I’ve wanted a One Piece fighting game for a long time and with One Piece: Burning Blood I finally have one! It respects the series and provides hours of fun with a large cast of characters including many fan-favourites.
Spike Chunsoft, the developers behind Danganronpa and J-Stars Victory VS+, may not create the most complex fights available but it’s hard to deny that they’re great fun and they bring One Piece brilliantly to life. It’s stylish, bombastic and addictive, and I found myself clocking in almost 2 dozen hours before I knew it. One Piece: Burning Blood has a story mode that follows the Paramount War Arc (where Luffy is on a mission to rescue Ace from being killed) where you get to see the story through the eyes of Luffy, Ace, Whitebeard and Akainu. There are extra missions where you play as other characters and they take place at the same time as the main story mission, but there are only a handful of these per route. The cutscenes are relatively lengthy and I couldn’t get enough of them, but sadly as it’s just the one arc, some of the cutscenes are reused for other characters and the story mode in its entirety will only last you maybe 4-6 hours. It’s short and sweet, and I’d happily see Spike Chunsoft bring more of the arcs to life as they have here.
Gameplay is similar to J-Stars in that it’s simple and easily accessible, but Burning Blood is on a smaller scale as there are only ever 2 people on stage at any given time and the arenas are smaller with little destructibles. Battles go up to 3v3 (or 1 or 2, there’s a good amount of freedom regarding numbers), where you can swap characters out but all 3 need to be defeated before you’re able to win. Each character has 3 special moves which can be activated at any time, at no cost and however much you want, and these are usually offensive attacks but some are defensive and can counter. You can activate support characters to increase strength, health, or another varying effect to help in battle, and you can again have up to 3 of these. Auto-combos, almost a staple in fighting games now (even as an option), are present and although this isn’t a game that’ll ever be taken seriously for ranked play, it’s great fun that brought me back and back for over 20 hours and counting. I’ve earned the Platinum trophy and still find myself itching to play it, and as a fan I’m more than happy with it with my only big issue being some poor balancing and a brief story mode.
I spent most of my time in the WANTED posters mode which is great for earning money, which you need for buying characters, where battles proceed with growing difficulty but by the time you’ve reached level 10 with your chosen characters, most of these become quite easy. There are limited and special posters which tend to be much harder but eventually there isn’t much that can be done to make the game harder, and you end up being able to easily oppose any challenge. There’s the online Pirate Base mode where you pick a team and aim to dominate the most areas each season, free battle, and online ranked and unranked play. I faced a fair bit of lag with most of my games and some severe input delay, but otherwise it was a good experience.
Visually this is likely the best One Piece game around and I love how Spike Chunsoft have brought it to life. The story cinematics especially are fantastic and dynamic, leaving me wanting more of them. Each character is respected with their special abilities being recognisable from the anime and manga, with stages featuring memorable locales such as the Straw Hat Crew’s Thousand Sunny ship. Japanese words appear as sound effects for footsteps and attacks, and these aren’t intrusive but actually fit so well into the game that I can’t imagine it without them. It’s clear that Spike Chunsoft understood and respected the source material and I’d like to see them get another go at creating a One Piece game in the future.
One day, I hope that Bandai Namco will dub the One Piece games in English but that day isn’t today. It’s always nice to see the Japanese voice-talent reprise their roles though and they’re on excellent form here, and the music is catchy which is no less than what I’d expect of One Piece. Spike Chunsoft have taken every effort to make Burning Blood feel like you’re playing the anime and they’ve been very successful in doing so, down to every single aspect.
One Piece: Burning Blood is addictive and I praise Spike Chunsoft for handling the IP so well, and whatever issues I have with it are minor. I’d like a stronger netcode and a fighting game that covers all of the important One Piece arcs (there are so many memorable arcs like Alabasta after all) as they’ve done a brilliant job here. Fans of the series, even if they aren’t particularly fans of the fighting genre, should find plenty of enjoyment here like I did, and I’m happy to say it’s just as good on PS4 and Vita although PS4 definitely looks nicer and seems to be more popular online. You should definitely give it a go, and maybe I’ll see you online sometime!