One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP, One Piece: Unlimited World Cruise SP2, and One Piece: Romance Dawn. We’ve had to endure three rather disappointing adventures with Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew, but that tenacity has finally paid off. In One Piece: Unlimited World Red, Ganbarion have righted their ship and delivered an exhilarating experience that exemplifies everything that’s irrepressibly wondrous about Eiichiro Oda’s wacky creation.
In a storyline with two new characters drawn by Oda himself, we learn that Marshall D. Teach, or Blackbeard, has succeeded in breaking out Level 6 prisoners from Impel Down which includes the game’s antagonist Patrick Redfield, otherwise known as Red, The Red Count or Red the Aloof. We witness Red laying waste to a fleet of Marine battleships, before being whisked off to find Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates joyously sailing the seas. They’ve agreed to help Pato, a raccoon who can create anything by writing its letters on a leaf, to meet someone on the Island of Promises. Although upon arrival Luffy’s crew are all kidnapped and he is left to recover them from captivity, as well as precisely who’s behind their disappearance.
With 74 manga volumes, 650 anime episodes, and no less than 36 video games, One Piece: Unlimited World Red’s tale is one that you’ll soon realise expects you to know who’s who. None of the characters is really introduced to the player, nor is their history throughout the series delved into. That’s not necessarily of detriment to the experience, even for newcomers, but those with some knowledge about One Piece’s cast will find themselves more connected to this latest quest.
Transtown is the hub world that you will return to throughout your adventure, in which you will actively find quests, expand the town’s buildings to allow you to gain access items and recipes, and generally have a breather between the game’s separate chapters. You will initially venture outside the town alone as Luffy, although it won’t take long before you begin rescuing your seafaring comrades with whom you can then form a party of three characters.
Combat is soothingly fluid, players beating their opponents into submission with Luffy’s elasticated limbs, Franky’s cannon turrets, or Usopp’s sniping skills with his catapult. Each character feels entirely different from one another, and you can freely switch between them while making your way through the game’s lengthy chapters to vary your approach. Successive strikes will allow you to build an SP gauge, rewarding you with access to stronger attacks or calling on your party to summon a collaborative, destructive move that will pummel your foes into submission.
You can also counter enemies, while you will have the opportunity to activate Strong Voice which sees Pato cast restorative spells on your party to heal them. Characters will level up through battle, and when back in Transtown you can also equip them with Custom and Item Words to strengthen their attack and defensive capabilities.
Hop-in hop-out co-operative play also allows a second player to join the action whenever they wish. While this doesn’t have any negative impact on the game’s performance, it does come as a disappointment that the split-screen approach doesn’t fill your TV display – instead skewing two rectangular windows on-screen.
This carries across to the new Dressroas story arc-inspired Battle Coliseum mode, in which you can test your combat prowess. Battle Royal, Duel, Scramble, Boss Rush and Special Match battle types are available to you and will prove a firm test outside of the game’s storyline.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red is wonderfully presented in an art style as resplendent as the manga and anime series that have inspired it. The part cel-shaded approach works exceptionally well, successfully capturing the essence of Oda’s series. While expediting the One Piece: Unlimited World Red’s localisation, that only Japanese voiceover risks being jarring to those who have become used to the English dub. Especially the younger crowd who may not appreciate the authenticity that the language will bring, and won’t want to spend the entire experience reading subtitles.
It comes as a shame that the Wii U GamePad isn’t utilised better, even if just to eradicate the need to keep revisiting the pause menu to check the map for your locale. Although Off-TV Play can be activated with ease by clicking both of the controller’s thumbsticks, while the Wii U Pro Controller and Classic Pro Controller are served up as input alternatives.
Present on the game’s main menu is a welcome ‘Data Link’ ability, allowing players to freely transfer their save data between Wii U and 3DS. While that clearly involves purchasing a copy of the game for both systems, it will deservedly be a much applauded by fans wishing to make further progress on the go to then continue when they return home.
The One Piece faithful will have already been clamouring for their copy, but even for those with less familiarity with Oda’s world will find plenty to enjoy within One Piece: Unlimited World Red.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment