Review: One Piece: Unlimited World Red (PS3)

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Title: One Piece: Unlimited World Red
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (4.5 GB)
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Ganbarion
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
One Piece: Unlimited World Red is also available on PlayStation Vita, Wii U, and 3DS. *This is a Cross-Save title. It is NOT Cross-Buy.
The PlayStation 3 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
At the very beginning of the game, you witness what seems to be the end of a great battle between the Marines and a new mysterious pirate, Redfield. At the end of the battle, Redfield seems to be looking for something in his pockets, and comments to himself that he must be getting too old, and that he lost it. The very next scene, you see Luffy and the Straw Hat crew sailing with a new shipmate who is a Raccoon named Pato.

It seems that Luffy and crew found him adrift at sea and rescued him. Pato has asked the Straw Hat crew to take him to an island. Once there, they find a small town called Trans Town. Once in town, the crew all split up to find supplies. Nami directs Sanji and Brook to be in charge of finding food, Usopp and Franky are to do repairs on the ship, Chopper is to get medicine, and Zoro is to stay and watch the ship while Nami and Robin go clothes shopping. Luffy decides to take off and explore the town, and they all agree to meet up at the inn later.

When the game officially begins, you are in control of Luffy. There is a brief tutorial where you are shown how to walk around and talk to townspeople, as well as use your Gum Gum Rocket technique to transport you all over the village. The controls are pretty simple: the left analog moves your character, right analog controls the camera. The Cross button is used to jump, and while in town, the Triangle button is used to do the Gum Gum Rocket technique, where Luffy grabs onto buildings and edges of things to launch himself into the air.

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When you’re airborne with Luffy, you can either let him fall, or move the camera around to do another rocket launch. Unfortunately, you are not able to grab onto any surface, but you must control the camera until an icon of the Triangle button appears on the target surface. This can be a little frustrating, because if you move too close or too far away, the icon will disappear and your fluid motions of rocket maneuvers will be interrupted.

As Luffy approaches the inn, you meet a man outside the inn who informs you that you cannot enter because the innkeeper is away in the town square. Once at the town square, you meet the innkeeper, Yadoya, who is fighting with two punks. Luffy steps in to fight them off, which transitions into the basic tutorial for the fighting portions of the game. The main controls are the same, except that the Triangle and Square buttons are used for a strong and main attack, respectively. The L1/L2 triggers are used to re-center the camera on Luffy, and if you hold one of them down, it will lock onto an opponent.

In the battle areas, you have a health gauge (HP) and an spirit gauge (SP). As you fight enemies, your SP gauge fills up, and you are able to use the R1/R2 buttons + one of the face buttons to pull off a special technique. The SP gauge is divided in half, and if you fill it half way up, you can do a single attack with Square, Triangle, or Cross. If you save up your SP until both halves are full, you can press R1/R2 + Circle to pull off an area-based team attack which affects any enemies standing within range of the attack.

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The combat also includes a pretty robust combo system, but the system itself is not very great. I had a very hard time pulling off certain combos, even though I was hitting the correct buttons the correct number of times.

Once you’ve dispatched the punks and save Yadoya, she takes you back to the Inn for some food and rest. When Luffy wakes up, Pato comes running up and explains that everyone in the crew has been captured. This brings you to the next main portion for the game, which are the episodes. You can go on these main storyline episodes by leaving the town, then choosing the area that you wish to go to. As you complete each episode, you’re taken back to the town and the next area is opened up. When you return back to the Inn, Yadoya makes a deal with you: if you agree to build up the town, she will allow you and your crew to stay in the inn.

As mentioned, the gameplay is divided between the town and the different combat/battle portions of the game, or episodes. In town, you’re only able to play as Luffy, and you can roam around freely. As you go around town, you can talk to townspeople, some of which will give you small mini-quests. Starting out, there’s not a whole lot to do around the town. The game mechanic of doing the Gum Gum Rocket, reminds me a lot of one of the Spider-Man games that I’ve played.

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As you walk around town, every once in a while, you’ll see balloons just hovering there in the air (usually on top of buildings or just off to the side of a building). You can collect the balloons and exchange twenty of them for an item from one of the townspeople. Once in a while, if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll see a balloon in the shape of a panda pop up and start floating up into the sky. If you are quick, you might be able to catch it before it drifts out of reach. Many times, I was pretty frustrated because I couldn’t get the icon for the Gum Gum Rocket to appear in time for me to catch the balloon. Later in the game, you’ll find another person in town who will exchange the rare panda balloons for better items.

As for the battle portion of the game, the early episodes involve finishing a level to rescue more of your crew who has been kidnapped. As you find them, you’re able to bring two of them into an area to fight alongside of you. When you reach the end of an area for the first time you will face the area boss and be rewarded with items that you’ve collected. Also, any time you finish or re-play an area, you will gain Beri (the currency in the One Piece universe), as well as experience points.

Throughout every area, there are all kinds of things that you can destroy, such as clumps of grass, bushes, dead trees, rocks, etc., which all give you materials. You also get different materials for defeating the various enemies in a level, and some are exclusive drops for certain enemies. Once you leave or complete a level you will be awarded with the items you’ve found on the screen just after your experience points are tallied up for the level.

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Once you are back in town, you can use the materials at different shops within the game. When the game first begins, there aren’t any shops other than the Inn, but sometime after the first episode, Yadoya asks you to go around town to help the townspeople build shops. If you open up your map, you will see red bubbles with a white exclamation point; once you get to that spot on the map, you will see a person with a similar bubble above their head. If you speak with the townspeople with the red bubbles, they will tell you that they want to build a specific type of shop.

As the story progresses, you will have an opportunity to build restaurants, a factory, pharmacy, etc., which can also be upgraded at certain points in the game. The first shop you build is for Yadoya, which is a tavern. You will need to go around the back behind the inn to see Yadoya and build the tavern using materials that you picked up in the fighting areas. The tavern is where you go to do all of the sub-quests in the game. Each sub-quest usually involves going into a specific area and battling a specific boss, finding a certain number of specific items, or a timed level where you must get from one point to another while taking out various enemies in between. Yadoya also gives you a fishing rod and a bug net.

As you go through the battle areas, you will see animals around, such as beetles, rats, lizards, butterflies, etc. If you’ve equipped the bug net, you can use it to catch these creatures. You can also fish in designated fishing spots, which are marked on the map. Along with certain materials you find, all of the insects and bugs that you catch will be used for crafting new buildings, new items, or enhancing your bug net and fishing rod.

Whenever you are catching bugs or fishing, each of these activities have their own mini-games associated with them that will determine if you successfully catch the creature or not. For the bug mini-game, there’s a picture of the net in the middle of the screen. Icons of the face buttons: Square, Triangle, Circle, and Cross, as well as the directional buttons, will then fly out of the center of the net in random order. You must press only the icons of those buttons on the screen to take HP off of the creature that you are catching.

If you successfully press the button combinations, and take the HP down to zero before the time runs out, you will catch the bug. If you hit the button that is not currently on the screen, all of the icons will disappear, and you will have to wait for more button icons to come up. If you do not take the HP down to zero, you will roll a random vertical spinner that will give you a chance to capture the bug by taking a certain number of HP off. If you manage to take the HP down before the time runs out, you will get the same spinner, but instead it will give you a chance to get more bugs, the bug plus a number of random items, or increase the size of the captured bug.

The fishing mini-game works in a similar way, except that you only use two buttons, Square and Triangle. There is a meter across the screen, and there’s a circle on the far left-hand side. You will see Square and Circle icons come from the right to the left, and you must hit the designated icon when it is fully in the circle. Some icons are on a miniature bar. This signifies that you need to press, hold, and then release precisely when at the end of the bar. Each time you get the timing correct, it takes off HP from the fish until it reaches zero. If you do not manage to get the HP down to zero, you will lose the fish. If you do get the HP down to zero before the time runs out, you will get the same options as the bug mini-game (i.e., more fish, items, etc.).

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Each time you go to leave the town, you’ll be presented with all of the areas that you’ve been to, as well as the latest one for the current episode that you are on. You’re then prompted to take up to two characters with you, and they will be controlled by AI. During the entire time that you are in the battle areas you can switch between your characters at any time by pressing the Select button. This is very useful, because while your character is controlled by the AI, they’re pretty much invincible (I’ve played the game for over fifty hours, and I have not once seen an AI-controlled character get hurt or die). So, if your health reaches zero as you are playing, you’re prompted to switch characters. When all of the characters are dead, it’s game over.

If you’re quick enough, and hit the Select button just before your health is depleted, you can switch to a new character with full health and keep your previous character alive (since they don’t die when AI controls them). One other great thing about the AI is that they’re pretty effective fighters, and they do help kill off many of the enemies on the screen. However, I do wish though that you could issue commands to your two helpers to protect you, refocus their attacks, or replenish your health.

While Once Piece: Unlimited World Red is mainly a brawler, it does have many RPG elements to it, namely the experience points that you get for each of your characters. As you unlock more characters, you must take them into battle for them to gain experience. Also, as you progress through the game and level up, not only will your characters gain health, attack power, and other stats, they will also gain ‘Words’.

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One Piece: Unlimited World Red is the first game I’ve ever played that had the concept of using words in battle. There are two variations of words in the game: Strong Voice and Strong Words. Your Strong Voice is used at random points as you’re fighting. Usually when you first enter into a fight or take a significant amount of damage, you’ll hear your teammates make some comment. You’ll then see a yellow bubble with an R1 icon above your character, and if you hit the button fast enough, you’ll make some quip back at them. If you successfully hit the R1 button at the right time, the Strong Voice will cause your teammates to give you heath or cure you of poison (or other status effect).

Strong Words come in three different types: Skill, Custom, and Item Words. Skill Words, once learned, will give your character a new ability or type of attack. For example, Nami gains a Skill type Strong Word that gives her the ability to steal items from enemies who are temporarily knocked down. When she approaches a downed character, a Circle button icon will appear with the word Steal; if you hit the button fast enough, Nami will rush over the enemy and sometimes pick up an item or two.

Custom Words give your characters various abilities, such as HP +5% or Attack damage up 10%, and can only be equipped or changed in the Start Menu while in town. You’ll learn Custom Words at different points in the game and by completing Sub-quests.

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The final type of Strong Words are Item Words. These are also equipped and accessible during battle in your item quick menu (accessed by the directional buttons). Item Words allow you to use Strong Voice anytime while you’re in a battle area. However, once you use it, it has a cool-down, so it’s wise to not use it until you need it. The various Strong Voice commands that you learn will give you HP, SP, temporarily boost your attack, etc.

Something similar to a Strong Voice is also used outside the battle, inside the town, when Luffy passes certain townspeople, they’ll say hello to you, or shout something. If they shout something to you, you can press R1 to respond. Sometimes the townspeople will give you a gift if you talk back to them. Strong Words can also be enhanced, about half way through the game, when you build a special shop to upgrade them.

There are many, many other aspects of the game that can’t be all detailed here, but this game is jam packed with things to do. Other activities include gardening, filling a museum with creatures you’ve caught, mini-games, and much more.

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Aside from the Main Story mode, there is also a Coliseum mode, which is presented to you upon starting your game. It’s tough to say which mode you should start or complete first, because each one is a distinct game in and of itself; however, they do have overlapping features. For example, in the Main Story mode, you gain Strong Words, special attacks, and costumes for your characters and these features carry over to the Coliseum Mode. Likewise, completing certain Special Reward criteria in the Coliseum will give you things that will help you in the Main Story, such as new Sub-quests, Boss Quests, and sets of items or materials.

I personally finished the Main Story mode first, which took me about 50 hours to complete, and in that time I completed a good number of the sub-quests. When you complete the Main Story mode you’ll also unlock a more difficult main story which starts you from the beginning but allows you to retain your character stats and items. In this mode, enemies become more difficult (which is tough to imagine, since there are some super tough enemies in some of the sub-quests).

The Coliseum Mode has a separate story. As you enter the Coliseum, a cut scene explains why you’re there. Luffy and Trafalgar Law (Law) discover the Coliseum, and one of the Characters from the Anime, Donquixote Doflamingo, challenges you, but you must defeat everyone else before you’re allowed to go against him. There is a large pyramid with A, B, and C ranks. As you do different Coliseum battles, you will gain ranks and eventually be able to fight Doflamingo.

There are several different types of battles that you have the option to do while in the Coliseum: Scrambles, Duels, and Boss Quests, among others. Scrambles are basic horde matches, where you and a partner face off against a horde of enemies and once you defeat all the enemies, the match is over. Duels are a one-on-one mode between your selected character and a random boss character. Boss Quests are a type of battle where you must fight five bosses in a row.

There are many more different aspects to the Coliseum, but for the most part, it’s the standard type of arena battle game where you unlock more characters as you progress. The really cool thing about it is that you get to play as many of the bad-ass bosses that you fight against in the Main Story mode, such as Buggy, Jinbe, and Dracule Mihawk. It’s really satisfying to be able to pull of some of the devastating attacks on different bosses while using these boss characters in battles with them.

This game is a pretty good brawler, but it’s not the best. My main complaint about the fighting mechanics is that the combo system is not very good. During battles, you’re presented with a list of combos on the lower right-hand portion of the screen. If you manage to pull off all of the combos in the list without getting severely knocked down, you will go into a break mode that will allow you to do much more damage and also stun enemies.

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However, I had the hardest time getting these combos to work. Time and time again, the simplest combos failed to register—even when I’d do them over and over again. It was very unclear to me how the combo list worked. At first, I thought you just had to hit the buttons in quick succession to pull off that combo, but that didn’t seem to work. Then, it seemed that each button press had to actually land an attack on a specific enemy to count, but that didn’t even work every time. In the end, I was left so confused and frustrated at the combo system that I didn’t really look up many combos to try to see what they did.

The other feature that gave me a level of frustration was the lock-on function which doesn’t seem to work too well. Once you’re locked onto an enemy, you’re supposed to be able to hit the right analog stick to switch your target, but sometimes this just doesn’t seem to switch to the new target that you’re intending to switch to. Many times, there would be a person standing right next to me, and the flick of the right analog in his direction did not lock onto him at all.

Normally in this type of game, you’d click down on the left analog stick to engage/disengage the lock-on, then use the right analog to switch targets; but in this game, they re-use a button that’s already mapped to the camera re-center button (L1/L2). I suppose that the controls are laid out this way, with the holding L1/L2 to engage the lock, since the game is also on the PlayStation Vita. Since you’re able to transfer your game save between the two versions of the game (which I did not have the chance to do, because I do not have a copy of the Vita version), I suppose the developers didn’t want to have two different control schemes across the two platforms.

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Even considering the issues that I had with the combo system and lock-on, the combat is extremely fun and satisfying. With the ability to play as every member of the Straw Hat crew in the Main Story mode, plus many of the bosses in the Coliseum, I was amazed at the distinct fighting styles of each of the characters. I don’t believe a single one of the playable characters felt like a duplicate with a different character model. Each one has his or her own move set and attacks.

I had a blast playing and mastering the combat of each character, as well as unlocking the different bosses. Difficulty wise the game can get quite tough, even on the regular story mode. Going through the episodes wasn’t too tough, but if you want to complete all of the sub-quests it’s going to take a lot of grinding. Thankfully, if you lose a sub-quest you just end up back at the town with all the health items that you spent on the failed quest, so you don’t lose much more than your time spent on the quest.

I went into this game completely blind. I’ve never played a One Piece game or ever watched a single episode. I ended up purchasing the first two One Piece Collection sets before I started the game, but there were so many characters that I hadn’t seen before and I felt like I was missing something. As someone who has barely watched into the second season of the show now, there were quite a few spoilers and backstory that I’m not privy to in the game.

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With that being said, the game didn’t go too deep into what happened in the Anime or Manga with the various bosses, so I’m still looking forward to seeing their backstory. I’m still really happy that I had a chance to play this game though, because it introduced me to a great Anime series, and now I plan on purchasing all of the collections.

Visuals:
The visuals in this game are near perfect for a cel-shaded game. There was just a slight hint of some jagged edges to some of the characters, but not much. For the most part, this game is very fluid and colorful. I didn’t witness any pop-in or screen tearing, even when there were large amounts of enemies or lots of action on the screen.

Audio:
Not knowing anything about the game prior to getting it for review, I was expecting all of the characters to be voiced in English by their English voice actors in the Funimation dub of the Anime series, but unfortunately the only voice track is in Japanese. I’m used to playing a lot of games with Japanese voices so it didn’t hamper my ability enjoy the game but it did disappoint me a bit.

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Other than the voice acting, the surround sound was pretty good, making pretty good use of the back speakers. I wouldn’t say it’s the very best surround sound for a game like this, but it is good.

Online/Multiplayer:
While the game has no Online capability, it does have local Co-op. Any time you are in a battle area or in the Coliseum, a second person can hit the Start button on a second controller to join you in combat. One caveat is that while you are playing co-op, you are not able to use items or Strong Words. I don’t know why exactly this is, perhaps because you would go through too many items and not have enough money to buy more, thus breaking the game? I would think that you should be able to share equipped items, but I suppose there are reasons for this.

I unfortunately did not get a chance to play Co-op, since I didn’t have a partner available, but if it controls as well as the single-player portion of the game it should be fun. I’m curious to know if the camera zooms out as the players move away from each other, or if it splits the screen.

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Conclusion:
One Piece: Unlimited World Red has some issues with the combo system and the lock-on that prevent it from being a great brawler, but even with this, the combat is a ton of fun. The game does a fantastic job of making you feel like you are really controlling your favorite One Piece characters, with their own unique fighting styles.

The plot was a bit tough for me to follow since I was busy trying to read the subtitles but I got the gist of it. The plot itself seemed to be modeled off of a story arc that would happen in the show, except in video game form, since two new characters were created by the series’ creator, Eiichiro Oda, specially for this game.

All in all, for new fans of the series, this is a great way to introduce yourself to the characters, but be aware of slight spoilers. For long-term fans of the game, it still seems like a solid title with lots of things to do and places to explore. I highly recommend this game for Action RPG and brawler fans; even though it’s got a few issues, it’s well worth the original asking price for the PS3 version.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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  • Maggard

    Thank you for the in-depth review. Pretty sure a majority of my kids enjoy One-Piece enough to want this game. I’m using reviews to extend their interest in reading. My son in 2nd sits between the two youngest girls and with his big brother on his mission, he is greatly it numbered. Your reviews provide us a discussion to help when the estrogen level rises. As I’ll be limited in playing PS3, once able to secure this game, he’ll play and provide me with synopsis of his adventures. So again, thank you.
    .:.
    Sure wish this was available on PS-Vita.
    .:.
    .:.