Note: This review is based on the 3DS and Vita versions of the game.
The past few years have been good for the One Piece fan. The manga in Weekly Shonen Jump is being published the same day as Japan and the anime is also up to speed with new weekly subtitled episodes being aired on Crunchyroll and dubbed episodes getting healthy ratings every week since its return on Toonami. Video games like Romance Dawn and the Pirate Warriors series have been well-received, so Bandai Namco Games felt there was an audience for future One Piece games. One Piece: Unlimited World Red is the largest One Piece video game release to date in the West, in terms of its size and the fact that it's supported on four different systems (Wii U, PS3, Vita and 3DS).
One Piece: Unlimited World Red was originally released in Japan solely for the Nintendo 3DS last year. This release contains extra content that wasn't originally included in the Japanese 3DS release and has been ported to three other consoles due to the original game's success. What's amazing is that Unlimited World Red has the scope of a console game, despite being a handheld game to begin with. There's a lot to do in Unlimited World Red, which shouldn't disappoint anyone seeking a long-term value with the game.
During a voyage in the New World, the Straw Hat pirate crew had rescued a talking tanuki named Pato. They eventually pull into Trans Town, an underdeveloped island city with its fair share of problems. Luffy helps out an innkeeper named Yadoya with rebuilding the town in exchange for lodging but before the agreement can be made, the rest of the Straw Hats have gone missing! Luffy and Pato decide to head out and look for their comrades. While this goes on, a mysterious red count named Redfield has appeared and has left a lot of destruction in his path. What could he be seeking? And is he connected with the Straw Hats' disappearances?
There's a lot of quests to solve in the main campaign, with optional quests that can also be taken, either unlocked through normal gameplay or bought as DLC. Luffy and co. will have to brave through familiar scenarios and fight old foes in order to get one step closer towards their goal. During their journey, spoils collected from their adventures can be used to expand the town and craft medicine or items. The core gameplay is a little like Monster Hunter but the battles are like a less crazy Pirate Warriors 2. You can fight, fish, catch bugs, or even play some bizarre minigames if you feel like doing so. All of the Straw Hat pirates are playable in the main campaign and it's pretty satisfying watching Sanji cavort with Nami and Robin or seeing Franky pose flamboyantly before wiping out a mob of suckas with his cannons.
Aside from the main campaign, there is a second mode called the Battle Coliseum. The Battle Coliseum is a series of battles in which you rank up until you fight the game's boss, current One Piece villain Donquixote Doflamingo. There are duels, scrambles and battle royales that can be fought and winning fights under certain conditions can unlock more fighters for the Coliseum or new items and quests for the main campaign. It's also a great way to get some fighting practice in since this mode can be challenging.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red has a few quirks. The battle controls get a little weird sometimes when there's too much action going on and sometimes parrying one enemy attack will lead you straight into another enemy attack. There is also a fair amount of backtracking involved, which slows down the pace some. Although the 3DS version of the game is the original, it is also the least optimized version. All other versions use a second stick for camera control and feature sharper graphics, but the 3DS uses the touch screen to operate the camera. However, if you own a Circle Pad Pro then the problem is remedied. Still, the 3DS version has its pluses, like having a map displayed in the touch screen at all times and having access to Miiverse to post screenshots of your adventure. All versions of the Unlimited World Red are the same game, barring these minor differences, so you won't miss anything if you got one version over the others.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red isn't a perfect game, but it does capture the spirit of One Piece with its sense of exploration and adventure, camaraderie among friends, offbeat humor, and of course, those big crazy fights. It's also worth mentioning that the game's scenario and original characters were created by Eiichiro Oda himself! And with four different console ports, One Piece fans shouldn't miss out on the adventure.
Hint: Be sure to revisit levels with different teams each time for building experience as well as having a specific crew member to use his or her ability to open up hidden spots for treasure.
by ray n. (@themistern)