So the only thing I knew about One Piece when I installed this game on my PS4, other than it being a popular manga, were the words Pirate King, and I’m not sure if I really know much more than that at present. I do know a thing or two about fighting games though, and usually enjoy them, even outside of the main franchises. I also like anime. This is just a series that has somehow escaped me over the years. That is all okay though, because I am a quick study and was eager to dig into One Piece: Burning Blood for a bit of a different experience.
The game starts up with an engaging title screen and busy menu page. In the beginning there is only one option though, to play the story mode, called Paramount War. It drops new players right into the thick of a tale and is quite confusing, even past normal anime standards. It tells the story through different perspectives and with little exposition. I am sure it makes sense to those who are caught up on the story though, and I hear these are important events in the lore.
There is a lot of reading, since the voices are in Japanese, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to change that. Music is good in this though, catchy without being overpowering. There are manga styled panels and some really nice cutscenes that bring everything together nicely. I love the animation with bold colors and shading, making the characters pop out with some very up close shots. A small gripe is that my PS4 kept telling me it was disabling game capture in the cutscenes, which gets old quick with how many there are. This notification can be turned off, but it was annoying.
There are a ton of different characters, around fifty at launch, and even support characters that are there to act as special abilities at times. Supposedly though, there are still some major players missing according to fans. How many characters does this anime actually have? These can all be unlocked with in-game money in a Wanted mode. With that many characters it is hard to imagine that they are all unique, but the ones I played were, in animations and attack mechanics. This is neat, but does apparently cause some balancing issues, which is common for a fighting game. The title seems to have a lot of support though, with developers already making tweaks and there being a button on the main menu to check the most recent news for the game.
The tutorial was a bit confusing at first with not labeling the buttons, but instead using words like ‘attack’ and ‘special’ to signify inputs. So if the player forgets which button does what, or can’t recall the button combination does the special attack or guard, it can cause some issues. Special attacks don’t require a ton of memorization, as all are performed the same way, but depth of the system comes in realizing what is best to counter the opponent and that each character performs their moves differently, making some situation specific for placement and timing. After the initial hump of confusion the combat will seem simple and grow quickly from there, attempting to be friendly to new and skilled players alike.
The fighting is way more engaging once all of the moves and techniques are available, but my biggest problem was the movement. I feel slow, and a bit sluggish on some attacks, but it is the environment that feels hindering. Stage designs are good, colorful, and seem to fit the source material and tone of the game, but don’t feel like real 3D planes. The arenas feel small and restrictive when dodging, and trying to take advantage of space or close distances is a little disorienting. This may not be as big a problem for people more accustom to games that use similar engines, but other fighters commonly use tighter physics and traditional camera angles to help orient players. The game is being compared mostly to the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series and J-Stars, which seems appropriate, but I’m not sure it is doing much to further evolve this genre of fighter.
The story mode does not last long at all, but there are extra fights that can be unlocked when certain conditions are met, and some fights will take multiple attempts. Thankfully the story section allows players to unlock other modes, everything like free play or online, and they open up quickly. It also looks like some other modes may be coming later on, adding to the replay value. It seems like there is more to explore here, and real fans of the series and game will have a lot on their hands, but I see a lot of other people who have no prior investment dropping out and uninstalling.The story is almost over by the time the game gets comfortable and it was geared towards fans.
I’m still not a hundred percent sure exactly what happened, and a couple of people have recommended me Wikipedia pages. That doesn’t sound appealing, and I’m betting others will feel the same way. The combat system will discourage another large chunk of players, but not because it is necessarily bad. I need to be honest and say that any chance of doing much with this game post-review is slim. It’s a better bet that this has encouraged me to watch the anime though and give One Piece a chance in that medium. For the fans though, or someone who can’t get enough of fighting titles, there is value here.