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'One Piece: Unlimited World Red' review: A trip down memory lane

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One Piece: Unlimited World Red (3DS)

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One Piece: Unlimited World Red’s commitment to constructing an adventure fans of the long running smash hit series can reminisce over is instantly evident. Yet with the introduction of brand-new characters (designed by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda) and a game-exclusive narrative, the Straw Hat Crew’s latest endeavor is both fresh and exciting.

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After fishing Pato, a mysterious raccoon dog, out of the ocean and escorting him to the Forgotten Island, Monkey D. Luffy and his gang of pirates set out on a bizarre journey, revisiting familiar locations and encountering enemies from previous ventures.

You may want to think twice before playing Unlimited World Red if you have any plans to start watching or reading the series (which, by the way, good luck with catching up). While you don’t necessarily need any background knowledge to enjoy the game, it does have a few spoilers for fans who are far, far behind. For those uninterested, maybe the small hints of previous adventures will actually encourage you to give the series a shot, even with the events expected to occur.

Developer Ganbarion does an excellent job of portraying each characters personality, and much like the series, the dialogue had us laughing one moment and serious the next. Every once in a while we were able to sit back and enjoy a visually stunning cutscene that looked as if it came straight from the anime.

While most locations are reminiscent of past pirating adventures, the first place players visit is Trans Town, which is unique to the game. Trans Town is the main travel hub, where players begin each chapter and return to upon its completion. There’s also quite a bit to do in the small town, most of which revolves around the Inn. The Inn is where you save your progress, store items collected during adventures or purchased at shops, create and expand new shops, change characters’ clothes and more.

Near the Inn lies a tavern that where players can take up quests and revisit previously completed locations for additional material gathering and leveling. Collecting resources is a crucial component to the experience because not only do they allow you to expand the town, but they’re also used for leveling up the Straw Hat Crew’s abilities.

You can take up to three characters out on the field at a time, switching back and forth between them as you please. Throughout our playthrough, we mostly stuck to the same three (Luffy, Zoro and Nami) because each character is leveled separately and we weren’t up to the task of training each one. We did however test each one out and were extremely satisfied with their distinct feels. While the combat is simple, the attacks unique to an individual character were enough to make fighting feel fresh with each member.

Each stage was easily distinguishable from the last, but they all played out the same. Head toward the far side of the map, fighting off enemies and collecting materials, until you reach a wall blocking your path. In order to get passed the wall you need to find a specific word (item) which normally just requires you to backtrack until you encounter a specific enemy and take them out. In short, it’s a waste of time. Soon after that, you'll encounter a boss battle to finish up the level.

Our biggest complaint with the game is exclusive to the 3DS version, which is the fact that the camera is a little irritating to control due to the devices lack of a right analog -- unless, of course, you have the circle pad pro, but c’mon, who does? Instead, moving the camera requires you to press on a directional pad positioned on the touch screen. The alternative that we preferred was the left shoulder button, which shifts the camera to the direction the player is facing, so what we ended up doing was repeatedly tapping said button to keep up.

Unlimited Red’s main story took us about 10 hours to complete, but we were compelled to revisit it thanks to the Difficult Story Mode option received after completing the game for the first time. The challenge present in the original story mode should be enough for the average gamer, but for those looking for a significantly larger challenge should try their luck at Difficult Story mode.

Once you grow tired of the story, there’s the Battle Coliseum Mode, featuring exciting match-ups with even more familiar faces and a growing challenge as you increase in rank. There are different types of matches to choose from including special matches where characters are often predetermined, 1v1’s, all-out brawls and more. The coliseum is a great place to get used to each character, especially since there are no penalties for losing or surrendering.

Pros

+ Reminiscent of the series
+ Looks great
+ Challenging (if you ask for it)

Cons

- Not the best idea for those looking to get into the series
- Irritating camera control
- Predictable stages

Verdict

One Piece: Unlimited World Red is best played with two thumbsticks, and if you’re looking to take the experience on-the-go, maybe PlayStation Vita would be a better fit. Despite that, the game still offers a unique adventure packed with familiar faces and locations. And even if it is all unfamiliar to you, there’s still a fun, challenging pirate adventure just waiting to have your rubbery fists all over it... but seriously, if you have no idea what that means things are going to get a little weird.

A retail copy of the game was provided to Examiner by publisher Bandai Namco Games for review purposes.

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