I’ll be honest with you: I have never watched One Piece in my life, nor do I know much about it. All of my very limited One Piece knowledge came from that Playstation 4 game J-Stars Victory Versus: there’s this pirate kid called Monkey for some reason, he has Dhalsim-esque stretch abilities, he’s a pirate, and there’s some chick called Boa. Oh, and I also know that this show is probably nearing one thousand episodes already.
This didn’t stop me from getting the newest One Piece game available on the Japanese eShop, One Piece Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition, an improved version of a game released in 2014. Who knows, I’d might start watching a new show just like J-Stars made me want to watch Bleach, Gintama and Beelzebub.
Well, this game didn’t convince me to give One Piece a shot, but it wasn’t a bad gaming experience at all as well.
As soon as the game begins, you’ll soon find out that you’ll need a bit of One Piece knowledge in order to understand what the heck is going on. The game introduced more characters on the first five minutes than Game of Thrones does on an average season. This might sound like a strange complaint, given that this game is obviously made with the fans in mind, but recent games such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Saint Seiya were more forgiving in that area, featuring key plot elements from their respective series, as well as glossaries for the uninitiated. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the game for what it is, I just mostly skipped its story.
In its core, Unlimited World Red Deluxe (I’ll just call it this way in order to save time and space) is a decent beat-em-up with simple, but effective combat, nice visuals and a metric ton of sidequests and extra content.
The best aspect in Unlimited World Red Deluxe is, by far, its visuals. That’s the beauty of cel-shaded visuals: even if they are clearly last-gen in terms of quality, they still look pretty great, without aging a single day. The animations are top notch and the framerate is always high, even if the amount of enemies onscreen is more than a dozen. Even though the game was originally released on much more limited hardware (the 3DS), the developers made sure to improve the level of quality in both the textures and lighting effects.
Another mostly positive aspect is the game’s sound department, which features a lot of recorded dialogue featuring the anime’s original cast. Surely, it’s all in Japanese, but that still added a sense of legitimacy to the game. It wouldn’t have made any difference for me if the game featured dubbed voices, to be honest. The soundtrack was quite hit-and-miss, featuring an equal amount of both nice songs and forgettable songs.
The biggest point of criticism in Unlimited World Red Deluxe is, by far, regarding its controls. Controlling your characters isn’t that much of a hassle, to be fair: the combat mechanics are fairly straightforward, using few buttons, and being somewhat responsive. The problem lies in the game’s camera: it’s bad. Really bad. Nintendo 64 levels of bad. Even though you can control the camera with the right analog stick, the bloody thing has a mind of its own, almost always pointing you to the opposite direction you’re supposed to go, changing angles from out of nowhere, and using a very weird and unreliable lock-on mechanism on nearby enemies. It’s amazing how Ocarina of Time pulled it off much better nineteen years ago, in comparison. Another nuisance is the presence of some “last-gen glitches” that make the game look cheap when they happen. For example, your partner characters simple pop up in front of you if they get stuck at some place and you get too far away from them (and given their imbecile A.I., it’ll happen quite often).
Despite the camera issues, it is possible to have fun with the game. The levels are pretty straightforward: go from point A to point B, killing everyone in sight, collecting as much loot as possible along the way. There are quite a handful of RPG elements scattered throughout the game, such as lots of equippable items (which, weirdly enough, are called “words”), experience points, skill trees, crafting materials, and so on. The game also features tons of sidequests, the possibility of “capturing” animals with a net or fishing rod akin to Harvest Moon (it feels out of place but hey, more content, I guess), a simple town management mode in which you can invest money on your hub town in order to unlock more buildings and sidequests, a coliseum mode, and co-op support with just a single joycon for each player. There is a lot to do in Unlimited World Red Deluxe, and it’s not entirely mandatory: you can do as much as you want in the game depending on how invested you are in it.
In the end, this wasn’t a bad game at all. Unlimited World Red Deluxe has some truly irritating issues like a handful of glitches and the infuriating camera, but its simplicity, visuals and amount of content make up for it.
This is a great game for fans of the One Piece anime/manga. Non-fans can also enjoy the game for the simple beat-em-up that it is, but be sure to have a notepad alongside you in order to write down the names of all seven trillion characters that’ll show up.
One Piece Unlimited World Red Deluxe is also available on 3DS, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, PS4, and PC.