While it may have a name that looks like it's popped out of a random sentence generator, One Piece Unlimited World Red is the latest game based on the popular (and long-running) Japanese animé/manga series, One Piece. Almost befitting of its Japanese origins, it boasts a variety of crazy and unique characters in typically over the top storylines, as the Straw Hat Pirates go in search of the eponymous One Piece. And whilst it's not usually all that easy to dive into a long running series if you know next to nothing about the scenario, this actually works pretty well as a nice standalone adventure.
The main bulk of gameplay here comes out of the story mode, which begins with the Straw Hats on their usual travels, taking a stop at Trans Town to drop off a raccoon named Pato, who's requested they help him meet up with an old friend. As you'd likely expect, things don't go according to plan, and an unlikely series of events ends with most of the pirate crew being abducted - and it's up to our protagonist, Captain Luffy, to get them back.
Each chapter/episode is broken down into smaller areas, which you have to fight your way through to get from one of the level to another. Essentially a pretty linear beat-em-up, the levels can sometimes feel a bit devoid of personality, or even things to do, but that's likely more of a limitation with the 3DS. Whilst there are destructible objects placed throughout (to get items for use in rebuilding Trans Town, one of the game's mini-games), areas to fish in and catch bugs, and some exploration to be done to find chests, it's a little disappointing that some of these areas feel a bit empty - especially as you'll often have to backtrack through them to find a key word to unlock a door.
The characters throughout, both those available to play as, and the bosses and other special characters, all have their own uniqueness and quirks, which makes them more interesting. This, especially, extends to the nine members of the Straw Hat crew, with the interplay between them during cutscenes, and the way they can combine during battle, being a highlight. Ranging from Luffy's stretchy limbs, to Chopper's transformations and healing abilities, to Nami's weather magic, each fighting style, along with the various abilities each character has, helps to add another layer of strategy to the battle system - and with a max of three characters on your team at any one time, you can swap people out to find a combination that suits.
Also available is a Battle Coliseum mode. Whilst this does have it's own story, it mainly serves to tie a load of arena based battles together, and give you an excuse to mash some more buttons. With a variety of battle types and characters to unlock, this makes a nice break from the main story, forgoing a serious plot for a pure combat approach (which can be quite fun, trying out the different characters and how they work/play) - whilst working towards unlocking a variety of rewards that can be used in the Main Story. Playing through the different battle types and unlocking all the rewards in this mode could easily take up hours of time.
As you'd likely expect from a popular Japanese animé, the world and the characters you meet during the course of the adventure are all colourful and quirky, with both the art style and characterisations being authentic to the series. Whilst there is only the option for the Japanese voice acting, with English subtitles, this doesn't detract from the overall experience or atmosphere.
While knowledge of the series it's based on would be a good start, One Piece Unlimited World Red is a game which should be a worthy purchase for fans looking for another adventure. The story's well done, the graphics are bright, and the characters interesting enough to keep you going through an admittedly fairly repetitive button mashing game. Worth a look.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS