While I’m usually on the hesitant side when it comes to licensed games (even if they are from beloved anime series), I’ll admit that I was pretty excited to hear that One Piece: Romance Dawn was going to be making its way to North America. Originally released on the PSP in Japan, it wasn’t until a 3DS incarnation was made that we got the thumbs up for a localization. I’ve spent a bit of time with the game thus far and these are my impressions:
1. The anime clips played during the opening, as well as the ones sprinkled throughout the game, look rather nice so far. They are very clean looking, though unlike other games that have made use of them, the 3D functionality can’t be used with them. In fact, the 3D functionality can’t be used with any of the game, though I likely would have just kept it off anyway.
2. Purists will be delighted, as the game retains the Japanese voiceovers. It’s very unusual for a game based off of a popular anime to not include the dub shared by the show, but given the limited release of the game, I can understand.
3. One Piece: Romance Dawn seems to follow the plot of the show starting from the very beginning. Most of the story is told through paraphrased still images, though the anime sequences I mentioned earlier make an appearance time and again.
4. The simplest way I can describe the premise of the gameplay: It’s One Piece in turn-based RPG format. No, really.
5. When you get into battles, each button has an attack associated with it. You can string these attacks together into a combo until you no longer have AP left in your turn. As you attack, you build up TP that is needed for special attacks (Such as Luffy’s Gum Gum Pistol). You can also run, guard, use items or abilities just like in any standard JRPG.
6. You can move your character while it’s your turn, though moving too far outside of a designated circle will penalize you. Not that you have to run up to enemies each time; as long as you have one selected your character will move in to attack. However, if you position yourself just right, your attacks can hit multiple enemies or send them flying into walls and other obstacles.
7. Each character can be equipped with accessories found in chests and in battle, further enhancing their stats. Some of them will even alter the characters’ appearances, such as one that gives Luffy a hulking backpack.
8. There exist active time event sequences that remind me of the chase scenes in Shenmue where you are running quickly down a hallway and have to think fast about the turns you make as well as when to kick down a wall. The penalty for failure seems to be just getting into another battle, but it was an interesting addition as it fits with Luffy’s character.
9. In addition to simply leveling up, individual skills can be upgraded for each character, further strengthening those attacks and adding more combos. In fact, the combo system in general reminded me of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games (and I mean that in a good way).
10. As an observation, this is one of the first games I’ve played in a long time that doesn’t take you through a tutorial when you start. There is a help menu as well as the digital manual, though neither are the most adequate at explaining things. Not that the game is terribly complicated, but I was certainly surprised.
That’s all I’ve chronicled for my high sea adventures for now. The game is currently available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, though if you want a physical release, you can get one either from Namco Bandai’s online store or via GameStop. Stay tuned for the full review!