Manic on screen action, check. Huge sweat droplets, check. A lot of yelling in Japanese, check. Fans of the “One Piece” universe rejoice, you finally have a next-gen anime fighter to sink hours into. For those not wise in the ways of this style on manga, feel free to be curious, but beware. This 3D fighting game has been made with love, but perhaps not the precision many mainstream fighting gamers desire.
One Piece is an off-the-wall animated series first released in Japan in the late 90s, all about a crew of pirates and their mad adventures. Burning Blood draws on the canon from more recent series however unless you are a long-term fan, you will have no idea who is who and what the hell is going on. That said, the actual story mode is very short and if anything services as a nice intro to the fighting mechanics.
Multi-character arena battles is the titles unabashed flavour, featuring all the colour and crazy moves one would expect from a manga game in this genre. A huge roster of 44 characters battle it out in 9 large arenas against both CPU and other gamers online. The amount of content is impressive, especially if you are a lover of constant cheesy manga tropes.
In accompaniment to the short campaign, is the more substantial online versus system, which even prior to release seemed to perform solidly and offered a huge amount of replyability. The major time sink is a simple map control sub-game. This sub-game has players align themselves to a particular pirate crew for a ‘season’ and in turn fight opposing gamers online to gain control of islands spread across the world map.
If they win, the island becomes aligned with ‘their’ crew, the goal being to control the most of the map for the season. Every fight earns players credits which are spent on unlocking characters, support buffs and the obligatory cosmetic add-ons. So, Beautiful to look at and certainly fun, unfortunately One Piece: Burning Blood lacks polish. Silly mis-steps along the way, such as UI issues that makes simple menu navigation feel unintuitive. When I had my characters level up, I had to click through every single character alert, one after the next, before I could move on.
The games core fighting mechanics are based around the classic short range, long range and special attacks combos. These combos are key to winning, eventually filling power meters up to unleash impressive finishers which are truly a thing to behold when executed correctly. The screen becomes a flurry of colour and destruction. Unfortunately the technical execution leaves a bit to be desired, as Burning Blood feels like it lacks precision.
For example, losing fights due to a character being stuck in an animation or being unresponsive for a moment is criminal in a fighting game. Those split-seconds are the make or break in a fighter. For the player to know they need to put up a ‘block’, but can’t, only to watch the character sit idle for half a second before being pummelled into the ground is super frustrating. A game can have all the moves sets, modes and characters it wants, but if the core mechanics don’t feel fair, then swear words will ensue.
The unfaltering loyalty to the source material is impressive but comes at the cost of balancing and precision. To play this game you must be a card carrying member of the fanbase, as I suspect the majority of gamers will not put up with the design compromises made in the name of wackiness.