One Piece: Burning Blood is a dime-a-dozen as far as anime based fighters go. It's sure to entertain long-time fans of the series with its faithful character representations, but has little in the ways of depth of longevity to offer a broader audience.
Most games based on popular Shounen anime fall in one of two categories: they’re either some sort of RPG, or much more often, they’re some kind of fighting game. Those of the latter category almost always have dubious distinction of being pretty mediocre and adhering to the same old tired formula. With relatively shallow depth, little in the form of character balance and repetitive gameplay even for a fighting game, these games often fail to appeal to a general public and bank on winning over fans of the source material with their often faithful depiction and the promise of a chance to make dream matches a reality.
One Piece: Burning Blood, based on the still running show One Piece, is a new addition to this library of games coming to western shores. And it does nothing to change the identity of anime-based fighters.
In fact, Burning Blood takes a look at games like Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi or the Naruto Ninja Storm games and delivers an extremely comparable experience, swapping out Saiyans and Ninjas for a cast of colorful pirates. The game’s storyline focuses on the Battle of Marineford, and on that arc alone. It is a part of the story that appears quite a ways into the grand story of the animated series, and for those unfamiliar with the source material it will cause the necessary confusion. It’s highly unlikely that people who don’t watch the show would even play this game – there’s little to enjoy for people who can’t get excited about seeing an elastic pirate pummel the living bejeezus out of fishmen, drag queens and lavapeople.
The storymode itself, being based on just one arc, is relatively short. You have to complete it with multiple characters though, each having their own Story Mode chapter. These chapters all focus on the same events, just from a different perspective. This makes the various chapters extremely repetitive and a little boring. But you’ll have to play through it (at least a bit) to unlock other modes, like versus, training mode and ‘Wanted VS’.
Wanted VS is the primary singleplayer mode besides the story arcs, and has you clear bounties by fighting against specific opponents. Each win nets you in-game rewards and increases you rank, allowing for new, more challenging fights to unlock. It is a fun mode that fits well within a One Piece game.
No matter how underwhelming the game’s main single-player mode may be, fighting games are made by the quality of their multiplayer and gameplay. There’s few options here: offline and online versus modes are present as expected, and not much else. A fun aspect is the possibility of playing together with a friend (as a tag team) rather than just against others. One Piece: Burning Blood sadly does not succeed to deliver in those areas either. The fights are often chaotic and quickly devolve into either frantic buttonmashing, or the repetition of the one or two maneuvers that seem to work. There is no depth to be found anywhere, and even less balance. But it all looks just like the anime it’s based on, and all the flashy and familiar attacks are there. There’s a grand total of 44 selectable characters, a respectable number. The chances are good that your favorite character is present. The game features an original Japanese voice cast, adding to the authenticity of the game, and every detail has been taken care of. There is just one major downfall to all of it: it’s just so dull. When all is said and done, battles require little thinking and all play out in much the same fashion each and every time. Characters have their own unique animations and attacks, but half the time these are just different animations that don’t actually change much in regards to actual gameplay, strongly diminishing each character’s unique feel. Of course, it’s pretty cool to see all those unique cinematic super moves. From a tactical however, it matters little how they look if they are all activated with the same button in the same way for practically each and every character.
That’s not to say that all characters are exactly the same. Some indeed have more range, more health or better defensive options. It’s just that after about an hour in, every match feels like it revolves around the same set of tactics, and that simply gets old quick. Whether you’re playing singleplayer or multiplayer changes how much fun the game is immensely: playing with or against a friend, no matter if you’re in versus mode or take alternate turns in the singleplayer mode is endlessly more rewarding than playing One Piece Burning Blood alone. But even with a friend it can only last for so long before all the glamour has faded from a hollow and depthless game.
If you are a great One Piece fan, you’ll enjoy all the great cinematics, faithful character representation and fanservice that this game has plenty off. For a quick, action-packed bout every now and then, Burning Blood does its job. If you want an experience that will satisfy you for a long time, you have to look elsewhere however, and if you’re unfamiliar with the anime series you probably don’t have to consider picking this up at all.
It’s a shame that One Piece Burning Blood isn’t more than another standard anime fighting game that doesn’t try to break the mold, but that’s what it is.