Review: One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition
Newbies and experts alike will enjoy this impressive action-packed One Piece adventure.
29 December 2017 – by Jack Taylor
Version reviewed: Nintendo Switch (code provided)
One Piece has been on the go for more than 20 years in Japan, and alongside its impressive manga and anime libraries sits a large number of games including platformers, RPGs, and everything in-between. Nintendo fans were recently treated to One Piece: Unlimited World Red, which launched for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS in 2014; it's back for another round on Nintendo Switch, and this time, it includes all of the add-on content that was released for the original version.
For starters, it's worth pointing out that yours truly is very much a One Piece newbie, and there's likely to be a few of us treading this road together. As such, it's important to note that while no prior knowledge of One Piece is required, it's helpful. Very helpful, in fact, because unless you're in the know about One Piece, you'll come out of the opening cutscenes with questions, such as who are those guys? Why are that guy's arms made of elastic? What's wrong with that guy's neck? Is that raccoon... talking? All good questions, but just roll with it, and you'll be fine - the story will eventually explain itself, so after a couple of hours, you should have a fair idea of what's happening.
To summarise the game's early goings-on, the main character Luffy and his gang of Straw Hat Pirates make their way to the Island of Promises, following the aforementioned raccoon Pato on a mysterious quest. As they arrive at Transtown - the game's hub - the entire crew is kidnapped, leaving it up to Luffy to rescue them, then to find out who was responsible and seek revenge. As you progress, you'll be introduced to various supporting cast members, and you'll also be able to use each crew member in battle; we'll get onto that in a little more detail later on.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red's main story mode includes a number of chapters, each taking place in a different location and each with an end goal to reach. To get there, you'll need to beat up plenty of bad guys, possibly collect a few items, and knock out one or two bosses. By taking part in battles, your team members can gain experience to level up and get even stronger. Between chapters, you'll return to Transtown, where you can save, restock your supplies, complete useful quests, and help to expand the town's resources and buildings. You can also return to any location you've previously visited, which is useful for levelling-up your team members and collecting items to make use of when you get back to town.
All of the controls are explained early on, and are relatively easy to grasp - the X and Y buttons are used to attack, and can be used in combos to create even more powerful attacks. Each character has an SP gauge, which can be used to power additional special moves; these can be selected by pressing the R button and then picking from up to four moves, depending on which ones you have available at the time. Add to this the fact that each of your nine crew members has different moves and strengths, and you're able to create and modify a unique team of three to switch between and use in battle as you wish. The fact that you can easily return to completed areas is a real benefit as well, since each crew member starts at level 1 and can be efficiently levelled-up by going back to do a bit of grinding.
For the most part, the combat is pretty interesting, and learning about each team member's unique traits is an important part of succeeding in battle. Combos are relatively easy to pull off, although some of the longer ones can be difficult to get right when you're being attacked at the same time, and that happens a lot when you're faced with large numbers of enemies. In fact, when you're trying to fight off so many of them at once, you're less likely to aim for combos and more likely to start button-mashing, which shouldn't really work. You can dodge or counter attacks by using the A button, which can be very effective, although less useful when you don't get much notice of an attack or when it's coming at you from off-screen, in which case you might not even see the button prompt.
Outside of battling, while levelling-up does increase each team member's stats such as health (HP) and attack, you can also equip Strong Words to each team member to enhance their abilities and skill sets. There are three types of Strong Words to use: Skill words automatically power up characters' stats and abilities; Custom words can be equipped to specifically enhance certain abilities; and Item words allow you to help boost your team in battle. There are various ways to collect new words - you'll get a few just by progressing through each chapter - and you'll eventually be able to use spoils and money to upgrade words to boost their benefits. It sounds confusing the first time it's mentioned, but it's a pretty easy system to use, and an interesting way of picking and choosing how you want each team member to develop. Finding and upgrading them all will take time, but get the right ones and you're onto a winner.
There's also the matter of improving Transtown, another important aspect of the game that complements the main story. When you first visit the town, all it has is an inn, which you can use to save, sort your inventory, and check your party members; once you've completed the first chapter, you'll be tasked with expanding the town by using the resources you've collected to work on new buildings, such as a pharmacy, a tavern, and even more as you progress. Each building has its own benefits as well, such as the tavern, where you can take on quests and buy some items, or the pharmacy, where you can buy healing items to take with you. Plus, thanks to the inclusion of the add-on content released for the original version of Unlimited World Red, the tavern will open with plenty of useful quests for you to take on from the start.
The game's presentation is certainly impressive, too, with colourful visuals and a fantastically memorable soundtrack helping to create a high-standard experience throughout. You're also able to join forces with a friend to play in co-op mode, although each player will need either a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller or their own pair of Joy-Con to use. One thing that does let the presentation down from a technical aspect is the camera, which can't be zoomed out, and has a tendency to move on its own from time to time. It can be controlled, and it doesn't ruin the experience by any stretch, but it can be annoying when you're faced with a large boss fight or a particularly nasty group of enemies. It's something of a shame, particularly when you consider the fact that this is a reissue of an existing game, and the opportunity was there to fix the problem, or at least improve it somewhat.
If you're looking for a break from the main story, a second mode called the Battle Coliseum is available from the opening menu. This is separate to the story, so none of your progress will carry over - each character has their own skills and words, so you can jump right in. You'll start in the C League and can improve by winning battles and collecting rank points, which will also help to unlock all of the characters, as at first you can only use two in battle. Two options are available: Scramble battles task you with taking on hordes of enemies and defeating a certain number within the time limit; the Duel option is one-on-one against a more powerful enemy, and again you'll need to defeat them before you lose all your health. It's a fun little aside, but completing certain feats will also reward you with extra quests and items in the story mode, so it's certainly worth your time.
One Piece has been around for a long time now, and if it didn't gain a new legion of fans every so often, it wouldn't still be as popular as it is. We say this because, while it's true that knowledge of the series will help you actually understand what the heck's going on here, it's worth sticking with the experience even if you've never seen anything else relating to One Piece before. In fact, in the way the story has been crafted, it seems to be a fairly good entry point into the series. You don't need to know the characters' names like the back of your hand or anything like that to be able to enjoy the great story and everything that surrounds it. If you've already played the original version of the game, it might be hard to suggest, given the lack of "new" content; if you haven't, and you're looking for a good action-packed game, mark this one down for your consideration. It's bonkers, but good bonkers.