Spike Chunsoft and Bandai Namco's latest fighter, ONE PIECE: Burning Blood
, carries on the pirate tradition of the popular anime One Piece
as an epic battle takes place among all of the major players of the series. Pirates, marines, and lords of the sea all come together to fight over one person, resulting in the Paramount War from the anime's Marineford arc. So, how does the title hold up to its anime roots?
The game begins in a pirate bar with a row of choices across the bottom, most of which are inaccessible. The one place to go is "Paramount War." This is story mode, and the first episode is "Episode: Luffy." Once chosen, the player is treated to a long cutscene where Luffy's adopted brother Ace is scheduled for execution by the Navy Marines, and Luffy (as well as many others) have shown up at Marineford to save him. So many powerful forces have gathered here, in fact, that it turns into a titanic battle. Several pirate factions have allied temporarily to fight the marines, all of them coming to fight under Whitebeard's command.
After this introduction, the game is basically a series of anime clips with fights interspersed along the way. After completing Luffy's story arc, one moves on to Whitebeard's, Akainu's, and Ace's. All of these episodes revolve around the Paramount War, showing the same events from different perspectives. While interesting to see and fight from other angles if you're a fan of the One Piece
anime/manga, it gets a bit tedious seeing the same re-hashed cutscenes if you're unfamiliar with the story arc, as the game does little to fill in any of the background details. This feeling isn't helped when the entire game is voiced in Japanese. The English subtitles can get you through the game very well, of course, but with the game's price tag of $59.99, an English option could have been added for those of us who don't understand Japanese.
Luffy fights to save his brother Ace.
One can, however, skip scenes and go straight to the fighting if desired. While the game is called a hack 'n slash, it's actually a fighter much in the vein of a game like Tekken
. The story is told via the scenes while the fight conditions must be met to progress the story and the variety of objectives makes up for the repetition of the storytelling. Usually, the condition is to win, but sometimes one need only survive against an enemy that is superior to yourself. Occasionally, a fight will occur with a time limit. The timed fights often result in the unlocking of a new character and if the fight isn't completed within the time set, one can still progress but a new character might be lost.
Players have two choices for their fighting styles: manual combos or simple controls. Once decided, the usual fighting moves are available - choices include short- and long-range attacks, guard, guard break, etc. - while using different combinations can open up special attacks. When fighting with allies, one can swap characters in and out to create Unity Chains and Assists; enemies can do this, too. Throughout the story, the fighters in all of these scenes are set in stone. While a character button comes up at the beginning of the scene, one can only view the roster, not choose a fighter. Having learned one character's combo set, the game then forces the player to switch to a character that's quite different, meaning that you learn new fighting styles and create a larger skill set. For example, Luffy has a long-range attack that can reach almost clear across the screen. Whitebeard, however, has much smaller range, so you have to start from scratch on strategy despite the buttons being the same. One can, however, re-start a fight at any time by hitting the pause button and choosing to re-try, as well as review a player's move set.
This guy is tough.
The first couple of chapters in Luffy's episode work as tutorials for the battle system, but then the game moves in the other direction and starts getting pretty tough by the end of the second story arc. People who enjoy a challenge will be pleased with this, but more casual gamers who play to enjoy the story or the anime might find this a bit off-putting. One can expect to do many of the fights over and over again because they're just so difficult. If it were simply a question of improving one's skills, it might not be as frustrating, but the game seems to start "cheating" as time goes by. If the player and AI launch attacks simultaneously, the advantage is invariably given to the AI; the gamer's attack will be nullified while the AI's succeeds. Reaction and recovery time also see a difference. When a gamer's fighter is kicked up into the air, he seems to float there in slow motion at times while the AI's character recovers much more quickly. By the fourth episode, enemies can hit ridiculously hard, killing a player's battler in two hits while taking little damage. As the game continues, the AI's advantage becomes more pronounced and these balancing issues have a significant impact on the player's enjoyment of the game.
By the end of the second story arc, all other modes of the game will be unlocked. These include Pirate Base, Collection, WANTED Versus, Free Battle, Pirate Flag Battle, and Online Mode. In Pirate Base, one can spend Beli (the game's version of money) to unlock characters, both Battle and Support Characters. Many of the battle characters are unlocked through story mode, but only three support characters are available by Episode 4, so using the money earned in battle is put to good use here. You can also put together a Pirate Crew that can then be "called" in other modes. This means that players can use the same team(s) again and again without having to run through the selection process each time, especially if the fighters are particular favorites. Collection keeps up with everything from Key Terms to Titles to Emblems. Free Battle lets players choose all aspects of a fight: characters, location, and rules.
Choose a battle location in Free Battle.
WANTED Versus provides a large amount of content and is fun to play because one has more control in this mode. The more that you play, the more that's unlocked within the mode itself. Here, players collect Wanted Posters, fighting the "Wanted" characters with whichever fighters one chooses. After completing the first set of Wanted Posters, a second will unlock, and so forth. Special classes of Wanted Posters will appear, as well, such as Special or Limited Time bounties. Additionally, Rayleigh provides different training sessions here. This is a great place to collect money and experiment with different fighters. This place can be challenging, as well (the ghost wrangler is really hard to hit), but being allowed to choose one's own fighters (except in special instances) makes it less frustrating.
The achievement list for the game looks fair. The one downside is that many of the descriptions are the same, so it might be difficult at times to know exactly for what you're aiming. For example, the description "Play the Wanted Poster List in WANTED Versus. (Secret)" appears identically under eight different achievements. Otherwise, the achievements display a nice variety. While it will take time and effort to complete all the achievements, none of them should be impossibly hard for those with good fighting skills. For those who are less proficient with fighting games, it will be a rough completion. The 100 million Beli could be a bit grindy, but some of the more difficult Wanted Posters pay very good money, so it shouldn't be that bad.
One Piece: Burning Blood is enjoyable even for those unfamiliar with the anime, but the game is at its best for those who already have some knowledge of the story's events. Some of the fights are brutal, making it increasingly difficult to progress the story, especially if the player isn't proficient at fighters and making combos. There are also some balancing issues that can make fights more difficult than they should be. Outside of the campaign, other modes add a nice variety of gameplay, and players can fight alone or with a friend both locally and online. Overall, this is a fun title but is not a completion for the faint at heart.
- Several different modes for variety
- Choice of manual combos or simple controls
- Can become tedious and repetitive
- Some stupidly hard fights
- No English voice option
The reviewer spent twelve hours battling marines, pirates, and lords before getting stuck in the fourth story arc, earning 22 of the game's 50 achievements along the way. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.