The anime world of One Piece is immersed in a colorful, light-hearted vibe that makes us unavoidably fall in love with the Straw-Hat pirate crew. One Piece: Unlimited World Red on the PS-Vita does a fantastic job of capturing this key component for beloved fans.
From their popular, yet baffling faces and laughs with added comical remarks, the atmosphere alone carries this game through the hurdles required of a JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) based on an anime, lamentably combat isn’t as smooth as presentation.
One Piece fans will find a lot to love in this game that is overflowing with flash-backs of some of the most memorable moments of the anime alongside a tasty story to bite into with the insatiable yet lovable Luffy.
This is a rare treat for One Piece fans in the UK that often miss out on a large number of JRPGs that never make it pass the shores of Japan. It tempted me to abandon my mundane government-restricted life, muster what little carpentry skills I had and build a raft to sail the seas in the name of freedom – instead I settled for this game and watched a few more episodes of One Piece which may have been for the best.
The dialogue is subbed throughout which may bug those not bothered to read but it is hard to deny that the Japanese voice-actors fit the character’s personality in a way that dubs simply cannot imitate so reading subtitles throughout cannot be classified as a fault if you want the full, true blue experience.
Those that have never seen One Piece may still find a lot to love in this game as each Straw-Hat member’s personality is easily grasped from the get-go and although there are some memorable moments in the story that are simply impossible to understand without having watched a whopping 600-700 episodes, the game-play itself is still equally gripping.
As a fair warning, if you do not watch animes at all – a lot of the Japanese-orientated humor, signs and gestures may be lost on you as One Piece relies on these elements more often then other animes.
The story is fairly long enough to be called satisfying and is told in the usual One Piece ‘je ne sais quoi‘ style that made this one of the most popular and longest running anime to date.
Featuring a newly announced character from Gold Roger‘s generation (the previous Pirate King) that escaped captivity and, as usual, Luffy and his Straw-Hat Crew are soon dragged into another ordeal.
(Separated from story-mode, there is also a side-story contained in the Battle Colosseum where you finally get to make the War Lord, Doflamingo, sweat a bit on his own turf.)
In-game fighting follows a hack-&-slash style that seems like it should feel horribly repetitive after a few hours but there are enough things to do on the side to make it easily overlooked unless you are particularly searching for flaws or shooting pass the main story without enjoying the journey.
With four special attacks for each character and a chain of different attack combinations, fighting hordes of enemies in anticipation of facing a past villain in the series that nearly succeeded in slaying Luffy is the perfect build-up.
One big flaw with combat that is actually harder to ignore is the dodging and blocking which is handled through a flashing button that appears over-head when an attack can be avoided. This would usually be acceptable in most hack-&-slash games but when over half of the bosses are rendered completely useless because all their attacks can be neutralized with fairly simple timing it makes these epic bosses – such as White Beard, as dangerous as any random, drunk pirate spawn if you simply avoid rushing a fight.
Observing a boss’s movements and being tactical mean nothing in a system where pressing the button that appears over-head with plenty of time to react makes any attack meaningless, no matter what angle it comes at or if you stand still. Luckily not all bosses are like this – but most are.
Exploration and customization
Rather then travelling across the world like the Straw-Hat crew are accustomed to; they are based in a single town for this saga that, for a slightly absurd reason, they are responsible for building and expanding.
Constructing facilities such as restaurants that give permanent stat-boosted meals, a factory to forge new goodies, pharmacies and more, it’s a great reason to gather, grow and fish for loot. Everything found in town and during missions has a certain usage allowing quests to feel more satisfying when you find the final item.
There are also mini-games such as fishing and bug catching for ingredients or later on to earn cash, which is decent enough albeit frustrating when you capture the same bug a hundred times before you finally find your prey,
In terms of character customization, there are several ways to do so. Naturally there is leveling-up, permanent stat-boosts from meals and of course the infamous ‘Word’ power-ups which are literally famous quotes from the anime/manga series that are used as inspirational boosts instead of weapons and armor ( after all who needs weapons if you can destroy anything with your bare fists or already start the game with some of the most powerful swords or devil-fruits around?)
Words are mightier then the sword
For some inexplicable reason, Unlimited World Red decided to label the three separate ‘Word’ boosts under the same title without explaining or highlighting them properly and leaving gamers to, hopefully, find out while playing.
The three types of Word Boosts are:
- Item Words: a temporary power-up item you can pick before a mission that bestows a short, yet recoverable boost
- Skill Words: a permanent buff
- …and Custom Words: a buff that can be equipped and freely changed.
After spending half the game thinking there were only two types of ‘Words’, I eventually started to wonder where on earth some of the ‘Words’ I’ve acquired were disappearing to. It wasn’t until unlocking the ‘Word’ enhancer that it all cleared up that the third ‘Word’ that was disappearing were the permanent buffs that automatically attached to the character when found. Not particularly a deal-breaker but nevertheless, an odd way of handling customization
Fans of the manga will be glad to hear they can play other characters apart from the 9 Straw-Hat pirates for certain missions or in the Battle Colosseum (sadly these playable guests have no customization nor leveling) and are unlocked as you play though the Colosseum.
Buggy The Clown was particularly enjoyable and although he seems like a nuisance with bad timing in the series, he can strangely destroy most bosses with ease compared to those supposedly stronger fighters such as Jimbei or Robin.
This game isn’t without its flaw, few games are, but the story was enjoyable simply because it was from One Piece’s unique atmosphere and the customization helped get us through feeling the effects of repetitive fighting or a disappointing White Beard with bad customization explanations.
Score: 8.2 – As a portable game it’s a great adventure and laugh in the palms of your hand with loot and customization doing their intended job of supporting the focus of this game – brawling.