Siliconera recently spoke to One Piece game series producer Koji Nakajima and One Piece: Burning Blood director Hiroyuki Kaneko to discuss the origins of Burning Blood, accessibility and a hint of what could come in the future.
One Piece: Burning Blood isn’t like other One Piece games and is the first fighting game in the series. What was the inspiration behind going in a tag team fighting direction?
Koji Nakajima, Producer: So the story behind this is that I’ve been the producing a lot of One Piece games, Pirate Warriors 3 is something I’ve also done and I’ve been around the world for PR tours, community activities and I had a lot of opportunities to meet with fans, with communities and most of the time I receive a lot of feedback that, with One Piece, we’d like to have skilled fighting games and I’ve been really considering that point and finally here we are!
One Piece characters have really unique powers, they’re all very different from one another. How are you going to keep everyone balanced? For example, Luffy’s Gear Four form is in the game and some of the other characters haven’t reached his level of power yet.
Hiroyuki Kaneko, Director: So as you rightly mentioned, there is a lot of characters have superior abilities to others because some characters have very strong devil fruit abilities, some characters have very strong haki compared to others so it’s kind of hard actually to balance one versus one character. If you specifically set Luffy versus, let’s say, Ussop it might be a bit difficult but that’s actually part of the reason we implemented the three versus three system so you can’t really defeat a character with one specific character, you can always switch with another one so that you can actually balance [your team] – okay this character could be good to do this, this character might not be as good for this so let’s switch it. In addition to that, we have also implemented support characters in order to balance a bit more, so if we look at individual characters, yes, there is gaps in terms of power. But if we see three characters as a team, in addition to support characters, you’ll see that it’s quite well balanced.
Fighting games can a bit tough for new players to get into. How are going to make Burning Blood accessible for new players?
KN: I think if you’re a One Piece fan, you like to play super special attacks which is also in the original comics and those kind of special attacks can be done with a combination of certain buttons, so it’s not difficult to a reproduce a special attack. Another thing if you’re not familiar with fighting games is with the support system, such as automatic guard, where you can block your opponent’s attacks automatically. Even if you’re unfamiliar with fighting games, you can fight equally against opponents.
Another one is automatic combos so if you use a simple combination of buttons, the game itself will automatically support your combos even if you miss pressing certain buttons so overall this will be very accessible for many different kinds of One Piece fans even if they’ve never played a fighting game themselves.
So following on from that, you mentioned in the presentation that you want Burning Blood to appeal not just to One Piece fans, you want it to have a broader appeal. How are you planning to make players who aren’t familiar with One Piece get into the game?
KN: First of all, since as I explained, we are not going to only aim for not just One Piece fans but also fighting game fans. We have implemented some basic elements which fighting game should have and so if you’re playing online, you’ll be able to read your opponents moves and decide how to act. Another point is even though you don’t really know about One Piece, all the devil fruit abilities will be really unique to this game. I mean, in other fighting games I’ve never seen a character actually transform himself into a dinosaur, I’ve never seen that in Tekken or Street Fighter! And all this kind of cartoonish abilities are really enjoyable even though you don’t really know this IP.
Burning Blood features a lot of newer One Piece content from recent chapters and episodes. How do you balance these recent additions with the fan favourite content?
HK: That’s a really interesting point because first, in order to balance the characters, we have a specific system that runs automatic battles with AI so we select certain characters and they fight 1000 times. Then if one character is winning too much, okay there is probably some specific moves that are super strong and we should check and amend that. But at the same time, of course, there is original Luffy, Luffy Gear Four which is quite different but in terms of the powers of each character, it’s quite the same to be honest but the way they fight is completely different. I would say they’re completely different characters and as long as you know how to move that character you can still defeat say, Gear Four Luffy with original Luffy, so those are things which already been implemented into the game.
Why did you decide to focus on the Marineford Arc for Burning Blood’s story mode and split it into four separate paths?
Part of the reason we actually decided to focus on this specific era of the One Piece series is at Marineford, it’s actually the episode where we can gather most of the characters who have a lot of devil fruit and haki skills because that part is really important when developing fighting games. For the second topic, the reason why we have four different scenarios in Paramount War is that Marineford is the center of the conflict between the marines, pirates and some other groups so we thought that would be really interesting to see and to describe Marineford from all these different points of view so that’s why we’ve included Whitebeard [in addition to] Luffy, Akainu from the Marines side and Ace.
What aspect of Burning Blood are you most proud of and why?
KN: Since you might be familiar with Logia, which is one kind of the devil fruits – there are several different kinds and Logia is more like you can [transform yourself into say smoke, thunder or sometimes sand itself] so those are really specific devil fruit abilities which is really key for this game because the first prototype we developed, most of the characters had Logia type devil fruit abilities because in the original comics, Luffy fights Crocodile who has Logia abilities and can turn himself into sand. So if he’s up against normal attacks, he can simply transform into sand and that’s it and fans of the original comics were like “Okay, Luffy cannot really defeat his guy because he can make turn himself into sand” and that’s something we wanted to reproduce in the games. Within the prototype we can see, even Luffy attacking Crocodile matches all the attacks and special abilities [from the original comics] which looks super great even though it was a prototype. So I was already thinking okay, this is a direction we should really go in, this will definitely please the fans because this is how it’s described in the comics.
HK: As well as reproducing the look from the original comics, we also had to do this for every single platform including the Vita which is not as powerful as the PS4 and Xbox One so that was the most challenging part, especially dealing with such a small data card while still delivering the same level of quality as the other platforms. I’m 100% confident you’ll enjoy the quality of the game including on Vita.
Nakajima-san, You’ve worked on so many One Piece games from Musou to fighting games to adventure games, where do you want to take the One Piece series next?
KN: So currently since I’m still working on One Piece: Burning Blood, there’s no specific plan for the next title but what I personally think is that with the PS4 and Xbox One we have powerful hardware and also I personally like open world games. This might be a good candidate for One Piece where Luffy takes his own boat and go on his own adventure in an open world so that could be interesting!
I’d like to play that game!
HK & KN: [laughter]
Back in 2014, when interviewing Koji Nakajima for the release of One Piece Unlimited Red, we asked him a similar question to which he answered:
"I’ve made lots of One Piece games. Right now, I would like to make a fighting game that puts all of the Devil Fruit abilities and Haki in the spotlight. If I could make a fighting game, I would want it to capture the flashiness of the Devil Fruit abilities like how [Admiral] Aokiji uses ice and can create it at will," Nakajima said when I asked him what kind of One Piece game he would personally like to create”
That sounds a little familiar now, doesn’t it?