I’m going to make something very clear, I fucking love One Piece. I’m up-to-date on the manga, which at this point consists of reading well over 800 individual chapters. I’ve spent hours reading into fan theories on character development and story arch, I even collect rare and expensive One Piece figurines, my most expensive one being priced at close to $500 AUD.
So when I found out that there was going to be a fighting game based on this amazing series, I just about shit my pants with excitement.
For the unfamiliar, One Piece begins with the execution of Gol D Roger, a man known as The King of the Pirates. As ol’ Rog draws his final breaths, he tells the world that his treasure, the One Piece, is available to anyone who wishes to find it. In doing so, he starts what is known as The Great Pirate Era. We are then introduced to Monkey D Luffy, the series main protagonist. A friendly young man with a heart of pure gold, but a brain of rancid dog shit. To find One Piece, our lovable idiot must conquer the seas, defeat countless powerful enemies, survive a tyrannical world government who has outlawed piracy and endure many a grand adventure along the way whilst utilising his gum-gum powers, granted to him after eating one of the world’s ‘Devil Fruits. There’s a lot more to it than that, but if you want to know more, I highly recommend reading the series or watching the Anime.
So, taking a step back, a cartoon based on characters with rad and imaginative abilities, who are all fighting each other to prove who is the strongest and find a single treasure, should translate to a fighting game incredibly well right? So why then, do I feel disappointed by One Piece: Burning Blood?
Let’s start off with the Story Mode. As I have previously stated, I love the story of One Piece. It is rich, endearing, engrossing and incredibly imaginative. Each section of the story, is broken up into a story arch. Generally at the end of each arch, a major villain is defeated or a large plot point is uncovered. One Piece burning blood contains a single story arch, The Marineford Arc. Granted it is one of the best story arcs in the One Piece Series, and the developers try to freshen things up by having you play through this from multiple perspectives. But you will have seen the completion of the Marineford arc 4 times by the time you are done with the story mode. With so many brilliant battles, plot twists and character interactions, why couldn’t they have fleshed out this mode with additional story from the series? The rest of the mode isn’t bad, the animations are all great, the cut scenes between the battles are well done, the level progression and secret battles are all neat, but there just isn’t enough story, in the story mode for me to give it a pass. You are sitting on an entire fucking gold mine of story potential, and it feels like the developers chose to be happy with a single speck of gold, and walked away.
The actual fighting in Burning Blood, thankfully, is rather decent, although I really wish they took a more street fighter esque approach to the mechanics and focused on a 2d fighting model, instead of the 3D Arena type fighting that games like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z are known for. The roster houses over 40 usable characters, and a whole slew of non controllable support characters, so there is plenty of variety. However quantity, doesn’t necessarilly equal quality, as some of the characters feel incredibly unbalanced. From characters that feel like they would die if a butterfly shit on them, to dudes and dudettes who feel like they could rip the dick off Zeus himself. There are even characters capable of stun locking the CPU in place, seemingly indefinitely, which makes winning fights incredibly easy. Despite my dislike of 3D arena fighters, the unbalanced characters and the lack of mechanical depth, the fighting of Burning Blood is still fun. Each character has their own set of moves which all look and feel awesome to use. The super moves are super rad and using each character’s logia or haki powers is satisfying as hell.
I would love to comment about the online modes of the game, but I tried for over a week to find an online match, and was unable to do so. You could blame it on my internet, the fact I live in Australia, or perhaps they were having server problems, but each and every time I attempted to search for another player, I would end up waiting for a minute, then getting lumped into a game with a CPU opponent as no other players could be found. Which is fucked, because the online mode actually seems pretty cool. You align yourself with a Pirate Crew, then take over islands by battling other players and accumulating points based on how many fights you win and how many islands you own. At the end of the season, the Pirate Crew with the most points is crowned and all the members gain a large reward of in-game currency. But since I couldn’t find another player to play against, my dreams of commanding the strongest pirate crew in the seas, were shipwrecked, along with the game’s multiplayer game modes.
Visually, the game looks fantastic and is arguably the best looking One Piece game to date. The voice actors are all pulled directly from the One Piece anime series which lends to the overall authentic feel of the game and the music and sound effects all fit nicely within the One Piece universe. The average gamer will spend about 10 hours unlocking all the characters and completing the story mode, from there, replayability is really dependent on how much you like the fighting mechanics delivered in Burning Blood. As the majority of your time will either be spend in versus mode or the online modes. Both of which don’t contain very much in the way of rewards or unlockables, once you already have all the characters.
I really can’t properly vocalise how I feel about One Piece: Burning Blood. The fighting was better than I thought it was going to be, but the story was worse than I thought it was going to be. As a huge fan of the One Piece series, I feel as if I may be a bit biased in my views, but then struggle to see how Burning Blood would be relevant to non-fans of the series. Will One Piece fans enjoy playing this game? Almost certainly, for how long though is the real question. Stringent fighting mechanics, unbalanced characters and an un-realised single player story aren’t compelling reasons to stick with a game for anything more than a weekend. If I had to sum up One Piece: Burning Blood in a single word, it would be ‘Disappointing’. Not because the game is bad, but because the game is so fucking average. And I feel like One Piece, deserves so much more.
The Good: Fans of One Piece will be delighted at being able to play as characters like Bart and Drake and marvel at how good each characters abilities look in the game. Rather average fighting mechanics means there is some staying potential.
The Bad: A straight up shithouse story mode. Rather average fighting mechanics means that there is some staying potential and unbalanced characters mean that fights can either be incredibly easy, or next to impossible.
The Final Verdict: One Piece: Burning Blood seems to be a game made for One Piece fans, that ignored what One Piece fans love about the series. Amazing storytelling. Instead we are given a lacklustre, 3D arcade fighter that I managed to finish in a weekend and now lives back in its box, on a shelf, where it will sit for the foreseeable future.