One Piece is a fun little anime series, one that focuses on Monkey D. Luffy and his extendable limbs (which he got from eating a mystic fruit), as well as his cohorts, enemies and what have you. It’s like a pirate tale that doesn’t take the wrong incredibly goofy route like the Pirates of the Caribbean films have – and with more memorable characters to boot.
That said, I’m a bit perplexed with the direction that Bandai Namco has taken with its latest video game entry, Burning Blood. Rather than going with the over-the-top Dynasty Warriors-style combat that the previous three games have done, the game is more of a traditional beat-em-up, but with characters strewn from the One Piece universe.
The reason that I’m perplexed is because…did we really need another fighting game? Dragon Ball Z already has that covered with a forthcoming Xenoverse sequel, and we’ve also got Tekken 7 coming, with its refined controls and amazing visuals. Burning Blood, in concept, just feels like another “me too” sort of title, instead of taking the fun route it’s been on for the past few years.
That’s not to say the formula isn’t a complete loss, as there are some victories to consider here. First, the team at Spike Chunsoft have done a splendid job channeling the energy of the series into the game’s visuals and dialogue, as it feels like an anime episode come to life. The Japanese dialogue is a great thing to have here, and the music is even as corny as it gets in some situations. Plus, the manic attacks that unfold during the game do so in a cinematic style, like when an enemy charges up for a super move that’s straight outta pirate school.
But a game that’s fun to watch is all for naught if it isn’t fun to play, and that’s where Burning Blood staggers a bit. While the game does have decent fighting techniques, it also gets way too repetitive for its own good, as you’ll usually unleash the same special attack in a match six or seven times in a row. Imagine if the Tekken team had gotten a hold of this franchise – it would’ve made Burning Blood the stuff of magic, instead of the pool of monotony that we end up with here.
Plus, let’s be honest, even without the repetition, the combat engine in Burning Blood just isn’t that deep. You’ll learn the techniques within a matter of seconds, and even then, the opponent will still think of unreal ways to pummel you, thanks to the uneven difficulty that sets in way too often with the game. As a result, you’ll probably give up going through the story campaign well before it’s halfway over. I stuck it out, but there’s very little reward waiting on the other side unless you’re a fan.
And that’s another big problem with Burning Blood – it really reaches out to the fans, but does very little when it comes to bringing in new ones. There are a bunch of superb characters to unlock here that fans of the series will feel right at home with, along with the kind of storytelling where they’ll feel right at home. However, the game is overwhelming from a new point of view. There were times I had to reference some things in Wikipedia just to figure out what from what – during a fighting game, for crying out loud.
Had Bandai Namco included some sort of lexicon or primer to introduce fans to what the universe had to offer, Burning Blood wouldn’t be such a bitter pill to swallow. As it stands, though, it’s best left to those that truly understand what the One Piece universe is all about – and even then, fun isn’t entirely guaranteed thanks to the somewhat inept combat.
The game does have merits with its multiplayer, as you can probably get some fun bouts going with friends that are fellow anime fans. And, again, it looks and sounds great. However, Bandai Namco should’ve considered which way to develop the fighting engine with Burning Blood. It tries to do too much in some areas, and yet not enough in others. As a result, it’s mostly an unbalanced mess that’s best left to those that don’t mind setting sail with Luffy. And that’s too bad, because this is one franchise that definitely deserves to have more fans on board.