One Piece first debuted back in Japan through Shonen Jump in 1997 in manga form before being made into an anime and continues to be one of the longest running manga and anime alongside the likes of Detective Conan. This has spawned countless video games over the years, with the latest taking on the emotional Paramount War arc in the fan friendly One Piece: Burning Blood.
A number of different developers have taken on the One Piece series over the years, with a large number being handled by Ganbarion. However, Bandai Namco has instead given the reigns to Spike Chunsoft who developed another title involving One Piece characters with the somewhat similar J-Stars Victory VS+ that released last year in the US. While J-Stars Victory VS+ was focused on bringing together a large roster of Shonen Jump characters, this is an exclusively One Piece game that allows for the story to be the focus.
The story mode in One Piece: Burning Blood is simply named Paramount War after the story arc, which is better known in the Japanese version as the Marineford arc. For fans of One Piece, the presentation of the anime will be an absolute treat as you get to see the story recreated in the game. This is largely due to the beautiful cel-shaded cutscenes that really feel like they are lifted from the anime, though the game sometimes pushes the plot forward with narration over still images. One of the best little touches is the level of shading that is done to where it truly does look like it is almost hand drawn, which fits very well with a series like One Piece.
One Piece is infamously known for its abysmal first attempt at a dub from 4Kids back in 2004, but the ongoing Funimation dub is a quality product. However, One Piece: Burning Blood features only the original Japanese voice acting. The original Japanese cast is fantastic in of themselves, but the fact that this game focuses on the story arc that the Funimation dub is currently releasing on DVD in the US is somewhat disappointing, as players that may be enjoying the English dub cannot then play through the game with those familiar voices.
Coming from Spike Chunsoft, One Piece: Burning Blood definitely borrows a similar gameplay system to that of J-Stars Victory VS+, though on a lesser scale. One Piece: Burning Blood features one-on-one fights with up to three characters per team, which can be chosen from a very rich roster of characters that fans of the series will greatly appreciate. Some of these characters can be unlocked by playing through the Paramount War mode, but you will have to do some grinding for in-game money to unlock the full roster of characters.
The fighting system is far from complex, as each character is controlled in much the same way as the rest of the roster. Each character has their basic attacks and guard through the use of the face buttons, which can then be turned into special moves by holding down L1 and then pressing the corresponding face button. This system is a bit of a double edged sword as it allows players to experience the full roster of characters without having to worry about learning special move inputs, such as with a series like Street Fighter, but it also prevents them from feeling all that unique input wise.
On the other hand, while the inputs feel the same across the full roster, the actual move sets are quite unique for the different players. The diverse characters found in the roster in One Piece: Burning Blood each feel as if the developer truly crafted a move set that is true to the series itself, which made playing as them a great experience. This is made even better by adding in the easy to pull off Ultimate moves that are specific to the different characters, which really help to bring the characters to life.
Where the gameplay can get even better is in the ability to switch out characters when dishing out combos or even when about to take damage, which adds a lot more strategy to each fight involving more than one character on each side. The only bad part about this is that you will be knocked back frequently and it can often take forever to get back up close to your opponent.
Beyond the respectable number of playable characters in the game, there are also even more support characters that can help you in battle. The roster of which can be used in a variety of different ways, including those that boost, heal, and more. Some of these are activated in certain situations in battle, while the rest can be mapped to the d-pad, with the ability to call on them at any time.
The story itself in One Piece: Burning Blood is split into episodes that includes main chapter missions that push the main story along, as well as extra chapters that up the difficulty significantly. These range from chapters where you have to defeat enemies to some where you just have to survive, along with tutorials during the first Luffy episode. Playing through story mode will not only open up the further episodes beyond Luffy, but it will also unlock the other game modes available to you.
One weird decision by the development team was to only offer Paramount War at the start of the game, which meant that you had to play some of that mode first before even being able to play against a friend in versus. As you progress, you will unlock modes like Free Battle, Online, Wanted Versus, and Pirate Flag Battle. The Free Battle and Online are pretty much as you would expect, but Wanted Versus and Pirate Flag Battle add a new dimension to the gameplay.
Wanted Versus is the game’s equivalent of a challenge mode, as you can take on a number of different battles that are essentially bounties based on wanted posters. These range in difficulty and get even better with the Special and Limited posters that are more story based, while also being incredibly hard.
Pirate Flag Battle is one of the more surprising game modes in One Piece: Burning Blood, as it feels similar in ways to the Faction Wars in Mortal Kombat X where you choose a Force and then participate in weekly competitions against the other groups. The pirate theme fits here as you venture across the sea-based map to face the other factions in matches against either the CPU or other players online. There isn’t a ton of depth here, but this mode at least has some potential for a follow-up entry.
The Paramount War arc is one of the most well known in the long running One Piece series and has been very faithfully recreated in One Piece: Burning Blood. While the combat and variety of game modes can be a lot of fun, along with beautiful cel-shaded cutscenes, jumping into a story that takes place more than halfway into the nearly 750 episode anime series makes One Piece: Burning Blood one that might be best left to just the most hardcore fans.