighs down the experience.
The one thing that Burning Blood nails is its characters. There are over 40 playable fighters in the game, each bringing his or her own unique abilities right out of the anime and manga. Ivankov relies on her hormone-altering abilities to provide an edge in battle, Blackbeard cancels out special abilities using darkness, and Nami relies on weather traps to control the field. Everyone plays exactly how you’d expect, and trying out each and every character is a fun, new experience.
Burning Blood also succeeds in leveraging Devil Fruits to create a more dynamic battle system reliant on matching player types and building a well rounded team. Thanks to the multiple types of Devil Fruits (Paramecia, Zoan, and Logia), players can activate different effects, chief of which is Logia Guard. Logia users can become an element, making them temporarily invincible to standard and special attacks. Don’t worry though, these types are balanced out by Haki users, who can break even this unique type of guard.
Having to build balanced teams or decide to forego a specific type and rely on skill is easily the best part of Burning Blood. Though the presence of three powerhouses characters initially had me worried the game would be too easy, each fight has a team score limit that prevents players from over-stacking their team, keeping the challenge at the proper level.
While the characters are perfect and the dynamic suits the One Piece franchise well, that’s where the greatness in Burning Blood ends. The main story leaves players fighting through the Paramount War, more specifically the Marineford Arc, the same arc that served as a major part of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3. It’s a popular part of the story surrounding the deaths of two prominent characters, and the transformation of Luffy as well as the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates, but it’s one that’s almost too well known. There is nothing new added to the mix for fans who have watched the story, and thanks to the lack of any lead-in to Burning Blood’s chosen plot, newcomers may feel lost quickly. The story itself is split into four “Episodes” which place you in control of one of the main characters of the arc, Luffy, Whitebeard, Akainu, or Fire Fist Ace. It does provide different combat scenarios, but again, it’s nothing that you haven’t seen, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Outside of the story, players looking for more single-player content in Burning Blood have WANTED Versus Mode. These are fights against the computer that start out simple and slowly grow more difficult. It’s a good way to earn Beli (the standard One Piece currency), but outside of that there isn’t much here that you couldn’t just experience against other players. Some of the higher level challenges that lock you into certain characters are worth playing, though, as they force you to adapt to new abilities against the strongest foes in the game. But other than those, these are far too simple engagements that fail to provide anything meaningful to the overall experience.
The Pirate Flag Battle attempts to add a grander multiplayer scheme to Burning Blood by allowing you to join one of the Forces in the world and fight for control of a map. Think of it like Mortal Kombat X’s Faction system, only with a bit more activity. Heading into a location and earning points for your team by facing off against either AI or humans can be fun, and it does add something to the simple act of just fighting. The battles within this mode are your standard fare, though. There isn’t some grand story set aside for multiplayer, you just join a group you like and try to win it all. Another promising element that fell a bit below its potential.
The mode has a lot of likeable bits: control points named after locations fans would love, difficult fights against powered up AI opponents, and the chance to bump off human players as well. But, the opportunity to inject some of One Piece’s humor and overarching story into the fold, along with the chance to engage fans and newcomers with the subject matter, is completely squandered. The pirate theme is nailed, but that’s about it.
When all is said and done, One Piece: Burning Blood delivers an amazing cast of fighters that both fans of the anime and manga as well as newcomers can enjoy. They’re colorful, wacky, and have interesting abilities that help set this title apart from other fighting games. That’s the only linchpin holding it all together, though, as the story is a simple cut and paste, trying to straddle the fence between familiar and welcoming, but eventually coming up short in both regards.
If you’re looking for a fighter with a solid, interesting roster, then One Piece: Burning Blood is right up your alley. But, if you seek story and new insight from your anime-based games, you will be left wanting.
Score: 3/5 – Fair