I’ve always found myself strangely gravitated towards anime-based fighting games. I’m not huge into anime itself, but there is something about the absurd, wacky nature of shows like One Piece that seems to fit perfectly in a fighting game. One Piece: Burning Blood shows off the best tendencies of anime while providing an extremely faithful and detailed look at a pivotal storyline in the One Piece canon.
I say faithful while knowing very little about the Paramount War – the major arc which Burning Blood follows. However, I’ve had enough experience with One Piece as a whole that I can safely say that the characters brought to life in this fighting game are done with a great appreciation and care that will please fans of the anime. This is a fighting game that offers plenty of fan service for those who have spent years watching the show. For those who have not…well, the game offers a look into a world that is zany and action-packed. But you’ll find yourself straining for more complex fighting game mechanics.
That isn’t to say that One Piece: Burning Blood is necessarily bare bones. In fact, its combo system has room for interesting maneuvers due to features like the Unity Assist, Unity Clash, and Unity Chain. The Unity Assist allows for players to receive back up by switching to another character while being damaged by an enemy, which helps get out of a sticky situation. That is, unless your opponent performs a Unity Clash which will switch out their character for another. Fortunately, you can’t keep spamming these moves because each Unity attack consumes three bars of your Burning Gauge. So use it sparingly because the Unity Chain is also a helpful move that allows players to strengthen their combos by switching out to another character mid-combo. This requires performing the move at the right time in a specific combo, but the result is devastating.
Visually, the game is absolutely bonkers. Burning Blood has a cel-shaded look but its visuals pop as characters turn ablaze or freeze enemies. Unleashing large combos gives every moment a huge sense of scale as fists fly in every direction and projectiles put everything into perspective. Increasingly more captivating, though seemingly just there for a little extra spectacle, is the inclusion of small parts of the environment that are destructible. It is usually just a giant rock or something, but knocking an enemy into it always looks great. Even when you deliver the finishing blow to an enemy and knock them out of the arena completely it feels even more satisfying due to it also being a K.O. for the opponent.
This is where I start to become a bit more of a downer on the game. The amount of combos available are fairly limited and, though there are special moves that can be utilized, the game doesn’t offer much in terms of variety per character. So I found that having one character be my “main” was more repetitive than fun. I would do the same moves over and over to win the fight, with a little bit of variety when an opponent started catching on. It’s not that I would spam the same moves, but I would always utilize several different ones every match.
It is a game that encourages you to use more than one character. It does this by allowing for three characters to use in battle, alongside three support characters. This is your Pirate Crew, which you can customize and tweak to your heart’s content. I tended to gravitate towards fast characters in my Crew, but it seemed just as smart to throw stronger, slower characters into the mix for some variety and to put your opponent off-guard. Support characters allow for extra benefits during the match that can be either passively or actively engaged. For example, you might get a support character who allows you to do more damage when your Burning Gauge is full, or you could have another one that decreases your knockback while guarding. Hell, I had one that gave me a full Burning Gauge right from the beginning of a match. So you could see how properly combining these Support characters could offer an invigorated and powerful Pirate Crew.
You can unlock some Battle and Support characters through the game’s main story: The Paramount War. One Piece: Burning Blood focuses around the struggle between the pirates and marines as Luffy and Whitebeard try to save their comrade, Ace, who has been taken hostage by the Marines. You will get to play through this story from several different perspectives, each unlocked by completing the previous one’s main plot. I found this to be a neat way to offer a different look on the same tale, and they don’t spend too much time on them. In fact, you could beat all the perspectives in a few hours. This is kind of a drag, but there is plenty of other content that will allow you to engage with the combat. Even extra chapters within storylines will let players unlock new perspectives on the main story. Plus, you can watch the cutscenes whenever you want in the menus.
In terms of game modes though, you have your standard Online mode where players can take their Pirate Crew to the internet and fight in Player or Ranked matches to see who is the true Pirate King. More interestingly though is the faction-based online mode which lets players choose a team to side with and then get your team points by completing battles against both real opponents and CPU-controlled ones. Called Pirate Flag Battle, you choose your allegiance over a set time period which once completed refreshes and awards Beli to winning teams.
There is actually quite a bit of content for players to chew on, including some offline fighting. Wanted Versus Mode offers players the chance to tackle special contracts and earn Beli to purchases battle and support characters from the Pirate Base. There are generic Wanted posters which allow you to bring in your custom Pirate Crew, as well as Limited Wanted posters that are time-sensitive. The more difficult ones tend to be the Special Wanted posters as they do not let you bring in your custom Pirate Crew. Instead, players have to fight with the characters that would be involved in that scenario. This was more challenging for me as I would get used to fighting with my three battle characters and then have to switch to someone who is far slower or more tactile.
It is hard not to recommend One Piece: Burning Blood for fans of the show though. While its story mode is kind of short, it does offer a really interesting look at the Marineford Arc from the show. I found myself attached to the characters and their plight even without having seen that specific arc. Unlocking the extra chapters in the main story also proves to be slightly challenging as you have to meet certain requirements that are sometimes more difficult than you might think.
As someone who loves fighting games, there is something refreshing about seeing one which is more about being faithful while still having a minor amount of complexity. Battle and Support characters offer a wide array of combinations for players to toy with both online and offline, across a bevy of content. I just wish there was a way for players like me who like to play as the same characters over and over to have more variety in the types of moves that can be done.
A review copy of One Piece: Burning Blood was provided by Bandai Namco for the purposes of this review.
One Piece: Burning Blood
- Battle and Support characters, as well as Unity moves, offer variety
- Story is an extremely detailed look at the Marineford Arc from the show
- Visually dazzling and a real treat for anime/One Piece fans
- Plenty of content for those who enjoy playing the game both online and offline
- Story is a bit short because it focuses on only one arc, with lots of overlap
- Not enough combos or integration of special moves into combos