I have been on this huge “One Piece” kick recently. Since I am watching the show, I have been thinking about the video games that are based on the extremely popular and long-running (15 years and going!) anime series. Unfortunately, the games have ranged in quality from the games being at least solid to them being pretty bad. This year, we got the release of One Piece: Romance Dawn for the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo 3DS, which has come out a year or two before the gamers in the states got the 3DS version. I have not played the game, but from what I can tell, it sold well. Even so, it was not a critical darling to reviewers and gamers alike. This means that if you didn’t like One Piece: Romance Dawn, you were pretty cautious about the recently released One Piece: Unlimited World Red. However, I can safely say that while this isn’t the best game of this year, it is by far one of the best games based off the anime. Let us jump in and check it out!
The Straw Hat Pirates are on another epic adventure on the high seas! This time, the ocean waves take them to an island with a small town called, um, Trans Town. Their ship docks into town as the Straw Hats, and their new Tanooki friend, Pato, and Luffy decide to explore the island. While investigating the town, Luffy encounters a young woman named Yadoya getting harassed by other pirates. Luffy saves Yadoya, and finds out that there have been some strange things happening around the island, with locations from the past appearing all over. The Straw Hat Pirates find out that these occurrences have to do with Pato’s master, Patrick Redfield, a man with a legend as grand as Whitebeard himself! It is up to Luffy to find out what is going on with the island, and what Patrick is looking for. The game’s story is fairly boiler plate. You go through a lot of popular locations from the “One Piece” universe, and fight some of the more popular villains in the show as bosses that are getting between you and the game’s antagonist. However, I will admit that the personalities and quirks of the main characters and the villains still stand out, and made the story worthwhile. I also really like the motives behind Patrick Redfield’s character. I won’t spoil anything, but you can understand his plight once you know the details. The game’s overall story might not be something special, but it isn’t terrible either.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red is an action game with RPG elements. You will begin with just Luffy, but as you play through the first two levels, you will gain the ability to play as the eight other Straw Hat Pirates. Each of the Straw Hats has a unique ability, and has very different fighting styles. For example, if you see an island that has a treasure chest, you can use Brook to run across the water and obtain it. Another example is if you see a big steel gate in front of you, Zoro can chop it down. In terms of fight styles, you get a bit of variety from Robin being more of a zoning fighter, and Usopp being good at long-range fighting. The main goal of each level is fairly simple. You must get to the end of the level while fighting a major villain from the show. You can also search for materials, fish for, um, fish, and animals for the other big gimmick of this game, town-building. Just like in Dark Cloud, you can gather materials and make new buildings for the town, from a pharmacy for health items, to a bookstore for extras. The game will take you about six or so hours to complete. Outside of the main story, there is a battle arena-like mode, where you can take on different challenges, from fighting hordes of grunts to fighting certain characters. Your main goal is to reach the top rank and win the entire thing. You can gain rewards that can go into the main game. There is also a “game +” mode where the difficulty is harder, but you get to play with all of your increased stats. There are side-quests that you can complete in the main game, along with special quests where you get to play as other characters besides the Straw Hat Pirates. All in all, you get a solid amount of content for this game. Oh, and you can also play co-op with a friend on the home console versions.
Graphically, it’s good, but it could have been better for the PlayStation 3 and Wii U. The colors are bright, and the enemy and main character models look decent, but the townfolks’ faces look odd. There is also this weird thing where during half of the cutscenes, the character’s mouths don’t move. They stay gaped open like some kind of fish. Maybe it’s because this game was originally on the handheld systems, but still, I would rather have seen all the cutscenes have moving lips. At least the game has the original Japanese voicecast. Not that I am against dubbed anime, but even though the cutscenes look so odd at times with the gaping mouths, the Japanese voicecast do a good job, bringing the personality and the emotions of the characters to life. The music is also solid. It’s calm and serene- sounding in the overworld, and intense when you are fighting a horde of enemies or a powerful boss.
So, what is wrong with this game besides the small graphical issues? Well, a lot, unfortunately. While this game might improve on a few things from the last “One Piece” game I played, which was the Wii’s One Piece: Grand Adventure, it feels like a lot of the faults of that game are still in this one. First off, once again, the combat is stiff. You know that feeling of fast fluent combat you get in games like Bayonetta, where you can cancel out of any move if you are about to get struck down by an enemy? Well, you really can’t do that in this game. You will get stuck with your attack animation, and can end up getting hit by the opponent. The combat just never feels satisfying enough, also due to the fact that the enemies, for one reason or another, can take up way too much damage, which drags out the individual battles. That brings up another issue with the game, traveling around is so slow. Every character runs at a nice calm pace, instead of the more frantic speed-running you would see the characters do in the show from time to time. In the hub town, you can use Luffy’s rubber ability to sling yourself around town, but why not have that mechanic in other places, too? I also felt like I shouldn’t have needed to individually level up every single character in the game. It becomes tedious, and even though it is a lot better than the previous game, I still feel like if I am unlocking perks to characters that are not in my three-person party in the level, they should also be able to level up. A lot of the levels felt the same to me. They felt linear and uninspired at times, and were only in well-known locations of the show’s universe because they were locations from the show. Granted, one of the later levels mixed things up by letting you play as Luffy’s brother Ace for a boss fight, and one part of the level has you dodging volcanic meteors, but still, I feel like I am running through a straight line in these levels. They aren’t Final Fantasy XIII linear, but I hope you get what I am saying with how linear the levels feel. I also think it’s an odd design choice that the characters you have in your party in a level will not get hurt unless you switch to that one character. They can even decrease an enemy’s health gauge and you don’t have to do a thing. It isn’t as bad as the AI in games like Xiaolin Showdown, where you can literally let the AI buddies do everything because they can’t die, but it seems like it can make the game slightly easier.
So, is One Piece: Unlimited World Red a bad game? Of course not. I can see this game getting labeled a hidden gem by fans of the game, but to me, it is a bit of a disappointment that this game wasn’t better. I wanted to be surprised and say that this is one of my favorite games of the year. However, it isn’t. If you want to check it out, the game has a physical form for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo 3DS. The Wii U version for some reason is downloadable only, and is not worth the price. If you want a more fast-paced game based off the TV show and has more satisfying-looking combat, I think try out the two One Piece: Pirate Warriors games for the PlayStation 3. Maybe in the future, Platinum Games will take a whack at making some games based off anime, but I just think that if you are going to make a sequel, listen to the criticism and improve on the game, so you can make an even better game the next time.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.