Want more One Piece videogame reviews? Here you go!
Oddly enough, there aren’t that many One Piece fighting games.
Yes, still being one of the biggest Shonen Jump franchises of course Luffy and some others One Piece characters appear as playable protagonists in crossover titles, like J-Stars Victory + or the more recent Jump Force, and of course we have the entire Grand Battle/Adventure series, which is more in the vein of Power Stone though. But as far as “1 vs 1” (or 2 vs 2) One Piece fighters, the last proper one we got was the fairly obscure PS2 Fighting For One Piece game, released in 2005 only in Japan.
We’ll talk about that when and if i manage to import a copy.
Please note most of the screenshots are taken directly from my PS4 via the Share function, and are in italian (since it’s localized as far the text goes), others are from other sources since the game blocks story cutscenes from being recorded on the console.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING AT MARINEFORD
Burning Blood’s story mode focuses on the Paramount War/Marineford Arc, and just that for some reason. I guess Spike Chunsoft took a bit TOO much to heart the criticism of J Stars Victory story mode being needlessly long and drawn out for the sake of “content” (which it was, let’s be honest, it was insanely long and with complexities for their own sake), but at least it could have included Impel Down, it would have been good material and that arc connects directly to the Paramount War itself.
That said, ultimately it amounts to a 5 hours max story mode.
The choices to focus on this narrative arc also means it’s NOT recommended to players that have no knowledge of One Piece, as this arc has one of the most important moment of the series, one that i’m not gonna spoil just for etiquette, since it’s basically common knowledge between anime fans, even if you don’t follow One Piece, and years of people at cons with HUGE ASS spoilers signs helped in this regard. But still, this is mostly for One Piece fans, even with the usual glossary and internal encyclopedia of terms, characters and events, good to have, but most people won’t care much for it outside of the One Piece fanbase, regardless.
I’m gonna stress this further: read/watch the Paramount War/Marineford arc before going into this, , if you don’t want to spoil yourself some twist and events that are far from minor for One Piece. SPOILERS. BIG ONES.
Also, this story setting comes off as a bit restrictive, even after a couple of hours you’ll realize than the story mode makes you duke it out in a couple of arenas (plus the Banaro Island arena), so you’ll get a bit sick of the ice arena near the Marineford wall. Of course the game has more, for a total of 10 stages/arena, but if you just play Store Mode you won’t be able to tell at all. MH.
On the plus side, this means the narrative can cover in detail the events, over the course of the 4 character driven chapters of rising difficulty, narrating each specific parts of the arc that had said character present (also from the prospective of the Marines). Aaand also using this set-up to pad the story mode a bit, as it becomes obvious in Ace’s chapter, which is as short as One Piece fans might reasonably expect (given what he actually does in the arc), and shares a couple of fights already seen in the previous character episodes, which for story reasons have been reused already. But i guess people would have complained if he didn’t have a chapter dedicated, since he is the main driving reason behind the Marineford conflict, why Luffy hurried his escape from Impel Down, etc.
If anything, the story (and the game as a whole) sports a very good – if not great – presentation, aside from utilizing some frames from the anime for visually summarizing some events alongside text, the cutscene are well done, the models look good, very good cel shading, outside of the heavy use of manga style shadows on faces and such.
Looks very good, honestly.
J STARS VICTORY PIECE ++
If you have played J Stars Victory, you’ll find yourself at home, because this is also developed by Spike Chunsoft, and shares a lot of the same DNA, with some differences, but it’s basically a more balanced version of the Jump crossover title with One Piece characters and some new systems that blend stuff like Devil Fruit and Haki into the gameplay. This is the short of it.
Even if you haven’t played the aforementioned games, you’re not gonna need much time to get the basics down, especially if you’ve played any other anime fighter in the last decade or so. I suck at fighting games, but i’ve played enough of Tekken, Soul Calibur, Street Fighter and such in the past (even recent past), and this isn’t geared towards a more competitive playerbase, this is an anime fighter through and through, fairly typical 3D one, but it’s not as shallow as usual, i’ve played many fighters of this kind, at least.
Still, it IS geared towards a more casual public, so while each character has different moves, super moves, and such, it has simplified controls, so the basic controls are the same for any character, with the typical combinations for throwing/projection, defense-break, parrying, so you won’t need to remember long strings of input or character specific combos or attacks. Not that they don’t exist, but the streamlined controls aren’t exactly new in these anime fighters, where a large portion of people playing them would like to feel badass with their favourite character without committing hours and hours in training and memorizing combos. So the main combo is done by mashing the main attack button, and as long as the blows connect, it will continue with an automatic finishing special move (the main one for that character) that launches away characters.
There is a bit more, as some character have Devil Fruit powers and/or Ambition in the arsenal (clearly indicated in the character select screen), which means some characters can use their special power to transform into fire, ice or something you can’t hit with normal attacks, unless you yourself use Ambition in your moves to counter the Devil Fruit powers. To balance things out, there is a specific bar for going into these altered/power up states, otherwise fighters without Devil Fruit or Ambition would be used as towels to clean up the battlefield in seconds. You also have a fairly typical supermove available by filling the special bar, but it isn’t overpowered or unblockable.
You can also use team attacks, support attacks, and cancel out the enemy’s tag or support attack, if you have another character in your team. Also you can defend by performing a perfectly timed parry or timed attack, which is nice. In the stages/arena there are some minor destructible elements, but are just for ambiancè, there are no stage gimmicks, and it makes sense given this one tries to be a little more deep than most anime fighters. And while not that much, it’s definitely a bit more complex and balanced than most any fighters (definitely an improvement over J Stars Victory), and despite the unified control scheme, the streamlined combo system, the characters do feel different enough, with some skills having specific usage, different lenghts of the main combo, transformations, etc.
The roster sports 44 playable characters (40 plus DLC) has some interesting characters, aside from 6 variations of Luffy (like the Gear 4th one or the Afro get up of the Davy Back fight), like Koala, Diamond Jaws, even Gild Tesoro from One Piece Gold (DLC, as expected), alongside alternate costumed version of characters from their appearance in that movie, like Sabo, Akainu. Of course there is a decent amount of DLC characters, including Rob Lucci and Caesar Clown, but very few are DLC only, most are alternate versions of characters already part of the base roster, like battle damaged, Coliseum get-ups and the inevitable bikini costumes for the female characters.
There’s a Season Pass that goes for 25 bucks standard (and goes on sale often), BUT the main base roster is fairly big, with some characters that oddly are playable here but not in the Pirate Warriors sub-series, and most alternate versions of the characters have different movesets or some extra quirks, instead of just an aesthetic change.
One thing i wish the game explained is the level system, because you get exp for using characters, a nd a tiny bit is shared among all unlocked characters. And it isn’t obvious what this level system does, there’s no tutorial or explaination in the guide section of the game itself (maybe its in the digital manual), so despite having spent almost 10 hours already on the game, i had to google it, and it basically increases the attack and defense of a character… in pretty much all modes, outside of competitive online matches, for obvious balance reasons.
As mentioned before, story mode, while serving as a decent tutorial (necessary to unlock most of the characters) and being the best place to start the game from, it’s not lenghty and kinda stretches itself a bit due to focusing only on the Marineford/Paramount War arc, so in 4/5 hours you’ll be done with it, even with the extra battles you can unlock.
Outside of story mode, you have the usual online versus, free battle, and the two modes you’ll most likely spend time with: WANTED VS and Pirate Flag Battle.
The first one gives you many fights against various combinations of characters and rising IA levels, special fights to unlock the next tier of missions/fights, with some special fights, and has the typical set of “learn by practice” challenge missions that serve as an advanced tutorial mode. Good for refining the basics, get used to characters, to rack up money and needed to unlock some support characters. Is definitely meatier than the story mode, and there a lot of wanted posters/fights, so you’ll probably spend most time here if you play solo.
Pirate Flag is the most interesting mode, and has you pick one of the factions, and then move around the map to the various One Piece islands/locations, and other factions base. You can use Logpose points to move or to attack a base/island, fighting off strong CPU opponents and other human players for territory control and expanding the power of your pirate faction. Shame its totally online reliant, still works without issues as the time of writing, but eventually will be unaccessible, unless they patch it to work offline, but – let’s be realistic – it won’t happen, since it’s 100 % built to be an online mode, with cicling seasons that dictate scores and chances to change sides.
You can also arrange teams of fighters and buy playable and support characters, which will require some grinding, but not that much, it’s not hard or particularly time consuming to rack up a million or two (most characters costing these sums). All with in-game money ONLY, i need to specify that now, it’s so alien for many nowadays to concieve a game made for your enjoyment and NOT made worse on purpose so you can buy “virtual coins” to eliminate the non-optional grind they added in.
On the technical side, i don’t have much to say, performance is mostly good, short load times, fluid gameplay, and – as said before – the character models are pretty good too, very, VERY good cel shading, great presentation and attention to detail, like how in the Marineford arenas you can see stylized war cry as onomatopeia, very nice touch. Online performance is also good, thankfully online servers are still up and i was able to find someone to fight against without wasting hours, performance might vary, but in my experience there wasn’t any huge lag or anything. It’s not Anarchy Reigns.
Also, as nice plus, the game supports Cross Play and Cross Save between the PS4 and PS Vita versions. Not necessary (and irrelevant for PC and X-Box One users), but welcome.
One Piece Burning Blood isn’t a revolution in anime fighters by any means, created not for the fighting game entusiasts ready to master many systems to perfection and to host tournaments, but for a more casual audience that wants to play as their favourite One Piece characters without having to memorized lenghty button combos, and don’t particularly care for perfect game balance.
In many ways, it’s basically a One Piece themed version of the previous Spike Chunsoft’s anime fighter, the Jump cross-over extravaganza known as J-Stars Victory +, but more balanced and with the abilities of the Devil Fruits taken into account for gameplay to spice things up, with some effort to make the characters more unique despite the very streamlined approach to the combo system (and the overall controls) often seen in these 3D anime fighting games. Fairly big roster too, even without the DLC offerings, and good performance overall.
Story mode is a bit disappointing because the game covers only the Marineford/Paramount War arc (full of spoilers and important, pivotal events for the One Piece storyline), which makes for a 4/5 hours of story content, and even then things feel a bit dragged on for the sake of “fidelity”. If anything, the narrative and presentation are pretty good, characters models are curated and sport a very good cel shading, and the events of the arc are covered in detail instead of being summarized briefly . Other modes do offer move longevity, with plenty of fights and advanced tutorials against CPU opponents of rising difficulty, an online dependant conquest mode where you choose a faction and battle against other players (and very hard CPU opponents) to expand your territory, outside of the usual free battle and online ranked matches.
Definitely worth picking up for the price it goes by now (digital or physical), a decent-good anime fighter, even if it’s mostly for fans (again, since the story mode is surprisingly thin and focuses on a single narrative arc full of potential big spoilers for those outside of One Piece fandom or who started reading/watching it recently), but it does fill a surprising hole in One Piece’s gaming output, as far as “proper”, typical fighting games go (not the Power Stone inspired Battle Rush series), unless you happen to have played the forgotten, Japan-only Fighting For One Piece on PS2.