I want off this boat.
As a fan of the shounen anime/manga, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classics like DragonBall Z, Yu Yu Hakusho and many others. One Piece, on the other hand, is one I never found too appealing. Even though I actually own the first few volumes of the manga, I wasn’t a fan of the art style, and when I learned just exactly how many volumes of manga there were (over 80 at this point in time), I decided to call it quits on the series.
Still, it’s undeniable that it’s one of the most beloved shounen series of all time, going strong over two decades since its inception. So, it is not surprising to find out that One Piece has over two dozen games based on its license and with Unlimited World Red, I was introduced to my very first one.
Played: 8~ Hours
Making port for the first time in an unfamiliar place, Luffy and his crew of Straw Hat Pirates decide to check out the town and see if there’s a new adventure waiting for them. Things go south quickly as Luffy is informed that his entire crew has been kidnapped by an unknown foe and if he intends to rescue them, he must act quickly.
The overarching story feels like typical filler material, as previous main villains come out of the woodwork to get in Luffy’s way one after another. Even though there are decent bits of comedy here and there as the quirks of the crew members are in full swing, it never elevates itself past cheap one-liners and tired tropes.
Visually, Unlimited World Red succeeds in capturing the presentation of the show with a good art style that makes good use of cel-shading and liberal application of bright colors that makes the environments look vibrant. The game also seems to use the original voice actors who reprise their roles from the anime, which adds to the feeling of authenticity that goes a long way for a licensed game.
As nice as many of the environments looked, the level design was overly simple and did not reward exploration. They also all felt very empty, as outside of a few breakable items, they was just empty space where enemy encounters would trigger in from time to time.
The combat, which makes up for the bulk of the experience, was easily the worst aspect of the game as it felt stiff and sluggish, where every one of my moves would have a massive uninterrupted delay and I was stuck sitting there, waiting for the move to end. There wasn’t much of a variety in the moves I had in my disposal as well, and even when I got new moves, they weren’t really any better than the moves I had already and felt useless for the most part. The camera was also a struggle to control, as I often found myself surrounded by enemies and trying to toggle to the enemy I wanted to focus on was a more difficult battle than taking down the enemies themselves.
The boss battles weren’t much better, as they weren’t challenging as much as they were annoying, with large HP pools and super armor on most of their moves, it was a practice in patience more than skill to take them down.
At the very least there were many playable characters, and I was able to bring multiple characters out to a mission where I could switch between them at any time. It helped alleviate some of the tedium but it certainly didn’t keep the combat encounters from feeling like a chore.
There’s a variety of mini games like town building, fishing and insect catching, but all of them felt tacked on and completely unnecessary. The crafting, required to upgrade items and stats, required revisiting completed stages on the hunt for specific items, and given I didn’t really want to play new stages, I sure as hell didn’t want to replay old ones.
Lastly, there’s the Battle Coliseum mode separate from the story which serves as a series of gauntlet battles that allows the player to unlock new characters to add to their roster as they progress, but since it uses the same combat engine as the story mode, I didn’t find it all too interesting.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red certainly looks and sounds the part of a solid One Piece game but it drops the booty with its stiff controls and unsatisfying combat engine.
Fun Tidbit – In this year of non-stop hits, even mediocre games feel like bad games by comparison.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.