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One Piece: Burning Blood

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: May 31, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4 Review - 'One Piece: Burning Blood'

by Brian Dumlao on Sept. 2, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

One Piece: Burning Blood is built upon the wacky and rich One Piece universe and will offer a never-seen-before experience thanks to the fast-paced gameplay and unique One Piece elements!

Buy One Piece: Burning Blood

Spike Chunsoft is no stranger to anime fighting games. While the company is more recently known for J-Stars Victory VS+ on the Sony platforms, it developed both the Tenkaichi and Raging Blast versions of the Dragon Ball Z fighting games. Since Spike Chunsoft's experience in 3-D anime fighters was well documented, Bandai Namco let them go after one of the longest-running anime and manga out right now, One Piece. Released on the current consoles as well as the PC and Vita, One Piece: Burning Blood marks the series' return to fighting games. While the title may not surprise fighting game fanatics, it is better than what fans series fans might have expected.

The fighting mechanics don't deviate from what the studio has already established in its time with the Dragon Ball Z games, as the title uses a skewed viewpoint similar to the recent Naruto offerings. You and your opponent are engaged in arena combat either solo or in teams of up to three people per side, and up to three assist characters give boosts instead of doing their own special moves. You only have two attack buttons; various attacks depend on the direction you point your analog stick, but using them in conjunction with L1 gives you up to three different special moves. Combos can be created, and a few moves can act as guard breaks. Click in the right analog stick, and you can initiate a special mode where one more click unleashes your super move. The game takes a few things from J-Stars Victory VS+. The biggest thing is that fights are tag-based, so players can call on their partners to come in at any time. There are objects in the arena that exist solely to be destroyed during a fight without actually inflicting extra damage on the players. Finally, matches are played out as one big round.

On the one hand, Burning Blood is a pretty deep fighting game that provides enough for genre fans to sink their teeth into while still ensuring that the more casual player can be a more capable opponent. There may not be a lot of combos, but the move list is substantial enough that it takes a little longer before you see the same ones repeated multiple times in a match. Though the roster isn't balanced in any way, there are only a few characters that are weak against everyone, so unless you see some of the more overmatched characters (e.g., Whitebeard), fights should be fine. This is all before you add the ability to tag in other players, since that feature makes things much more chaotic in a good way, similar to how things look rather messy in an Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 match.

On the other hand, some of the issues that dragged down J-Stars Victory VS+ are also present here, but they've been tweaked to be less of an annoyance. Invincibility is still granted to fighters who get up after being knocked down, but the time period granted is shorter, so continuing to attack them at this time isn't always a losing proposition. Knockbacks still occur, but they don't go as far, so you can easily catch up with the flying body. You can still get caught up in combo strings with no means of escape, though, since blocking is only good if you do so before a blow is telegraphed. Even if you change the camera zoom, it can be tough to tell if you're at the correct distance for a move to land.

The main mode focuses on the Paramount War, an event that is cited as the halfway point by the series creator and has some pretty big ramifications for the series. Luffy's brother Ace has been captured by the Marines and is set for execution in their home base of Marineford. Luffy makes his way there with his crew and a few other pirate allies to rescue Ace. With both sides at full strength, the only real outcome is total war.

The first thing that stands out about this mode is that the story isn't friendly to newcomers. After all, this is the 22nd story arc of the series, and for those using the anime series as their guide, this starts at episode 457. There's simply too much to cover, and even a brief recap of the premise and some major events would be way too long for a typical opening cut scene. If you're trying to jump into the series now, this is the worst place to start.

The other thing players will notice is that the story arc is so important that you'll see it through the eyes of four main characters: Ace, Akainu, Luffy, and Whitebeard. The multiple perspectives make up for the fact that this is the only arc you'll go through, one that supposedly takes place in the span of a single day. However, many of the perspectives will force you through the same fight multiple times, making it feel like padding rather than something substantial.

At the very least, the Paramount War gives players a campaign of a decent length. All of the fights have different objectives, and while most are about beating your opponent senseless, others ask you to merely survive the bout. Most of the missions have hidden objectives that open up bonus fights, and there are plenty to keep one busy. For those who are more concerned about the lore, half of the cut scenes that bookend the chapters are done in still shots from the anime, and the other half are with in-game cut scenes that try to match the anime. There's plenty of dialogue to make the affair feel epic without stopping the fight to get the dialogue across.

The Paramount War may feel a little limited, but the Wanted Versus battles more than make up for it. Players face off in a variety of fights that have plenty of fighter combinations and can vary wildly in difficulty. There are even a few fights that only appear for a limited time that might tempt some players to take them on even if they aren't adept at the system yet. Though not a near-infinite source of challenges, it provides more than enough to keep one busy, and with the coin payoff being enough to grab all of the extra fighters and support characters you may not have unlocked during the Paramount War, the Wanted Versus battles make it worthwhile.

If you tire of the single-player modes and don't have too many opportunities to play the local versus mode, you have two online multiplayer modes to work with. The standard online battles come in both player and ranked varieties — and with the same options as the offline versus mode. The good news is that the online performance is excellent with little to no lag during a fight. Fights are fast, and it's pretty easy to jump from one lobby to another and easily find an opponent. The one part that doesn't work too well, however, is spectating. Far too often, you'll see each character's introduction, but you'll either get booted out right before the match begins or realize that you're watching a replay of the fight instead of seeing a live feed. As a result, you'll often leave in the middle of the fight only to realize that it ended and new opponents are being chosen.

Pirate Flag Battle is the other online mode, and it seems to be the one that players would gravitate toward the most. You start by selecting your faction before being sent to a world map to take it over island by island. The multiplayer in this section is asynchronous, but battles waged in each island count for an overall total to show who controls it, and the end of each week determines a winner based on total island control. Though this is meant to be a mode where the actual fighting takes place against human opponents, it becomes very difficult to find anyone playing this at the same time as you are. Normally, this would mean that the mode is doomed, but the developers have prepared by always giving you the option to fight against AI opponents if you either fail to find another player or manually choose to skip the search. Since the AI is just as tough as humans, this option isn't necessarily an easier way to go about the mode, but it does ensure that it has the chance to get some playtime.

Graphically, Burning Blood excels in capturing the look of the One Piece anime and manga. The colors of the anime are here, but the characters have enough black shading and borders to make you think of the manga. The animations are smooth, especially for the much flashier and wackier special moves, and the accompanying particle effects are well done. The backgrounds are full of life, with moving crowds in the arena and the various other Marines and pirates fighting in the background while you have your own skirmish. There are nice little touches, like the words that accompany your every footstep, and the frame rate remains rock solid throughout. Even for those who aren't into anime, this is one looker of a title.

From a sound standpoint, the team nails it. Most of that falls on the voice actors, as the developers opted to use the original Japanese case for the whole game and, as expected, they do a great job of portraying their characters in all situations. The music also sounds like it comes directly from the anime, with the original tracks matching the scale and adventure. The only thing missing is the sense of being enveloped in the environment. Despite there being chaos around you at almost all times, it never seems like you get anything beyond basic stereo sound.

As some may have expected, One Piece: Burning Blood is a game for the fans. There's not much here to get newcomers interested in the franchise, and the very limited scope of the campaign doesn't make the different perspectives any better to deal with. While flawed in places, the fighting system is still fun to mess around with, since it seems to have better control over its chaos, and the other modes give the title more substance. Since the presentation matches the source material quite well, One Piece fans will be pleased enough with this game as they continue with one of the longest manga stories ever told.

Score: 7.5/10

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