Short Version: It’s good, but not great. Its pretty much Pokken Tournament with One Piece characters. It contains all the fan service you are expecting out of a One Piece game, but don’t expect anything super complex in terms of fighting. This is very much a game where you can play intelligently, but it inherently favors style or substance. If you’re interested, go into it knowing that.
Long Version: Just like many anime fans out there, I always think it’s a cool thing to see your favorite anime series have their own game, in which you can play as your favorite characters and see them in action. Most of the time, people are satisfied with just seeing references and pieces of fan service in these games, while others seek for faithfulness of the source material along with a competent gameplay experience. One Piece: Burning Blood seems to want to cater to both, with gameplay that has the potential to be complex, but ultimately falls flat in favor of flashy visuals that appeal to a more casual audience; preferring to watch Luffy go into Fourth Gear instead of actually thinking about what they are doing during a fight.
Set Sail Once Again
For people that don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, let me give you a brief summary. One Piece is an incredibly popular manga and anime series about pirates, one of which is named Monkey D. Luffy, who wishes to become king of the pirates. Him, along with his many friends embarks on a journey to fulfill that goal. In this world, there are things called Devil Fruits. When you eat one of them, you are given super powers such as turning into some natural element, being able to transform into an animal or a variety of other insane powers that you have to see to believe.
I felt the necessity of explaining that, since the game makes no effort in introducing people to the general world and lore of One Piece. Alongside that issue, the game also has a very short story mode that only covers one particular story arc, featuring a measly 4-6 characters out of the many, many others you’ll be able to play as in other modes. This mode, although it boasts some very nice looking cutscenes, feels crummy at best. Every mission is introduced with a small slide show with images from the anime, and then it changes to the 3D rendered cutscenes that end up getting recycled various times throughout the different episodes. When you actually get to the fighting, it’s tends to have a level of difficulty that ranges from incredibly easy to unfairly getting half of your health chopped off with only one well placed hit.
The combat in this game is strange, since I can definitely see some moments where the systems can be used intelligently for some high-level play, but it almost seems like the game itself rejects that, and would rather just show off some really flashy, nice looking visuals that call back to the show’s craziness. There are many interesting moments where experimenting with different devil fruit powers can have a very real effect on how the fight goes, along with using one’s Haki abilities. However, one will soon discover that most characters will feel the same with not a lot of strategies behind them beyond button mashing and learning when to dodge at the right time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I can use someone like Crocodile, press a button and have the opponent’s physical attacks completely faze through his body, due to him having sand powers. The fact that the game does everything possible to play by the rules of the world that they are in is remarkable, with all the characters being able to do exactly what you expect of them. One great example would lie in the character Sanji, who loves women, therefore is completely incapable of fighting them, with nothing but giant hearts appearing in his eyes as he gets his butt kicked by any of the swimsuit-clad ladies in the cast. Another great example is being able to use Haki, which is one of the most reliable things one can use to fight against devil fruit users. All the elements are there for a great fighting game, but it is instead relegated to only pressing the square button a lot, with occasional triangle and circles button presses; that is, if I can even reach them at all.
No, It’s Not Like Naruto
The reason I say that is due to the fact that the fighting takes place in a big open arena where you can run around freely. In this space, there is barely anything to take advantage of in terms of environmental hazards, items or events that would warrant such a stage. Since all of them are completely flat and way too big, it gets to the point where I always find myself chasing down my opponent rather than actually fighting them. Going through this struggle really makes me think that perhaps this game would’ve been better suited as a more traditional, 2D style of fighting like Guilty Gear or Blazblue, since it already feels like I’m playing in Stylish Mode most of the time and I wouldn’t have worry about playing Tag with my opponent. If I had to make any other parallel, I would have to bring up Pokken Tournament, since in my opinion, both games feel and play almost identical to each other, even in that they both look like they can be so much more, but they’re not.
Lay Off The Sea Stone
Eventually I get a good groove going with all the fights I’m in, and it is actually really fun, but it still leaves a lot to be desired, to the point that I would rather play something like Pirate Warriors 3, a game that arguably does everything that Burning Blood is trying to do, but better. Even then, that never stopped me from doing challenges and playing online to get more money, which I could use to buy more characters. I was happy spending a lot of time just going down the line and playing as all the characters, just to see what everyone did and what they would say when paired up with or against certain characters. This, along with the character’s special moves and references to the anime are the majority of the joy that one out of a game like Burning Blood, but don’t expect any high-level, competitive play out of this slow and clunky fighting system, unless you are really searching deep for it.
I absolutely recommend this game for when you have a gathering with friends that love One Piece just as much as you, where you can all just beat each other up without much thought behind it. However, if you are playing this game expecting to see it at EVO or something, you’re in the wrong place.