As a big fan of anime I love the fact that so many Japanese games are made in that anime style and some are even so good that they are then turned into anime shows themselves. Turn things around though and take a look at popular anime shows that have been turned into games and things aren’t so great. There’s usually two types of anime games; cheap cash-ins that simply milk the popular name of the show, or, in the few cases of good anime games, like the various Naruto Ninja Storm titles, you’ll need to be very up to date with the show or risk pretty big spoilers, which is a bit of problem with these big name shows that have hundreds and hundreds of episodes.
One Piece games have fallen into both categories here and, considering this is the perhaps the biggest anime in the world, most games fall short of fans expectations. One Piece Unlimited World Red instead manages to strike a much better balance. It’s by no means perfect but offers an enjoyable and accessible anime brawler for newcomers, with a standalone storyline, while packing in plenty of references to the show that long time fans will love.
The setting for One Piece Unlimited World Red takes place a good few hundred episodes into the series but the main story itself for the game is completely separate to that of the series. Whilst it’s good that you don’t need to worry about spoilers if you’re either new or haven’t got that far yet, the story is fairly weak and only loosely holds everything together. However, the general tone of the game prevents this from really being too much of an issue; it’s bright, colourful and lighthearted so a complex plot doesn’t really feel that missed. That may make things easier for newcomers but what about series veterans? Well the story is nothing special and the main enemy, Redfield, was designed solely for the game, meaning he doesn’t appear anywhere in the series. What will appeal to fans of the show however are the rest of the encounters and bosses throughout the game that bring back a large number of characters and enemies to fight from across the series.
The island itself is split into different areas and is, unfortunately, no where near unlimited. In the main hub of Trans Town, you’ll control Luffy and can run around freely, using his stretchy abilities to catapult yourself around the map. While you mostly just use this area to pick up quests, buy items and unlock new shops and buildings, there are also a few mini games dotted around that give small rewards. Once you pick up quests, or follow the main storyline, you’ll head out to various locations across the island, all of which are fairly large but linear areas. For these areas you’ll be able to pick your own group of three characters from Luffy’s crew and can switch between them during play.
The combat is simple to control but each character has unique combat style of various close and long range abilities. As you’d expect from One Piece, or most animes, the moves are flashy and over-the-top which makes combat feel fun and exciting. The main encounters of large groups of enemies that you’ll find throughout each level wont really offer you too much challenge and can get a little repetitive after awhile, though in certain quests you’re restricted to just one or two characters which does make it a little more interesting. The bosses however are much more exciting and difficult battles and don’t just rely on mashing buttons to win. Different boss characters will have all kinds of crazy attacks too keep you on your toes and often put you on the defensive for a few moments. Button prompts regularly flash up that let you block or evade the powerful attacks but some of these happen so fast that it feels more like you are meant to get hit at times, which can be a little frustrating.
You’ll find that various boss encounters will unlock again after you’ve beaten them in the storyline and appear as quests. While it might seem a little cheap to have quests that see you simply fighting the same bosses, these new encounters are more like the hard mode versions and can be much more challenging and often a lot more fun. On top of this is the Battle Coliseum mode, a separate arena fighting mode where you’ll be able to take on even more fights and different difficulty levels. In this mode you’ll have access to more playable characters from the anime that aren’t available in the story mode; you’ll also be able to unlock new items and quests that transfer over to the story mode and these quests can even be taken on using the extra Coliseum characters.
Graphically, One Piece Unlimited World Red looks brilliant. The bright, colourful, cel-shaded graphics are a little different to a lot of anime games and generally helps to keep the lighthearted, enjoyable tone of the game. The music fits well with the battles and, as you’d expect, brings back a lot of tracks from the anime. Fans of the show will also be happy to hear that the game has the option of full Japanese voice overs with English subtitles.
Really then, your enjoyment of One Piece Unlimited World Red depends on what you’re looking for and how much you want to put in it. If you simply breeze through the main story and leave it there you likely wont be impressed by the plot and, though the boss fights are still a huge amount of fun, there wont be too much replay-ability to be found. If however you take on all the side quests, fight your way through the Battle Coliseum mode and work at unlocking everything in Trans Town, you’ll find a large amount of content to keep you busy. There’s nothing overly complex or deep going on and, once you’ve gotten used to each character, the regular combat can get somewhat repetitive. The brilliantly over-the-top boss fights however will appeal to both One Piece and general anime fans alike and with a fairly large cast of wildly different playable characters, One Piece Unlimited World Red manages to be a anime crossover that heads much more in the direction of doing justice to this anime juggernaut.
All screenshots taken from the Wii U version
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