Eiichiro Oda, and the development team at Bandai Namco once again grace the Playstation consoles with a tribute game designed around Eiichiro's fantastical world of pirates, and marines. Eiichiro's epic adventure known as "One Piece" boldly began in 1997 as a manga exclusive, later became an anime, and has since gained six seasons (over 600 episodes) worth of maritime lore surrounding the 'Straw Hat Pirates', and their quest for the ultimate treasure known as 'One Piece". With the addition of video games such as 'Unlimited World Red' making their debut on current generation consoles the 'One Piece' mythology continues to expand even further reaching an even broader audience than before. Staying faithful to the series, and expanding upon it Eiichiro Oda contributes to this latest One Piece game with additional plot based scenarios, and characters not yet seen in the anime series. You'll find high seas adventures in the form of a vastly constructed story mode, and a coliseum mode in which the "One Piece" battles mean everything. There are plenty of colorful characters to play as, and team up with as you take on the quests, face insurmountable odds in epic battles, and complete tasks that are asked of you. Much like 'Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker' you will be spending hours upon hours interacting with island residents, and expanding upon the island itself. There's lots to do, and plenty of fun to be had as you join Luffy, and his Straw Hat Pirate crew in their latest set of misadventures!
One Piece Unlimited World Red opens on a humble note with a modest start menu that features only a bare minimum of options. As the title is emblazoned upon the screen Luffy's Japanese voice actor says the title's name out loud, and in a truly grand fashion fitting of the anime Luffy. In the background of the title screen sits in rotation a 3D rendered version of the island where a good portion of the 'Main Story' is to take place. Upon clicking the 'START' button you will find three menu options including the usual settings. Among the gameplay options you can choose to go with either "Main Story", or "Coliseum" both of which are rich in content. The "Main Story" will advance the plot about the Straw Hat Pirate's latest island discovery with the guided aid of Pato the raccoon, and the release of the notorious pirate RED at the hands of BlackBeard. The 'Coliseum' on the other hand takes a completely different plot approach, and teams up Trafalger Law, and Money D. Luffy as they engage in tiered battles in order to defeat one of their greatest adversaries, Donquixote DoFlamingo.
About the 'Main Story' ...
After the anime intro fitting of an Eiichiro Oda anime production we find the Straw Hat Pirate crew nearing a new island after being guided there by Pato. It is this island filled with happy-go-lucky residents that you will be staying, resting, and doing the bidding of others. Within the island's confines you will guide Luffy using the basic controls of 'X' for jumping, 'SQUARE' for punching, and 'TRIANGLE for grappling from rooftop to rooftop. There are plenty of hidden secrets within the alleyways, and streets of the island as well as with the people who call the island home. To advance the plot you will talk with people of interest using the 'CIRCLE' button, and will go from location to location guided by a 'START' menu map as you fulfill the requests asked of you.
The main hub, or place of interest within the island is an Inn run by Miss Yadoya in which you can save your game, dress your characters, manage your items, and expand the islands shops (Restaurant, Factory, Bookstore, General Store ...) with gained supplies from your 'Transtown' outings. The newly opened shops will ultimately afford Luffy, and his Straw Hat Pirate crew new perks as well as buying, and crafting opportunities amongst other things. The local 'Tavern' which you open up early on in the main story's tutorial will also afford you, and your select team of Straw Hat Pirates extended gameplay opportunities in the form of level oriented quests, and boss fights that can be unlocked during your 'Main Story', and 'Coliseum' playthroughs. Another point of interest that ties-in with the main story playthrough, and the island Luffy and his crew have found themselves on is the 'Transtown' port. This port will allow you to travel to your next story destination, and battle out the hordes and bosses that lie in wait for you there.
When it comes to completing the episodes, and stages that go along with the 'Main story' you will find that 90% of your playthrough is fight oriented, and that the other 10% is about looting/treasure hunting. The fights in 'One Piece Unlimited World Red', whether they be horde, or boss fight in nature will require properly executed (X, SQUARE & TRIANGLE) combos. The fighting as it were is straightforward to a point beat'em up, but is one that will also require attention to onscreen detail if you hope to come out of the fray victorious. The 'SQUARE', and 'TRIANGLE' button presses which I just mentioned are your chosen character's basic attack moves, and can be combo'd together into strings making for different types of attacks. Add the jump button (X) to the equation, and you have even more ways to deal death to those enemies before you. Along with the basic attack functions come character specific actions that are tied in with the action button (CIRCLE). By pressing CIRCLE when you are prompted to do so you can perform a character specific action that will either result in an evasive move, a guard, a counterattack, or a follow-up action for when the enemy character is downed.
Aside from the basic attacks, and combo oriented gameplay you will find that playable characters in the game also have special attacks, and linked attacks that rely on a refillable spirit meter. Of course it goes without saying that the more you attack, and use the action button in battle the more the two bars of spirit meter will fill up. This in turn will allow you to perform devastating character specific special attacks, and group based link attacks respectively. Once your SP (Spirit Meter) reaches the first bar it will become a solid golden color signifying that your character's special attack is ready to be unleashed. With your target in sight, whether it be the horde or a boss character you you'll need to hold the "R1" shoulder button, and then press square to unleash that character's special attack. Once activated the special attack will trigger a dynamic animation in which the character using the special unleashes their fury on their intended target with a more damaging attack. Keep in mind that special attacks will miss if you don't have them lined up correctly.
The same 'R1' press also applies to the 'Link Attack'. By holding down 'R1', and pressing 'CIRCLE' when you have a full two bars of SP you will trigger a special attack that incorporates all two/three of your chosen characters. Like the special attack, the linked attack will also trigger a cinematic animation, but will incorporate more than just one character when doing so. Another feature I should mention is the 'Break Burst'. By successfully hammering out the list of combo strings that appear to the right-hand side of the screen you will be able to trigger a 'Break Burst' for a limited time, and do more damage to the onscreen enemy/enemies than you could have done otherwise. Once the Break Burst has worn off you will be give other opportunities to activate a break burst so long as all of the enemies haven't been defeated. Your goal, in whatever fight scenario you may encounter in-game is to ultimately defeat all of the enemies. Once done a victory message will appear along with your completion time, the points earned, the supplies obtained, and the money earned.
As far as the horde based combat scenario goes it will pit your chosen character, and (up to) two other chosen characters against the current horde in either the 'Main Story' playthrough, or in the various dual character 'Coliseum' events. In 'One Piece Unlimited World Red' the hordes, or group of characters are usually made up of opposing pirates, or marines who carry either projectile weapons, or melee weapons. Some of the horde enemies will also be different in size, and include more beast-like creatures that tie-in with One Piece's unique mythology. Once you have eliminated the horde by any means necessary you will be able to move forward to the next area of the stage, and continue exploring for supplies, treasure, or keywords that are necessary for getting into the locked areas of the stage.
Advancing through the 'Main Story' stages, and episodes will require more than just beat'em up brawl victories. Certain keywords are also needed to get to other areas of interest as well as a definitive boss fight which is located at the tail end of a stage playthrough. In most cases you will fight off against set groups of enemies (hordes) first, and fight an end boss at the very end. The boss fights, unlike the horde battles will test your mettle in more ways than one, and will ultimately require boss specific tactics to overcome. Each boss character in the game has a certain attack pattern, and it is this pattern that must be learned in order to defeat them. In the end winning the battles before you, and building up the island you now call home will be what stands between your crew's demise, and ultimate victory.
About "Coliseum" ...
Both the 'Main Story', and 'Coliseum' can be played from the start, and in no particular order. While the 'Main Story' has little influence on what goes on in the 'Coliseum' mode you will find that 'Coliseum' mode has a huge influence on what takes place, and is made available in the 'Main Story'. In 'Coliseum' mode you will enter a gladiatorial event that is put on by one of Traflager Law's, and Monkey D. Luffy's greatest maritime adversaries. As you can likely guess Donquixote DoFlamingo is the main bad guy behind this particular plot driven face off, and is the host of said competition. He claims to be able to grant any wish to whomever may win the tournament. Before they can claim such a prize though the competitor must first defeat Donquixote DonFlaming himself. While the prize is good enough for most who enter it is not what Law, and Luffy have their sights set on ...
While there's plenty of plot points, and animations to watch unfold in this mode of play you will find that a majority of your time spent within the mode will be battle oriented. There are five battle options (Duel, Scramble, Battle Royal, Boss Rush, Special Match), and plenty of rewards in place for advancing up the three tier ranking pyramid that was put into place by DoFlamingo. Ultimately you'll be earning points for each victory, and facing harder encounters as you make your way from "C" tier to "A" tier. As you win you will earn points according to the type of battle that is chosen, and the difficulty setting you have the current battle engagement you find yourself in set on.
On 'Easy', 'Normal', and 'Hard' difficulty settings your chosen character, or tag team of characters will be able to face off against hordes, strong foes, and bosses as you face increasingly more difficult challenges. The fight mechanics are the same as I mentioned in the 'Main Story' description, but do not include the option to buy/use health refill items. You'll have your character/s, their custom word set, and their item word set along with all available combat mechanic options. One thing I forgot to mention in the 'Main Story' portion of this review is that your characters are influenced by set 'Custom Words', and 'Item Words' that can be earned through both modes of play, and assigned to each of them. These "Words" are listed in the character customization menus of "Main Story', and are typed as character specific phrases that tie in with that character. The assigned words which can be upgraded via a certain resident of the Main Story's island will boost certain character attributes (ATK, DEF, Elemental Resist ...) making them more effective in a battle scenario. In 'Coliseum' custom words, and item words are automatically chosen for your characters.
When you first begin your playthrough of 'Coliseum' you will have only a single battle option in place, and will only have Law, and Luffy to play as. The more you win as the tutorial portion of the mode plays out, and the more you meet certain unlock requirements listed in the "Rewards List" the more characters (Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky, Brook, Law, Ace, Jimbei, Hancock, Crocodile, Buggy, Akainu ...) you will unlock, and be able to use as you tackle all types of battle that are made available to you. The first battle type, or mode that you'll encounter within 'Coliseum' is the 'Scramble' battle. In scramble two of your chosen characters will face off against a horde of enemies that come in a set number, and are confined to an enclosed stage area. The more you advance in difficulty, and tier the stronger the horde foes will become, and the more numerous they will be. In this mode as in the others all of the previously explained battle mechanics apply.
Next up you will find a battle mode titled, "Duel'. In "Duel" a character of your choosing will face of against another single character of similar strength. It makes for a more difficult battle that is not unlike some of the boss encounters you will face in the game. Keep in mind that the battle mechanics, and boss strategies definitely apply in this type of battle scenario. Another one-on-one battle type that you'll happen upon later on in your 'Coliseum' tutorial playthrough comes in the form of a 'Special Match'. Special matches only happen during tier transitions, and will have a specific character (not of your choosing) facing off against a character that ties in with your character's story. The battle plays out a lot like 'Duel', but in this case you cannot pick who you play as.
When it comes down to the more challenging battle types you will find that 'Battle Royal', and 'Boss Rush' offer up Coliseum's most difficult scenarios. In 'Battle Royal' you will face off against either a strong foe and a horde, or two strong foes. As you can likely guess this makes for a busy battle, and will definitely keep your character tag team on it's toes as you try to defeat all of the enemies before you. The harder the difficulty setting, and the higher the current tier you are on the more difficult it will be to overcome the odds that are stacked against you. For the more difficult battles I definitely suggest teaming up with Chopper as he carries health refills, can regenerate his own health, and can cure negative status effects.
Last, but definitely not least we have the 'Boss Rush' battle mode in which you have a single bar of health, and one assist character to defeat a series of boss characters. As with the other battle mode types 'Boss Rush' will put your skills to the test in accordance with your difficulty settings, and the current ranking tier that you are on. By defeating all bosses included in the current 'Boss rush' you will come out a winner!
Behind all these battle offerings lies a rich rewards system that comes in the form of a 'Rewards List'. By completing a certain number of foes, performing certain in-game actions, playing with a certain grouping of characters, using special attacks, or using linked attacks within each of the five different 'Coliseum' mode types you will unlock things respectively. Along with the unlockable characters are also item bundles than can be accessed in the 'Main Story' storage, additional quests that can be accessed in the 'Main Story' tavern, additional boss fights that can be accessed in the tavern of the 'Main Story', and other such items of interest. With each reward listing comes a specific set of battle requirements that must be met before the reward is earned. This of course extends gameplay in 'Coliseum' mode tremendously.
One Piece Unlimited World Red is a dreamy anime sandbox brawler that gives the gamer more bang for their buck. The game is truly rich in content, and despite only having two modes of play you will find plenty of fun, and interesting things to do as one of your favorite One Piece characters. The art design character design, and environmental design all scream "Eiichiro Oda!!!". It's an anime homage done right, and even though things are done up in a cell-shaded nature everything looks, and feels as if it were ripped from the pages of of Eiichiro Oda's original manga, or even the anime series that was inspired by it. I have thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough of the game thus far, and intend on returning to it until I have finished it completely. As an anime fan, and a fan of gaming I strongly suggest picking this game up as it is a gem with a lot going for it. It will no doubt inspire you to pick up Eiichiro Oda's manga, and anime series of the same namesake as well!