If you are looking to define wacky, Japanese anime to a friend, One Piece is probably the series that you will bring up. It’s wacky, over the top, and has enough busty females to make any boy have a bloody nose. One Piece: Unlimited World Red, a port of the Nintendo 3DS title, brings all of that craziness to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. It’s a color and fun world that tries something new from previous entries in the series and succeeds…some of the time.
The story in Unlimited World Red puts you in the shoes of Luffy and the Straw Hat Crew. As you begin, something happens to your ship and you land on a island but uh oh, your crew has gone missing during the night. It is now up to Luffy to go out and find all the missing crew members while defeating those involved in the disappearances. The story is a bit of a jumbled mess at times and for those who haven’t followed the series, it can be a little confusing. Thankfully, the game is still enjoyable without any prior knowledge of the universe and all story cut scenes can be skipped should you just want to get into the action.
What will keep people coming back isn’t really the story but the characters in this world. Every character is just so unique and fun, with awesome little quirks and a very silly air to everything that they do. Whether you are luffy and throwing a well timed punch in the face of a boss during his “evil speach” or Franky getting overly excited about something, there is charm in every character. Where the characters and their uniqueness really shines is in the combat.
Past One Piece games were very much in the vein of Dynasty Warriors, as you pounded on wave after wave of mindless goons in rather bland levels. In Unlimited World Red, things are much closer to the Naruto series or even to an extent the Tales of series. As you move throughout the level, you will be confronted by a group of enemies, placing the fight in a small confined space. The combat looks pretty simpleminded at first glance, as you have two attack buttons, special attacks, and then a group attack. However, things are slightly deeper than that, as you need to use the dodge/counter buttons at just the right time and switch between your party of three to pick just the right character for the job. Your computer controlled teammates are actually pretty helpful and really hold their own in battle, which is a nice surprise.
The fights aren’t necessarily hard, though I did find the enemies a bit more assertive than past titles in the series. Instead of just standing around and occasionally attacking me, they were often ganging up on me and attacking at will, which makes the dodge button so huge. Boss battles at the end of each story level add some challenges to your plate, as they can really do some big damage. Though, the patterns of their attacks are so easy to pick up and with proper dodging, these fights are usually fairly easily to win.
Instead of equipping your characters with armor or weapons to make them stronger, you will instead assign them Item Words. It is a bit confusing at first when you start into this part but each Item Word is basically a piece a equipment to boost your character. These words can be found throughout the world, so it adds to the reason for you to thoroughly check each and every corner to the levels. While searching each story level, you won’t just be fighting enemies or collecting materials, but you also have the option to collect insects or fish. These two mini games consist of you finding an insect or water, and then playing a mini game to tire them out and catch them. As you level up your net or fishing pole, it will make it easier to catch certain things. I often found myself skipping these two things completely unless I was tasked with catching something for a quest.
Outside of the levels you will spend a good amount of time in your hub, a town called Transtown, where you have promised to help build it up in exchange for lodging. As you gather materials throughout the world, you can expand the town by building things like a tavern or pharmacy. Building these new structures in the town unlocks things like quests and farming. The town is colorful and it is fun flinging around from building to building as Fluffy, but it just felt kind of bland. There are people to talk to and the buildings add new things to do, but it just never really gave me a reason to care.
When you want a change of pace, you can get out the story mode and try your hand at the Battle Coliseum. In this mode, you throw all that RPG leveling and town building out the window and get right into the action. It’s the same battle system as the story mode, with battles boiling down to skirmishes, one-on-one duals, and 2 vs. 2 battles. There are three tiers to make your way through, with each battle you win ranking you up until you gain enough points to make it to the next tier. You will be able to unlock new characters as you progress and also unlock quests that you can then play during the story mode. The coliseum is really a perfect way to get in, beat up a few baddies, and then get out without sinking in too much time.
All of the good things mentioned so far and I wish the same could be said for the presentation. It is extremely evident that this is a game ported from the 3DS, with murky textures, rough edges to the worlds, and some elements of sub-par lighting. The character models and cut scenes are colorful and well done, though the same can’t be said for the bland and uninspiring worlds you will travel through. Voice work is completely Japanese which will push some away but I believe it just adds more to the game. The character voices are just wonderfully done and there is just something compelling about goofy Japanese characters speaking their native tongue while making some ridiculous statement.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red is a good yet unspectacular game. There is a lot of content here between the story and coliseum mode, with a good 30+ hours of things to keep you busy. Yet, the content isn’t overly impressive and things like bug catching, fishing, and farming just feel forced and not fully thought out. The combat is deceptively deep with good AI teammates and unique combat moves, but also shallow in it’s utter lack of difficulty. There is a good game here hidden under layers of tacked on mini-games and half-baked ideas. If you can look past it all, fans of the series or newcomers all together will find plenty of wise cracking, good moments to enjoy.