One Piece isn't quite the smash hit here in the US that it has become in its country of origin. After playing Unlimited World Red, however, I want to take a second look at the series.
One Piece Unlimited World Red sees Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat Crew on an island filled with locations that are highly reminiscent of their previous adventures. After seeing these locations, some of the enemies our heroes face and the ways in which the crew has changed since I last checked in, I want to know more.
Anime Brought to Life
One Piece Unlimited World Red began life as a 3DS-only title. That basically means this game isn't going to blow any minds with its visuals. The game does, however, really capture the look and feel of the anime very well.
Luffy and his band of pirates look, behave and move the way fans of the series expect them to. Ganbarion did a great job bringing the world of One Piece to consoles and handhelds.
A Well-Explained Story
Anime games often fall into one of two traps— either they try and fail to tell a years-long story over the course of the game, or they tell a side story that fails to capture the magic that makes the series so great.
Fortunately, Unlimited World Red employs a tactic that combines the best of both worlds, telling a clever side story that introduces the player to enemies central to the anime's plot without removing them from the overarching narrative.
Excellent Local Co-op Play
Too few games support co-op these days. Of those that do, even fewer do so well. One Piece Unlimited World Red has one of the best implementations of local co-op I've experienced. Once you're in a quest, a second player can drop in or out at the push of a button. The screen seamlessly splits into two smaller full-sized displays and moves the quest timer off to the upper-right hand corner of the screen.
Once you have another player with you, both of you can cycle through controlling any of the three team members the game allows you to take on a quest. While it would have been nice to have the mini map displayed in some of the unused space, there isn't much to dislike.
Simplistic Game Play
Unlimited World Red is by no means a complex game. Missions consist of traveling to one location, beating up a group of enemies and moving to the next location. Stringing together combos is a simple task and can put down most of the game's enemies with relative ease.
Each character has three super moves and a team super move which can be done when their meter is completely full. You can also complete a randomly-assigned set of combos during battle to gain a boost if you need help dispatching your foes quickly, though this will seldom feel necessary.
The game attempts to elevate its simplistic battle system by adding an equipment system in the form of strong words, phrases which grant special effects to the characters to whom you equip them. Each character can equip a varying number of strong words based on their current level.
In addition to the strong words system, Unlimited World Red also sports a standard experience point and level system, the only effect this seems to have is in the afore-mentioned number of strong words each character is limited to using.
Neither of these systems quite hit the mark however, as they just feel unnecessary. Though you may be able to equip more strong words, you'll never feel as though any of your characters are getting any stronger.
When One Piece Unlimited World Red originally shipped in Japan, the Ganbarion-developed 3DS exclusive didn't have Battle Colosseum mode. The mode, which pits One Piece characters from all throughout the series' 17-year lore is exactly what its name implies.
Fighting using these characters is great fun, but it could definitely use a bit more variation. It also would have been great to see the ability to play as these characters in more co-op content, or even have this as a deathmatch type of mode.
Lack of Online Co-op
There isn't much to say here. If there's one thing Unlimited World Red is crying out for, it's online co-op. The fact that the game nails local co-op nearly perfectly makes this sting even more.
The game may be simple, but it's a hell of a lot of fun to play with a friend.
One Piece Unlimited World Red is not a game without flaws. It could look a bit better, and the gameplay could use some more depth, but it's a fun diversion nonetheless. The game wisely chooses a story vehicle that doesn't require players to be versed in the lore and simultaneously serves as a welcome to newcomers and a familiar greeting to veterans.
There's a lot to like in One Piece, and even if you haven't caught up on the series, or it hasn't yet interested you enough to watch, try Unlimited World Red out. You may find yourself wanting to take a look.