We’re not going to lie and say we’re the foremost knowledge on all things One Piece, because apart from a few short clips of the anime, this game is pretty much our only experience with the series. And yet despite this, there is an awful lot to like about Unlimited World Red even from us non-fans.
Although obviously aimed at the core One Piece fan base, the developers haven’t just used this as an excuse to throw out any old rubbish for them to inevitably purchase. Set on an island that Luffy and his team of Straw Hat Pirates have arrived on, incidents occur that revolve around who we assume are long standing One Piece characters, and that’s really how the game begins. If you don’t already know the characters from the off then it can be difficult to understand, but as the game progresses you start to gain a better understanding of what’s happening and actually start to get involved in the story.
What could have been a bog-standard licensed action adventure is set apart by Transtown. The main hub world where you can stock up on supplies, save your game, and most importantly aid in rebuilding. On your travels you’ll be collecting all sorts of materials that can be put to good use in Transtown by building new shops and helping make your life easier. It definitely adds to the experience, stocking up on supplies before you make your way to the next area, but it can be slightly annoying when you’re forced to build certain things to progress the story. The game then essentially forcing you to farm for items, items which are largely random and can take a long time to actually discover.
When you’re done getting prepared then it’s on to your adventure. New areas becoming available per chapter with their own unique look and types of enemy to face. You can take up to a three man (or woman) party at any one time, each character controllable with their own unique attacks. It’s your standard action game with hammering of the X and Y buttons unleashing all sorts of combos. There is a tactical nuance to it with the use of the dodge and counters. During specific enemy attacks it’ll flash up on screen whether you can press the A button to perform a doge or counter attack, vital against bosses who will destroy large chunks of your health bar. There are also a number of special attacks that can be utilised once your SP meter is full and a way you can do more damage by performing specific on screen combos.
As you’re in a team of three the other two AI companions will be on the battlefield giving you a helping hand, sort of. On the one hand they really don’t appear to be doing that much damage, but on the other they do a very good job of staying out of trouble. In fact, even when hit it looks like they don’t lose any health at all, which means you’re pretty much playing through the game with three health bars. But then this is preferred to the constant annoyance it would be if the AI kept on getting hit.
Graphically, One Piece is as you’d expect. A style that matches the anime quite well with some neat visuals on display, nothing special, but they do the job. What is disappointing for the Wii U is the lack of any gamepad use. There’s literally nothing there of note, it just has a message basically telling you to look at the TV. The only other thing is a button at the top which swaps the TV feed with the gamepad one and vice versa. There’s not even a map, which is quite baffling as you’re constantly being forced to pause the game to look at it. Why not just put it on the gamepad screen? That’s what it’s there for! It’s disappointing to see so many companies not utilising the gamepad in any meaningful way.
A few minor annoyances aside, the developers should be commended for not just putting together any old licensed pap and waiting for the One Piece fans to lap it up. A lot of effort has clearly gone into capturing what people enjoy about the anime, coupled with some strong gameplay and you have a worthy package for fans of the series.