After being delayed a couple of months beyond its original June release date, the Steam/PC version of Spike Chunsoft’s One Piece: Burning Blood finally launched on 2 September 2016. We’re here to provide our take on the game, with focus mainly on how well the port was done.
Most PC-exclusive players will automatically think of CyberConnect’s Naruto Storm games since both are 3D cel-shaded arena fighters based on a popular shonen franchise, but the actual closest comparison would be J-Stars Victory VS+ on the PS4, as it is made by the same developer and probably uses the same engine.
To be more specific, anyone coming in from the Storm games will be in for a rude awakening. Combat in One Piece: Burning Blood is slower but more methodical. Like the Storm series, you are given control of a character and will have access to normal and special attacks, as well as an “awakening bar” that can be used to enter a powered-up mode, which can then be used to launch a massive cinematic super move. Beyond those similarities is a rock-paper-scissors mechanic that allows (or requires) a more strategic approach to fighting – OPBB is not the game that you can steamroll just by mashing a single attack button.
Blackbeard is the new black.
For starters, characters handle differently from one another. Heavy-set characters like Whitebeard, for instance, move ever slightly slower while smaller characters like Marco are lithe and can cover distances much more easily. Each character is also categorized either as a devil fruit or haki user (though there are some that are classified as both, staying true to the franchise.) This categorization is important as the abilities that are inherent in a character’s class play a big role in every match.
Many devil fruit users, particularly those of the logia class, can enter a transformed state that allows them to repel or nullify most attacks. When used at the right time, these transformed states can turn the tide of battles and will have no weaknesses except for – you guessed it – haki. The same button that unleashes a devil fruit user’s logia state will unleash a Haki user’s haki. Where logia state is defensive, Haki is offensive as it can break through logia states. There are also other functional uses such as juggling a downed opponent or stunning an idle enemy.
Logia long time.
The class system is just one part of a very complex fighting system that requires thought as much as reflexes. Spamming may work on low level AI or through sheer luck, but for consistent wins one must know when to block, and when to sidestep, and exactly which move to use during a bout. This level of complexity is a double-edged sword. It does allow for a higher level of play compared to other anime fighting games, but to players who got used to games that only require you to mash a single attack button, it may come off as clunky and unwieldy.
There is also the matter of balance – there’s very little, if at all. A simple run through the available characters will show any observant user exactly which ones are overpowered and which ones are at a natural disadvantage. There are also little quirks that might have went past Spike Chunsoft’s testers, such as Chopper getting a free pass against many attacks from certain tall characters just by standing still.
What’s worse, and what may turn off many players, is the fact that Spike Chunsoft seems to have taken the easy way out when it comes to introducing difficulty into the story mode. We don’t even need to address allegations of the AI reading user inputs. The big indication that Spike phoned it in is the fact that AI opponents in story mode deal insane levels of damage. We’re talking about AI taking away half of your lifebar in a single attack, or a single combo string that kills you when it lands regardless of how much HP you have left. This cannot be justified by saying that the devs are going for story fights in line with the source material, because nowhere in the anime or manga was Buggy the Clown able to take down Whitebeard in 2 hits. We’re calling a spade a spade here: the developers wanted the story mode to be challenging, but were too lazy to actually program decent AI.
This is canon.
That being said, the difficulty may be ridiculous in story mode but not impossible. This reviewer managed to beat the story mode and all the EX missions in around 4 hours’ worth of retries, despite having the reflexes and manual dexterity of a wet rag. But one could assume that the steep learning curve will frustrate less patient individuals with no review deadlines to worry about.
So How Was the Port?
Now we get to the most important part. There are already a ton of gameplay reviews out there based on the console versions that came out earlier, but how was the PC port?
Basically: It depends.
If you want a port that takes advantage of all the number-crunching and polygon-pushing powers of a gaming PC, you will be disappointed. The developers have announced beforehand that they were merely trying to replicate the console experience while adding a few bells and whistles, which meant that we got a game locked to 30 FPS and with a max resolution of 1080p (though there is a way to play in 4K resolutions using a third party software meant for forcing borderless windowed mode on games that don’t support it.) If, on the other hand, you just want a solid port that gives you a smooth experience and crisp manga-inspired visuals even on a PC with mediocre specs, One Piece: Burning Blood will be well worth its price in Gold (edition.)