Capsule Review: One Piece: Unlimited World Red

An action RPG set in the One Piece universe. Play as the nine Straw Hat Pirates in an original story, visiting a number of areas based on their canonical adventures. Fight your way through enemies, catch bugs and go fishing, collect materials and explore hidden areas, and fight the boss at the end of the level. Each of the Straw Hats plays differently and while combat is not as fluid and satisfying as in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, Unlimited World Red allows you to take three characters into each mission and switch between them freely, with whoever you aren’t currently controlling left to the AI. Between these excursions, return to the hub town and spend your spoils to help it expand.

There’s a decent enough core here and it’s not a terrible way to spend more time in the world of One Piece. The story is a little weakly integrated - at least early on, it’s mostly an excuse for the game to feature a sort of greatest-hits selection of areas and bosses with little motivation for the actual choices characters make. And unfortunately there’s a lot of padding that will force you to replay levels many times over. Levels have barriers that can only be opened by the right character - who you may not have brought with you and who might not even have the right ability yet on your first time through. Expanding the town, completing collections, and strengthening your characters all require repetitive grinding and farming, with the various parts of the town’s economy funneling into each other in ways that generate more busy work but don’t actually make the world feel more alive.

While the later ports of the game onto more powerful systems are graphically beautiful, there’s a surprising lack of polish in certain areas that belies the game’s origins as a 3DS title and which I’m surprised wasn’t cleaned up somewhere along the way. Even on the PS4 where I played the game, enemies often just appear in levels, with no animation - it’s like pop-in, but it happens quite close to you so presumably it’s not a draw distance issue. Enemies also don’t have life bars, and it’s not clear when you’ve defeated them - sometimes when they fall down they get back up, and sometimes they don’t. You can continue to attack them as they are falling, so if you haven’t defeated the enemy it’s good to get the extra damage in while you can, but if you have then you’re wasting your time, and it’s frustrating that you can’t tell the difference.

Navigation is also harder than it needs to be. There’s no minimap - you have to pause to call up the map, and you can’t scroll it or set waypoints. This becomes problematic as you expand the town and more shops appear in it. I have a terrible sense of direction and found myself having to pause to check my map several times to find my way to the shop I was trying to get to. It doesn’t help that the camera is zoomed in too close and too low to the ground, which could easily be an artifact of when the game needed to render less area at once on the less-powerful systems, but is weirdly claustrophic in the later ports. There are also some tight corners where the camera suddenly locks into place, which feels unneecessary, and in some of those you get ambushed by enemies that you can’t turn the camera to look at!

I haven’t seen anyone else mention this in any of the reviews I read, but the game actually made me feel slightly physically ill. I don’t normally get motion sick from games, and I’m not sure exactly what it is that set me off here. Some combination of the too-tight, too-low camera and the jerkiness of certain animations and movements left me with low-grade nausea whenever I played. It was tolerable, but not pleasant.

I was hoping this game would provide me an opportunity to inhabit the world of One Piece a bit more fully than Pirate Warriors 3 had, and in a way it does provide that opportunity. But you have to be willing to put up with grinding and lack of polish to meet it halfway.

I Stopped Playing When: I really wanted to like this game, so even with its flaws and my motion sickness I kept going through the first several chapters. Then I played a level that surprises you with a second boss at the end, much harder than the first, and which I couldn’t beat with my current party at its current level. Quitting sent me back to town with no spoils from the hour or so I’d spent in the mission, leveling up and collecting resources and doing the bug-catching and fishing minigames. Seeing that the game was willing to demand I spend my time grinding and then break its established difficulty curve and destroy my time investment was what finally convinced me to reluctantly quit.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

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