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One Piece: Burning Blood Review

The highly popular One Piece franchise, loved for its unique art and zany characters, has had a few well-received games in the past few years thanks to Omega Force.

Taking their Dynasty Warriors template and applying a lick of One Piece paint, the One Piece: Pirate Warriors games may have been a little repetitive, but they were solid and highly enjoyable nonetheless. The newest game in the One Piece franchise however, One Piece: Burning Blood developed by Spike Chunsoft, moves away from Omega Force’s efforts, instead presenting us with a straight-up fighting game in the vein of J-Stars Victory VS.

Much like the aforementioned title and CyberConnect2’s Naruto: Ultimate Ninja STORM games, One Piece: Burning Blood offers an experience that’s all about style rather than substance; your limited basic moveset being bolstered by a range of admittedly awesome looking special attacks and “awakening” enabled super moves that are as extraordinary as they are long-winded. Talking about looks though, even when you’re not pulling off special moves, One Piece: Burning Blood looks jaw-dropping thanks to its stunningly detailed characters and environments. The resulting battles then are undeniably spectacular to look at, but mechanically very scrappy and unbalanced. Too often the best tactic seems to be just to button bash and hope for the best, mostly because of its range of convoluted and inconsistent systems that are never particularly well explained.

Always fighting one-on-one but with up to two more pugilists ever-ready at the wings, the shallow and repetitive nature of each character’s moveset is at least offset by your ability to switch between them at will. You can even take up to three support characters into battle with you, providing bonuses under certain conditions that add an element of dynamism to each fight. It’s therefore just a shame that One Piece: Burning Blood’s combat can be so rage-inducing, as when your opponents are at their gentlest it’s jolly good fun to both play and watch.

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With no selectable difficulty level, a huge amount of One Piece: Burning Blood’s content will more than likely prove to be frustratingly hard for most casual players. Enemy AI frequently feels like it cheats, telepathically reading your attacks to ready up an evasive manoeuvre or counter. Sometimes your opponents will take to skirting around the edge of the rather oversized battle arenas, repeatedly flinging a barrage of projectiles your way which you’ll struggle to avoid due to the awkward camera placement and stilted dodge mechanic. No doubt the hardcore contingent that put some serious time and effort into learning the combat system’s nuances will fare better than most, but I still can’t imagine it could ever be considered as fulfilling or fair.

Whilst the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, one area where One Piece: Burning Blood hits the mark is content. Well, mostly. Paramount War mode is One Piece: Burning Blood’s chief single player mode, challenging players to play through four episodes set during the Marineford arc of One Piece’s story. The problem is that it’s rather brief. Each episode takes around an hour to complete when just focusing on making it to the end, although with many fights also having sub-objectives that unlock additional scenes when completed, completionists may eke a bit more life out of them.  It’s also a bit of a shame that the story relies on you already having prior knowledge of One Piece; potentially alienating those that like the look of the title but don’t have a clue what’s going on.

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Once you’ve made solid progress into the first episode of the Paramount War mode, One Piece: Burning Blood truly opens up, granting you access to all of its offerings. There’s a single player Wanted Poster mode that will eat up a huge chunk of time should you have the skill to conquer it, challenging you to complete a growing number of fights under various conditions. Elsewhere, there’s also a range of modes where you can use any of the game’s 40-plus unlockable fighters as well as the huge number of support characters, such as free battle, online and Pirate Flag Battle. The latter of which allows you to engage in weekly wars, choosing a faction and fighting both online and against the CPU to win control of locations across the seas. I have to say though, that during my time spent playing online with the title, fights were often crippled by lag.

One Piece: Burning Blood is a game full of potential, but ultimately it disappoints. The Paramount War mode is truly the highlight of the package, featuring some fantastically recreated story scenes, but it’s rather brief and is marred by an erratic difficulty level. Other than that, whilst playing against friends either locally or online can be a real blast, it’s just too unbalanced to spend too much time elsewhere without becoming unduly frustrated by it all. Maybe one day an anime brawler with drop-dead gorgeous visuals and solid fighting mechanics will materialise, but until then, only the most dedicated and patient One Piece fans will find any long-term fun with One Piece: Burning Blood.

One Piece: Burning Blood is available on PS4, Xbox One and PS Vita. We reviewed the Xbox One version.
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!