This last Friday I had the chance to visit Bandai Namco to play One Piece: Burning Blood which was almost the final build of the game and as a big fan of One Piece, I had an absolute blast.
Even if you’re not a fan you can find plenty of enjoyment with the bombastic gameplay on show here, but it’s definitely a better experience when you’re a fan who’s seeing all the exciting characters and moves come to life – this is the first One Piece fighter in the West so it’s a fresh experience. Upon sitting down, I was introduced to the robust story mode of the game where I got to play through the Paramount Arc (also known as the Marineford Arc) which sees Luffy and friends trying to rescue Ace from being executed. It follows the story closely and I was surprised at how many cinematics there were in an effort to breathe new life into the story and it succeeded – I was invested and excited. There are side-missions that follow other battles going on at the same time too, similar to what happens in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4.
Battles can be pretty lengthy with one of mine taking over 100 seconds and, sadly, ended in a loss for me against the computer. It’s challenging, dynamic and great fun, and Spike Chunsoft and Bandai Namco have created not only another brilliant fighting game (Spike Chunsoft also developed J-Stars VS+), but this could possibly be one of the best One Piece games available. After playing through several missions I got to play ‘free mode’ which had every character unlocked and whilst I haven’t decided on my primary team yet, you can bet it’ll be something along the lines of Robin, Ace and, well, I’ll find someone – there’s so much choice and everyone that I played felt unique. The battles are 3-on-3 with characters being available as assist characters and you can swap out, and a battle is only won once one team has completely fallen.
Square and triangle act as your weak and unique attacks respectively, with the latter acting as an attack that only your chosen character can perform and is more or less a substitute for a strong attack, with cross being jump and circle being guard – when guarding, you can use the left analog stick to side step in multiple directions. If you hold down L1 and press either square, triangle or circle, you can perform a special attack which is available to do at any time – there’s no special gauge for these, so go crazy but they do leave you open for attack if you miss. Once your burning gauge is at max, you can hit R3 to awaken and become stronger with more powerful special attacks, and hitting R3 again lets you pull off your ultimate move – you might recognise Robin’s from Pirate Warriors 3 where she summons two massive pairs of legs to stomp on the enemy. R1 activates characters unique abilities with Luffy’s allowing him to stretch and zone into his opponent. This might sound like an info dump and, I mean it is, but there’s so much to do and so much to play with that it’s hard to not be excited! You also have guard breaking attacks and ranged attacks, providing plenty of options and tactics in battle. You have control over the camera too which never felt obtrusive to me, especially as the arenas are quite large and open.
I expected it to feel like one of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games and although it feels a bit more like J-Stars, it still feels like its own thing. It has tight, accessible gameplay (auto-combos are present) that has a focus on combos and timing for those looking for something deeper, gorgeous, colourful visuals and lively cinematics that do the source material and anime justice, with the Japanese voice talent delightfully returning although I still wish that the English voice talent would make an appearance. Although I didn’t get to try all of it, there seems to be plenty of content, modes (local play is great, and I didn’t lose a single battle!), playable characters and fan-service that no One Piece fan will want to miss. I’ve been asking for a One Piece fighting game for a long time and I’m incredibly happy that it’s set to deliver! It has some pretty rad music, too.
There are unique character interactions before a battle begins which change depending on who’s fighting who, and with the amount of characters on show I can only imagine how many introductions there are. Costume damage has been implemented which I enjoy, along with characters becoming more notably ragged and sweaty as their health bar depletes, and it makes battles more fierce. You don’t have to take all of this from me, there’s a demo on PSN and Xbox Live right now that you can play and although it only consists of one stage with four playable characters (Luffy, Ace, Franky and Aokiji), you can get a taste of the addictive gameplay that act as a nice snippet of what’s to come when One Piece: Burning Blood releases on 3rd June in Europe and 31st May in North America.
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