Pirates may stereotypically love treasure but that never proves a successful basis for a video game, as tedious collect-a-thon One Piece Unlimited Cruise SP demonstrates in spades.
No stranger to transitioning manga and anime series into video game form, Namco Bandai turned their attention to bring One Piece to Wii with Unlimited Cruise 1: The Treasure Beneath the Waves and Unlimited Cruise 2: Awakening of a Hero. Sharing an overarching narrative, it was announced that these were to be ported to the Nintendo 3DS and united together within a single package, One Piece Unlimited Cruise SP.
Yet having now reached European shores, that isn’t the case. Whilst the Japanese version included both titles, the European version has been inexcusably stripped of Unlimited Cruise’s second part. With all voice acting remaining entirely in Japanese, it would seem that having to include subtitles for each language – themselves ridiculously minuscule on-screen – has meant that Bandai Namco was left without enough room on the game card to include the same amount of content. Something they conveniently kept quiet about ahead of release.
That said, The Treasure Beneath the Waves leaves enough of a soured impression that you could be excused for celebrating the fact that once completed if you make it that far, Awakening of a Hero isn’t patiently awaiting your further attention.
Here, Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates find themselves scattered across a mythical island that is supposedly home to vast treasures, and having reunited with your motley crew you set out to conquer a series of trials that will allow you to claim your reward.
Whilst colourful environments serve to add to the anime-inspired style – the player also able to freely explore a faithfully recreated Sunny Ship – what follows is the most mundane gameplay that I’ve encountered within recent years.
Aimlessly wandering locales with no clear signposting, players are required to gather items and crafting materials to then feed these to mysterious companion Gabri. Whatever you throw his way will be munched and converted towards generating GP points, which may then be used, alongside other requirements, to open new areas for you to explore.
What’s ludicrous is the quantity required even early on in the game, with such annoyance heightened by an increased number of instances that require you to set out item gathering again. Blowing up a boulder that’s blocking your path, for instance, unnecessarily tasks the player with finding ‘an animal that digs’ and ‘items with powerful explosions’ yet providing no assistance in locating them.
Similarly, combat is equally as frustrating with the single use of the A button seeing the player only able to utilise a limited range of combo attacks. Whilst attacks are able to be improved through continued use, you’ll have clawed your face off through madness long before they’re remotely better and even then they’re just as repetitive. Their inefficiency is made even worse during tougher boss battles, where success resorts to simply running around the back of your opponent and mindlessly button mashing, rather than figuring out an appropriate strategic approach.
With increasing quantities of enemies on-screen at any given time, the framerate often dips and such inconsistency is worsened by flipping the stereoscopic 3D slider even vaguely on.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, as fans will revel in freely being able to choose which character to play as at any given moment. From pointy nosed Usopp to afro-toting skeleton Brook (SKULL JOKE!), these are accurately represented and the voiced dialogue greatly enhances. If anything, the source material is encapsulated well, it’s just everything else that’s sloppy.
Surprisingly, tacked on content in the form of ‘Marineford Episodes’ proves to be a vastly more enjoyable and substantial effort than that of the main game. Here, the player navigates their way across a chained map of ‘Battle Points’ across which they’re required to fight one-on-one and enemy wave encounters against fearless opponents. This was built specifically for the Nintendo 3DS version and it shows, with framerate issues especially being much improved. However, it also falls foul of similar issues, with larger playable characters obscuring your view and the overly simplistic combat system remaining as dull and unengaging as before.
Of course, those that will get the most out of One Piece Unlimited Cruise SP are the fans, yet ultimately they will perhaps be the ones left feeling most disappointed. What’s present is a faithful adaptation of the One Piece universe, with all the charm, humour and personality that you’d expect. It’s just coupled with a gaming experience that’s instantly forgettable and is lacking in almost every other regard.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment