Article first published as Playstation 3 Review: 'One Piece: Unlimited World Red’ on Blogcritics.
The oddball "One Piece" is one of the most successful manga franchises of all time, because, of course, who doesn’t love pirates? The Japanese manga series is written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda and follows the adventures of the rubber bodied Monkey Luffy, and his motley crew of pirates, known as the Straw Hat Pirates. The group travels the seas in search of the world's ultimate treasure known as the One Piece which will allow Luffy to become the next Pirate King. With over 30 "One Piece" video games having already been made, and this particular game being a port from the Nintendo 3DS, there’s not that much original here.
Even though "One Piece: Unlimited World Red" isn’t an entirely original effort for the Playstation 3, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some fun to be had with the title. Surprisingly, "Unlimited World Red" is a pretty good looking game. The game features some vibrant, great looking anime cutscenes and purists will likely appreciate the original Japanese audio, though others might get tired of reading all of the subtitles. Though some of the environments are fairly sparse, the whole world is colorful and immersive. By looks alone it is tough to discern the game’s handheld roots.
It’s not until you play "One Piece: Unlimited World Red" that illusion fades. While everything looks and sounds great, the game itself is fairly simplistic and feel like playing games from a couple of console generations ago. As an action/adventure 3D brawler with some RPG elements, but the actual gameplay is nowhere near its contemporaries. While you’re exploring, the movement seems adequate and Luffy can use his elasticity to pull off Spider-Man like moves on buildings in the hub area of Trans Town. It’s not until you enter combat that everything feels a little limited and stiff, like a handheld game.
With two attack buttons and the ability jump, block and lock on, the battles should feel more organic than what "Unlimited World Red" offers. Instead, the fighting animations really limit what can be done in combat. While they all look great, they really limit your ability to land attacks or even avoid your enemies effectively. Luckily the game does allow you to take control of your various party members and use their individual abilities and strengths. It’s not until your whole party has been defeated that you are sent back to the last checkpoint.
Like other games of the genre, "Unlimited World Red" is a ten plus hour slog, longer if you take on many of the side quests, or spend a lot of time with mini-games. There is no story mode co-op option this time around, though you can do mini-games with local multiplayer and participate in the seemingly tacked-on Battle Coliseum mode, which allows you to earn some power-ups for the main adventure. Having played a good number of games that try to adapt manga and anime source material, I was pretty impressed with the presentation, but somewhat underwhelmed by the mechanics. Unfortunately, because of all of the existing cannon references, you really need to be a "One Piece" fan to appreciate what the experience offers.