|Title||One Piece Unlimited World Red
|Release Date||July 8, 2014|
|Platform||3DS, Wii U, PS3, PS Vita|
I’ve been keeping my eye on One Piece Unlimited World Red ever since it was announced for Western release. I wasn’t a One Piece fan at that time, but this game looked to push the same buttons as Monster Hunter, a franchise I love. But One Piece has really interesting characters to work with, since a lot of them have cartoonishly absurd abilities (and that’s great). So, I was thinking that One Piece could add a new style of play. And it was created by Ganbarion, the developers of Pandora’s Tower, so the pedigree is there. Did I set my expectations too high? Well, let’s see.
First off, if you are a One Piece fan who’s read all the manga or seen all the anime, you are not going to have to go through all that same material again. This is an entirely new story featuring an original villain. Patrick Redfield, or “Red the Aloof,” was a pirate at the same time as Captain Roger and Whitebeard. He has the power to bring memories to life, and there’s something in the Straw Hat’s past that he is looking for. So, they have an excuse to bring back classic threats, as well as tell a new, surprisingly engaging story. I’ve seen some of the anime since they announced the localization, but not enough to get all the references the game threw my way. Still, I enjoyed it, and I’ll probably come back to it once I’m all caught up so that I’ll have the emotional investment that the game is trying to work on.
This is definitely One Piece. The game is divided into nine episodes, each having its own stage (which you can revisit later for quests and extra loot). Once the episode is finished, you’ll get the familiar “To Be Continued” frame. These little callbacks are great fan service, and it’s clear that the developers are as big of fans of One Piece as the people who will buy the game.
If you look at the trailers, the game looks a lot like Monster Hunter. And there’s definitely some Monster Hunter inspiration, but the game is a little more like a standard action RPG rather than Monster Hunter. You get experience and you level up. There’s no equipment to manage (which is understandable; why would Luffy use anything other than his rubber body as a weapon?), only consumable items. Where the game’s Monster Hunter inspiration comes in is in building the town. See, the town is in dire need of growth, but, to grow, they need materials and workers. Luffy agrees to provide materials and manpower in exchange for free room and board at the inn. But these buildings don’t just drain your resources; they also provide services like consumables and material upgrades (so that you can build more stuff). The game is easy enough that you may not actually need it, but the early buildings are easy to build, and you might just begin to like seeing new buildings crop up.
Combat is very simple. It works with two buttons. You have one button for standard melee attacks, and another for special attacks. It is very combo-based in this regard. There’s even a system that encourages you not to button mash. See that list of button combos in that screenshot? Well, if you do all the combos in that list, you’ll get a Break Rush, which increases your attack power for a short time. It’s a great way to teach players about all the moves each character can preform. And, since each character is radically different, that’s a good thing. You get to choose a team team of three at the beginning of a section. You control one, the computer controls two, and you can swap characters at any time. Luffy’s rubber arms, Zoro’s three-sword style, Chopper’s shifting abilities, etc. are all at your disposal, and you’ll play around with every character more than once, I’m sure.
The single player campaign is only the beginning. There are quests that are very reminiscent of Monster Hunter, in that you are given a task to complete in a limited amount of time. Quests are also multiplayer-enabled (you can’t play the campaign with friends, unfortunately), so if you have a friend handy, that can help extend the life of the game. There’s also a coliseum mode where you take on waves of enemies or One Piece characters in a sort of fighting game environment. It’s pretty fun. You can even unlock boss characters from the campaign, which is a nice treat.
The game looks stunning on Wii U. The bright colors really pop, and, while it’s easy to tell that this was once a 3DS game, it’s taken its new coat of paint quite well. The game looks as close to the anime as possible with the 3D models, so all the charm of the original art is retained. The music is serviceable, but not memorable, though the sound effects are perfect.
If there’s one thing I’m disappointed about with the presentation, it’s the voice acting. Or rather, the lack of an English dub. I get it; this is an anime adaptation, so it might not make much money. Still, all these characters are voiced, and voiced well, by the team at Funimation. I can’t imagine it would be all that expensive to hire Funimation to do the voice work, especially since it’s coming to the two biggest systems for niche games right now (PS3 and 3DS). But this is more disappointing than deal-breaking.
I played One Piece Unlimited World Red on both the 3DS and Wii U. Is there a reason to own a console version and a handheld version? Well, saves transfer, so, if you want to continue on the go, you can. Unfortunately, even though there is local multiplayer, there isn’t any cross-platform play. That’s a real shame because it limits console players to two-player split screen.
On the 3DS, the camera is really close to the characters, and it can be a little disorienting. Plus, without the Circle Pad Pro, the camera is hard to control. If you only have a 3DS and want to play the game, it certainly is a viable option. The mini-map on the bottom screen is very useful, and it made me wish that the Wii U did the same thing. The camera is the biggest gripe with this version.
Multiplayer is limited to split-screen on consoles. I got the Wii U version to see if one player could use the GamePad and one player could use the TV. No such luck. Both players have to look at the TV, and they get a very small viewing area. That doesn’t take away from the single player experience, but it does mean that anyone who wanted to enjoy the multiplayer is out of luck.
Bottom line, if you are a fan of One Piece, you should pick this game up, if you haven’t already. It’s $50 on consoles, $40 on Vita and $30 on 3DS, and I put 10 hours into it, and there’s still a lot more left for me to do. One Piece Unlimited World Red provides the kind of bizarre One Piece action that you’ve always wanted to see in a game. For the rest of you? Well, try out the show, for starters. You’ll get more out of the game if you are familiar with the world already. Still, it’s decent fun. If you find it for a good price sometime after launch, I say buy it.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Review is based on the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game.
One Piece Unlimited World Red is available on Amazon: