The greatest things to be said about One Piece: Burning Blood are about its faithfulness to the series on which it’s based. Characters and settings feel almost identical to their anime counterparts. Even the game modes are faithful to the show’s themes. However, with both a specific focus on story and gameplay that favors aesthetics over tactics, Burning Blood narrows its potential audience. Though Burning Blood can be a lot of fun, those who just don’t care too much for the series will not be impressed for long.
It’s not difficult to notice that anime/manga-based games are intended to appeal to series fans. However, when a series runs long enough, its overall plot and roster can become bloated and convoluted enough to intimidate interested newcomers. Whereas many anime-based games make an effort to overcome this hurdle by familiarizing newer viewers and players with their source material, developer Spike Chunsoft’s One Piece: Burning Blood seems to rely on established knowledge. Burning Blood covers a particularly endearing and defining chapter in the One Piece saga, the Paramount War arc. This arc sees the action of a full-blown war between the navy and an army of pirates seeking to rescue series protagonist Luffy’s brother, Ace. The dialogue between fighters will occasionally reference their respective backstories, but Burning Blood chooses to isolate itself within a specific moment in the One Piece storyline. Seeing as this story arc is several hundreds of episodes deep within the anime series, anybody who has not caught up to this point would be unfamiliar with much of the drama and conflict. Those who are familiar with the source material will be delighted to see that the story is mostly faithful to the original. The most pivotal and exciting scenes are beautifully recreated in this 3D fighter. Not only does it feel as if these renderings are accurate to the anime, at times their depth can feel superior to the original. Burning Blood’s voice acting and soundtrack are equally satisfying. Boasting an original Japanese voice cast and a set of music that is right at home in a themed fighter, Burning Blood does an excellent job of immersing players in what is essentially an interactive One Piece experience.
Burning Blood capitalizes on the diversity of its game modes. As is expected of a fighting game, Online and Free Play modes are included, allowing players to combat the game’s AI or other players. More interesting, however, are Burning Blood’s Wanted and Pirate Flag Battle modes. Wanted mode allows players to select themed bounty fights, featuring references to the many events of One Piece’s history, which reward players with in-game credits. These same credits can be used to purchase new fighters and support characters, creating more diversity for future battles.
Burning Blood’s Pirate Flag Battle mode takes on a king-of-the-hill styled mechanic in which players can choose to fight under the flag of one of One Piece’s lengthy pirate crew roster. Players then attack several strongholds in a map, combatting online or AI opponents for complete dominance. The charming cooperative mentality in this mode fosters that genuine sense of piracy and adventure that One Piece is notorious for.
Though some key story elements and events are missing from Burning Blood, enough significant moments are included to fulfill fan desires. Burning Blood’s forty-four character roster is a double edged sword, no matter how familiar players are with the series. The way characters act and fight is honest to who they are. This is a detail that fans will truly appreciate, with many character nods included, such as how Sanji will never directly strike any of the female characters. Much of this will go over the heads of those who are unaware, but there is still much fun and charm to be found within these fighters.
Though, the amount of gameplay diversity in One Piece: Burning Blood is much blander than it should be for characters with such elaborate and unique backstories. Of course, this is done so that there is still a sense of uniformity and balance to the game. When a fighter is a hard-hitting tank their attacks are punishing and devastating, at the cost of speed and agility. The opposite is true of nimble characters, but even versatile characters exist to balance the extremes. Burning Blood allows players to construct a team of three characters, with an additional three support characters. While this does even things out by allowing players to counter certain characters and attacks, it does not stop Burning Blood from sometimes playing like a flashy game of rock-papers-scissors.Undoubtedly, characters that use Haki and Devil Fruit abilities (special powers, like Ace’s ability to transform his body into flames) prove to be the most entertainment. Pulling off impressive combos with their unique abilities, like Whitebeard’s power to create earthquakes whenever he jumps, can create chaotic, yet still visually satisfying, moments on the battlefield. Some of these innate abilities can even change the flow of combat dramatically, allowing for a surprising escape or even brief invulnerability.
The problem with this is that the chaos is hardly consistent. The large size of battle arenas, combined with the knockback ability of several attacks, can create a sizeable amount of space between fighters. Instead of exchanging exciting blows and combos, players are frequently left to chase each other around the arena until someone lands a successful hit. This is even more frustrating with Burning Blood’s AI, which often enough results to statically blocking attacks from a distance. It almost seems as if Burning Blood was not designed to be wholly strategic. The most remarkable and impressive moments in the game occur when players abandon tactics and commit to wildly attacking and landing their special abilities.One Piece: Burning Blood is essentially an anime game made for anime fans. There is a lot of joy to be felt in this game for those who are invested in the series. The character roster is highly detailed and intricate enough to reflect their original counterparts. Burning Blood’s treatment of the Paramount War arc is nearly faithful and thrilling enough for a play-through. But there isn’t enough going on in Burning Blood to captivate those who want a full fighting game experience. While it can make a great experience for players to unite over, One Piece: Burning Blood is just not broad enough to keep even the most die-hard One Piece fans playing for long.
One Piece: Burning Blood is a great experience for fans of the One Piece Series. Those who are familiar with One Piece will be excited to see their favorite characters in a faithful representation of a pivotal story arc. However, there is not enough happening in Burning Blood's fighting mechanics to spike the interests of those who are either unfamiliar with or new to the series.