One Piece reminds me of high school. It reminds me of having tons of free time and being in the Wild West era of anime when it was booming and things were being localized left and right. There were dark times ahead, but devouring One Piece (along with Mobile Suit Gundam) helped shape me as a person. Eiichiro Oda showed me it’s okay to embrace color, silliness and emotion. Unfortunately, in those days One Piece didn’t really have the greatest of games. Unlimited World on the Wii was close to greatness, with an interesting mix of exploration, resource gathering and oddly hardcore combat. Fast forward several years, and we have One Piece: Unlimited World Red.
The landscape is much different now. This game launched on several platforms and is a part of a new publishing effort by Bandai Namco and a rebirth of sorts for One Piece, at this point now a permanent fixture in the Funimation library. I played the game on the Wii U and enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s an expansion of the ideas from the original Unlimited World, with a bit more of the finesse that comes with years of iteration. And now the game has been re-released on the Switch and PS4 as a Deluxe Edition. This new fancy version provides the extra juice the game needed to cement itself as an anime game worth playing.
This game looks incredible on the Switch’s portable screen. The bright colors pop, and it runs at a consistent, smooth and high frame rate. Running around as Luffy, stretching his arms out to fly between buildings like a lower-budget Arkham City is a lot more fun when it runs so much better. The combat, which is again that same hardcore style based on committing to animations and timed defenses, excels with the game’s new sense of speed and accuracy. It’s the same game, but better, and sufficiently portable. No longer are the compromises of the 3DS or Vita part of the equation.
If you’re coming into this blind, perhaps as a new One Piece fan, One Piece: Unlimited World Red is a sort of fusion between a crafting adventure RPG and something like Monster Hunter. The game’s time is split between visiting stages for the first time and fighting bosses, using resources to build up the central hub, and going on sub-missions to grind levels and get even more resources. Developing characters is also a supplemental task, but it’s largely leveling up and equipping minor stat and item boosts.
Games like these are all about the fanservice, being able to pick whatever character you want and relishing in the video game interpretations of the special attacks and voice acting. Everything else is just an excuse to tie these indulgences into something meaningful. The crafting system I can give or take. You spend a lot of time punching bushes and boxes, catching fish, bugs and other small creatures. Then in the town, you use these resources to build more expansions, therefore gain access to greater, actually useful stuff like healing items. The real meat and potatoes are in the boss fights, which are big, scary encounters with the enormous personalities making up the One Piece Rogues Gallery.
From Crocodile, all the way to a new, original villain designed by Eiichiro Oda himself, One Piece: Unlimited World Red knows battles are a key component in why One Piece is so great. The villains are just as loud and spectacular as the Straw Hat Pirates, but several times the size. Boss fights are full tilt, with much of them spent just trying to hang and avoid taking hits. Battles are all about observing the boss’ patterns, then finding an opening to retaliate. A dodge system, sort of a QTE prompt that helps you avoid damage is crucial, but you have to make sure you’re not mashing buttons when one appears. A list of combos also gives you a boost when you go through it all, and you need every tool you can get–this game can get tough. But when the fight is over, that familiar sense of satisfaction is more of a reward than any exp or money.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red isn't so much a satisfying, action-RPG romp through the world of One Piece, but a greatest hits-style collection of action figures banging against each other. The original story doesn’t do much to add to the mythos, but the new villain is dope and the meaty, albeit grindy content is worth trekking through to indulge in the One Piece fanservice. Any more and it would likely overstay its welcome, but it’s a concise enough package to feel meaty instead of slight. And on the Switch, the novelty of having the same fidelity as the big console versions on the go, and all the DLC content included, is icing on the cake.
Hint: When you need to grind levels, seek out the “defeat x number of enemies” missions.
by Lucas White
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