Eiichiro Oda’s, hugely successful, One Piece once again receives a video game release, this time in the form of – One Piece: Burning Blood. This fighting/brawler brings together a massive cast of One Piece’s unique pirate-themed characters. Given this is Spike Chunsoft’s first One Piece game I would be dubious but Spike has a long history with Dragon Ball Z fighting games which quickly set my worries at ease. How will it stack up against Omega Force’s popular Pirate Warriors, we’ll see.
The game focuses on the Paramount War (Marineford Arc) story arc that takes place at Marineford during Ace’s pending execution. Fans of One Piece will no doubt be familiar with one of the most emotional and engaging story Arcs within the series and it’s a joy to be able to play through it. The story follows Luffy’ as he attempts to stop Ace’s execution at the hands of the marines. He is helped along by his follow escapees of Impel Down and Ace’s captain – Whitebeard. The Paramount War mode in Burning Blood takes place over four episodes with each one focusing on a different character’s perspective.
The character roster, while not as deep as the sheer amount of One Piece characters that exist in the series, features a great range of playable battle characters and a good selection of supports. The characters that are playable are. of course. specific to the storyline that Burning Blood focuses on. This means we get to play as a lot of characters that fans of the anime and manga haven’t actually seen for some time. Unlike the Pirate Warriors games that only touch base on the key points in the series very quickly; Burning Blood has taken an interesting approach which allows us to really immerse ourselves in this one powerful story arc. While it would have been nice to see more in the way of story it does leave it open for sequels which would be more than welcome.
If you’ve played any Dragon Ball Z or Naruto fighting games then you’ll be in familiar ground with Burning Blood. Early story missions will walk you through attacks, guards and movement then onto special moves and character type abilities plus your support character functions. Even though you’ll be introduced to each feature early on, when it comes to putting it all together it can be a little overwhelming. The number of options at your fingertips coupled with the different play styles of each character can take a while to get the hang of. Once you’ve mastered it though it’s smooth sailing – well not quite. Each battle in Paramount War mode comes with a different objective. Some require you to survive for 30 seconds and others pit you against three characters to your one. The extra missions during an episode are particularly difficult and probably require a good amount of levelling before tackling. Expect to experience a good deal of frustration during these battles as they could see you having to restart the battle over and over. Outside of the main story though, there are plenty of other modes to tackle.
Make note that you’ll need to complete all four episodes in Paramount War to unlock more characters to use in other modes. You can, however, purchase characters with in-game currency allowing you to grab your favourites early on. There are two online modes in Burning Blood, firstly there is your standard ranked and casual matches, and the second called Pirate Flag Battle. This mode is easily the most creative and sees you aligning yourself with different pirate factions. The aim is to take over the most spaces on a map; you do this by taking on members of rival crews in online battles, building up points as you go. It’s a good mode for those looking for something different to the usual ranked battles that, let’s face it, see most of us decimated in seconds.
The one thing that Burning Blood really hits the nail on the head with is its visuals. Omega Force did a wonder on all of the Pirate Warrior titles with each new instalment looking better than the last and Spike Chunsoft have really carried on that tradition. The Dragon Ball games may have paved the way for anime games looking like their anime counterparts but Burning Blood, and by extension, the Pirate Warriors series, have really mastered the art. The game features brilliant cell-shaded characters that look like they’ve stepped straight out of the pages of the manga. Cutscenes bring the memories of Luffy’s attempt to save Ace right back in their full emotional glory.
While the game focuses on one of the best storylines within the entire One Piece series, it’s met with some unnecessarily difficult and annoying battles that start to take the joy out of it. For a hardcore gamer it’s a great way to test your skills but for casuals you’ll quickly be screaming at the screen in frustration. It might not have the depth of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 but it’s something different and still good fun.