One Piece: Burning Blood Review (PS4 & Vita)

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  • System: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, Steam
  • Developer: Bandai Namco
  • Release Date: May 31st, 2016 (Steam is still waiting)
  • Pricing:$59.99 (PS4, XBO, Steam), $39.99 (Vita)
  • Genre: Fighting, Action
  • Official Website: http://www.onepiece-game.com/us/

Who it caters to

Those familiar with Shonen Jump’s other famous franchise, Naruto, and the accompanying fighting games in the Ninja Storm series will find similar gameplay and fun in One Piece: Burning Blood. The game takes the popular One Piece franchise and turns it into a well-rounded fighting game featuring several different ways to play, giving players various options once all the story modes have been completed.

What to expect

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As anime begins to occupy a larger space in nerd culture, the rise of anime games has begun to rise up to meet the new demand. While there have been One Piece games on the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, and Wii, that have been brought over from Japan, the PlayStation 3 really kicked off the rise and frequency of One Piece games getting translated. The PlayStation 3 not only boasts all three Pirate Warriors games, which are a hack and slash warriors type games, but also One Piece Unlimited World Red which was also released on the Vita and supported cross play. It’s a good time to be a One Piece fan given all the video game options nowadays and One Piece: Burning Blood continues that tradition by bringing something new to the table.

Story *Spoilers Ahead for the Show/Manga*

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For those who are already fans of the manga and anime, the story mode revolves around the Paramount War and takes players through different character’s viewpoints during the epic battle. It’s a story that has been told and retold a countless number of times.

Ace has been abducted by Blackbeard who then brings him to the Marines. The Marines then announce the date Ace is set to be executed in an attempt to lure the Whitebeard Pirates into an all-out war. The trap is set and triggered, but no one expected Luffy and Jinbe appear out of nowhere and assist in the rescue mission and this throws a wrench in Sengoku’s plot. Luffy frees Ace and as they make their way back to safety, Akainu taunts Ace by insulting Whitebeard. Ace takes the bait, unable to control the rage inside of him and that is all Akainu needs to take advantage of the situation. Akainu launches an attack on an unaware Luffy and Ace instinctively throws himself in front of his little brother, sacrificing himself to save Luffy. From here on, the battle becomes absolute chaos.

For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, the story mode might not make any sense seeing as it throws the player in the middle of a major arc that is far from the beginning of the story and contains major spoilers to the plot, although most anime fans know by this point that Ace dies. For those just diving into One Piece, the various other modes can be quite fun and are still highly recommended.

Gameplay

Within One Piece: Burning Blood, there are several different game modes which allow options to players who may become burnt out on story mode. When the game is started, Paramount War, which is the story mode, is the only option available, but for a good reason. The first several battles of Paramount War Mode serve as a tutorial to get players acquainted with the controls before they go off and have their own adventures in the game.

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Paramount War Mode tells the same story through the eyes of different characters, but the only option to start with is Luffy. Once Luffy is unlocked, another character’s story is unlocked and so on and so forth. The battles in this mode are fairly quick and for this review, it took only an afternoon to clear all of Paramount War. The great thing about this mode is that not only do characters become unlocked as the story progresses, but that the other characters that have been unlocked but aren’t playable still gain experience and grow with the party which helps out later down the road.

While Paramount War is short, the mode has replay value. After a player has cleared a battle, new winning conditions will appear that will unlock EX battles or side battles that add more to the story. The creators really tried to stretch as much game time as possible into this mode considering the small scope of the timeline.

Paramount War isn’t the only playable area of the game, though. The game boasts a pretty healthy online community with ranked and unranked matches. Titles, banners, and icons can be unlocked to display next to a player's’ gamertag, something that is reminiscent of Call of Duty almost. The customization options are limitless and it encourages players to experiment with different characters and combinations. Matches can be customized as well in order to accommodate two or four player matches as well as setting aside private slots for friends.

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Free Battle mode is exactly as it sounds. Players can pick up to nine characters to battle against whatever other characters they desire. This mode also supports two players on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and has an Ad Hoc Fight Mode in the Vita version in order to play against other Vita players. Both of these options are fun to play with friends, though we only tested the PlayStation 4 version so we can’t confirm how smooth the Ad Hoc Fight Mode is.

This mode also has a training mode for those wanting to become familiar with using different characters. The health bar constantly refreshes and there are several different settings for the computer so that players can focus on different aspects of training such as Guard Practice, Combo Training, and Normal Training. Computer player difficulties, as well as the Burning Gauge and Support Characters, can also be adjusted in the settings so that players can make the most of their practice and become familiar with the strategies and techniques of each character.

In addition to Free Battle, Paramount War, and Online, there are two other playable modes: Pirate Flag Battle and WANTED Versus. The latter lists off different wanted posters with bounties with different win conditions so that players may level up their characters and earn rewards. This mode is fairly straightforward and offers limited time wanted posters, training posters under Rayleigh’s tutelage, as well as special high ranked posters that offer the ultimate challenge. This mode is a great place to level up and train characters before diving into the competitive online community and allows players to earn Beli in order to unlock different characters and power them up.

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Probably one of the coolest and most original modes in the game, Pirate Flag Battle allows players to align themselves with one of the famous pirate crews within the One Piece world and conquer the New World. The battle system is still the same, but the concept of winning is slightly different. The game is entirely online and players must work with their teammates to win control over as many islands as possible. The more teammates that win on a certain island, the more control that crew has over it and their ranking will climb, but players don’t have an infinite amount of time to play around. Each game has a set time limit or “season” that lasts two weeks.

After a season ends, players can begin all over again with another crew or the same crew. The goal is to ultimately control all of the islands by battling enemies who are found there. Some will have a ridiculous amount of HP and may take several different crew members over various amounts of time to knock the foe’s HP down to zero and claim the base. The online community for this mode also seems relatively active and healthy though a bit unbalanced seeing as many players choose the Straw Hat crew which makes it difficult to fight for territory. When the Straw Hats have two thousand players to fight for them, the twenty-seven members of the Sun Pirates really have no chance to climb up the leaderboard.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

One Piece: Burning Blood does an amazing job at customization and allows players to even change the theme of the HUD to several popular characters’ signature colors and styles as well as create their own pirate crews in order to streamline the menu process before matches. Control schemes can be changed to whatever the player wishes and the camera has three different optional angles to allow players the ultimate personal experience.

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In regards to the controls themselves, they are easy to pick up and understand. In full disclosure, I am not a fighting game person, but I was able to navigate all the special attacks and moves with ease making the game quite enjoyable for anyone without prior experience to just have fun. Those who are competitive will also enjoy the online ranked matches available to them, so the game is quite versatile in that regard. The menus are also really easy to navigate giving players all the information they need at their fingertips.

Matches consist of the player choosing at least three characters along with three support characters that give different bonuses and battling against three other characters. Characters are divided into Haki and Devil Fruit users and may use their abilities by pressing triangle once or in succession for a combo. A normal attack is used by pressing square and the more the button is pressed, the more damage is done to the opponent. Circle serves as the guard and X is jump. Different buttons can be pressed together to create different combos and once the Burning Gauge at the bottom left is full, players can “Awaken” by pressing R3 making all attacks do more damage. If R3 is pressed again, a special high powered move is unleashed that will create an incredible amount of damage. Players may also switch out their characters in rotations of three in order to block special attacks or be on the offensive.

At the character selection menu, the game will only allow players to choose characters three at a time. The first three characters chosen will be the first three sent out and usable and once those three are defeated, the next three will rotate in and save for the opponent and for all support characters. The number of playable characters and combinations are astounding allowing for many different types of gameplay styles.

While a good portion of the game was fun and enjoyable, there is always room for improvement. The 3D cell shading technique used for most of the cutscenes and gameplay is really gorgeous, but when the game cuts to the narrator and still shots from the anime are shown, the quick change in style is almost jarring. It can only be assumed that there were budget constraints that prevented those scenes from also receiving the 3D treatment as well. The character selection menus also suffer the same fate. While the actual playable characters are seen in their 3D models, the support characters that only boost characters’ stats are shown as they are in the anime, 2D. Again, it seems there may have been some budget constraints and since this really doesn’t affect the gameplay, it can be forgiven.

While there are many different ways and options to play the game, the most disappointing mode seems to be the Paramount War mode which focuses on the story. While many other One Piece games start from the beginning or create a brand new adventure from scratch, OPBB focuses on such a small, yet very pivotal moment in the story and risks alienating those who are unfamiliar with the franchise. Even as a fan, the story mode still seems a bit lackluster and extremely short. It’s really fortunate that there are many end game options to continue the fun, but it’s still disappointing that one of the main modes of play doesn’t live up to the rest of the game.

Now, most of this review utilized the PlayStation 4 Marineford Edition, but we also received and tested how the game translates to the Vita in order to utilize the game’s cross-saving feature. What cross-save does for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is allow those with a PlayStation 4 version of the game to upload their save to the PSN and then download that game save onto their Vita so that those with both versions of the game may take their saved data on the road and play. Sorry, XBO players, this is a Sony only feature!

There were no problems transferring games between systems, but the quality between the Vita and PS4 version were night and day. It’s to be expected that the portable version would not be exactly the same, but many of the differences were by leaps and bounds. The graphics in the Vita version still feature the 3D cell shading technique, but the lines are a thicker black and the background stages are not, which wouldn’t be as big of a deal if the backgrounds were done well. It is really hard not stare at the almost Gamecube graphics in comparison to the well-made character models and it’s also a bit distracting. The game also had some frame-rate problems that distracted from the battles.

In addition to the graphics, the Vita version controls were really hard to get the hang of. Since the Vita does not boast R1, R2, L1, and L2 buttons, the game has virtual buttons on the screen that serve the same purpose to swap out characters, but can be sometimes difficult to reach or miss entirely. Also, there are two other onscreen buttons available on the bottom corners that allow the player to adjust the camera. While the option is nice, these buttons are also somewhat awkward to reach. The game is still playable, but definitely not the same experience as its console big brother. Overall, the Vita version was underwhelming which is disappointing considering the console version is fairly solid.

Honey's Pros:

  • Long list of characters and customization options
  • Healthy online community
  • Several different playable modes allowing replayability
  • One Piece Fans will adore this game

Honey's Cons:

  • Vita version pales in comparison
  • The Paramount War mode is somewhat bland and short
  • Different art styles clash with each other
  • Unbalanced crew in Pirate Flag Battle mode

Honey's Final Verdict(Thoughts):

One Piece: Burning Blood is a bit of a love letter to One Piece fans, but it is nowhere near perfect and revisits a time that has become almost overdone not just in games, but overall in the franchise. While Unlimited World Red certainly had its fair share of problems, the idea of a new adventure involving the Strawhat Pirates was fun and pushed many players onward despite its problems in order to find out the conclusion of the story. OPBB has the reverse problem, the gameplay is quite fun, but the story has been played out in so many different ways that it would be wise to move on from Ace’s death and perhaps focus on a less explored storyline. The developers are in a bit of a hard spot considering the need and desire for more OP games, but are limited to how fast Oda can put out the manga. Perhaps now that Dressrosa has drawn its final curtain, players may see a fully realized game version of events.

In any case, the game is still solid despite the story mode. Discovering how each character moves and interacts with each other before each match is wonderful and shows that the developers really paid attention to the little details and quirks of Oda’s creations. The online modes are really fun, especially the Pirate Flag Battle which has taken an awesome spin on things. While it might not be the best game to introduce newbies too, it’s still a fun game to play with two players in free battle and a solid fighting game.

For those wishing to purchase the game, it is highly recommended to pick up the console version or even the forthcoming Steam version and to maybe pass over the Vita version unless you are someone who loves to take these games on the go. Regardless, this is hands down a must buy for any One Piece fan!

Nikki Flores

Writer

Author: Nikki Flores

You may know me by my witty and excellent prose, but I assure you there is a real person underneath this brilliant exterior. As a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, I traveled to Okinawa, Japan in search of the One Piece. Together my crew consisting of a white dog named Yuki, an evil cat named Kyubei, the wise feline Pickles, and my ever supportive husband Aaron, we travel the globe seeking life’s greatest treasures. Oh, and I’m sure one day I’ll eventually meet Trafalgar Law in the New World. I hope. Please? *pout*

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