When working with original IP, developer Spike Chunsoft tends to do quality work that earns strong reviews in the industry, like with its Zero Escape and Danganronpa franchises. Unfortunately, when the studio works on licensed properties, it tends to stumble, and that pattern holds true for its latest licensed effort, One Piece: Burning Blood.
One Piece: Burning Blood is a 3D arena fighter in which players battle by using a variety of characters from the anime/manga series One Piece. And if one has to be told what One Piece: Burning Blood is based on, chances are the game isn’t for them, as it would make almost no sense to anyone unfamiliar with the franchise.
This approach means that those that watch One Piece may have fun controlling some of their favorite characters from the anime, but fighting game fans that don’t know a Devil Fruit from the Going Merry will be lost. This is because the developers decided to have One Piece: Burning Blood set during a story arc that occurs hundreds of episodes into the anime, and the game itself offers little explanation as to who the characters are, what their motivations are, or what is really even going on.
The story arc that One Piece: Burning Blood adapts is the fan-favorite Marineford arc, itself a part of the Paramount War saga. The Marineford arc details the attempt by main protagonist and pirate Monkey D. Luffy to save his brother, Ace, from being executed by the marines. Overall, this is a mere sliver of One Piece‘s story, with very limited scope, and as a result, players can expect to fight the same opponents in the same arenas for most of the story mode.
The game’s story mode has other problems as well. For the most part, it’s a breezy affair, with many opponents that can be defeated by spamming the same attacks over and over, but there are instances where the game suffers from sudden difficulty spikes. These difficulty spikes are caused by certain characters that are simply overpowered, which is a problem that is apparent in all of One Piece: Burning Blood‘s game modes.
Other fighting games like Street Fighter V have done betas in order to have some semblance of balance before launch, but it’s clear that not a lot of effort went into making One Piece: Burning Blood a balanced experience. There are some fighters that are just far better than others, and going against them in any of the game modes can be a pain. The special attacks of Luffy, for example, are downright ridiculous, and can be easily abused in the various game modes. Granted, having major differences in ability between characters is true to the source material, but it’s not necessarily the best approach when developing a competitive fighting game.
Due to the unbalanced characters, playing One Piece: Burning Blood online can be a frustrating affair. Having said that, the game at least has a lively community in its early days, which makes getting into ranked and player matches easy. Furthermore, the game also manages to capture the look of battles from the anime, so even while losing, diehard One Piece fans may still be able to have fun marveling at the visuals.
Even the gorgeous visuals created by developer Spike Chunsoft can’t save One Piece: Burning Blood from its biggest flaw, however: most of the time, the game seems dull, with players spending the majority of fights just trying to get close enough to actually land an attack. Sometimes players may even feel reluctant to hit their opponents with more powerful attacks, just to avoid having to chase after them once they’ve been sent flying across the arena. While smaller arenas would have meant less room for flashy over-the-top attacks, they would have kept the fighting more intimate, and players constantly engaged in the action.
This flaw and its others make One Piece: Burning Blood from Spike Chunsoft and publisher Bandai Namco somewhat difficult to recommend even to those that are huge fans of the anime. While it’s neat to relive one of the stronger stretches of story from the source material, the core fighting gameplay is marred by an unbalanced roster, and too much time is spent chasing opponents around the arenas. Even so, some dedicated One Piece enthusiasts may still find the game worth checking out, if only because there is a general lack of localized One Piece games available – a problem that other popular anime series don’t seem to have. In the meantime, those that have little knowledge about the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirate crew will probably struggle to stay interested in One Piece: Burning Blood.
One Piece: Burning Blood is available for PS4, PS Vita, and Xbox One, with a PC release coming soon. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.