August was apparently the month of anime remasters, as hot on the heels of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy comes a game based on another hot Shonen Jump franchise. One Piece: Unlimited World Red – Deluxe Edition is based on a title that started life as a 3DS game that had since been ported to every console under the sun. It now makes its way to the PlayStation 4 and Switch with all of its DLC included as well as some visual and performance enhancements. And like before, I found myself enjoying it more the second time around.
One Piece is another franchise that has a vast assortment of games with wildly varying quality. I’ve tried most of the ones that released after the 4Kids era of the dub had long ended (those were dark times) and didn’t find many I enjoyed outside of the One Piece: Pirate Warriors trilogy. Romance Dawn got repetitive, Burning Blood was frustrating and imbalanced, and Unlimited Adventure left a lot to be desired. Unlimited World Red, while not perfect, manages to scratch the anime itch in such a way that those other titles could not.
It doesn’t hurt that the plot is unique to this game (though you do encounter familiar areas and adversaries). Luffy and crew encounter a mysterious raccoon, Pato, that has the power to bring things to life that are drawn on a leaf. He leads them to a mysterious island where a pirate simply known as The Red Count has taken up residence. It isn’t long before Luffy’s crew is suddenly abducted, forcing him to explore the island and rescue them, as well as unravel the reason they were brought to the island in the first place.
The narrative holds its own about as well as can be expected. All of the familiar plot beats that fans are accustomed to (never giving up, believe in your friends, etc) are touched upon, and it is nice to have an excuse to revisit locales pulled from various story arcs, such as Fishman Island and Enies Lobby. The final chapter in particular brings everything together while simultaneously fleshing out the main antagonist, which I appreciated. While I would be hard pressed to recommend the game to someone based on the plot, it’s still a pretty good effort.
Visually, Unlimited World Red has the anime look down pat. Cutscenes are well done for what few there are, the locations appear authentic to their respective arcs, and characters animate well during their attacks and special moves. The whole thing seems to operate at a rather consistent frame rate too, which helps. Once again, the English dub cast was not included in the release, but considering the lack of a physical release for its most recent incarnation, I’d be very surprised if it was.
Each of the game’s areas are divided neatly into chapters. Upon completion of a chapter, Luffy is dumped back to a town that acts as a sort of hub for his adventure. Using his stretchy arms, he can rocket back and forth across the town fairly quickly, which is good on account of how spread out much of it is. Using resources collected in battle, the town can be built on so that new shops with added inventory open up, along with minigames. This aspect alone gives it a sort of Dark Cloud vibe, which I thoroughly enjoyed and became one of my favorite features of the game.
As progress is made in the story, new quests open up around town that will often send the Straw Hat crew back to areas they’ve already been in order to collect specific items or defeat particular foes. These quests don’t really offer much beyond the added experience and materials they provide, but if you’re looking for things to do beyond the main plot, they certainly pad out the clock. The minigames, as I mentioned earlier, will eventually open up too, consisting mostly of memory and reflex games. And if you still need more to do, an entirely separate Battle Coliseum mode exists for giving players an opportunity to unlock characters not already present in the story and allowing them to throw down in tournament style battles.
With all of these features at play, it’s a shame that the combat wasn’t up to the task a little better than it is. You do get strong and weak attacks that can be mixed together to form an assortment of combos based on your character selection, plus the ability to jump and dodge out of the way. Certain attacks against you will even display an obvious prompt on when to hit the button in order to warp away or perform some other context sensitive action, making it especially easy to avoid trouble. If you do get roughed up, enhancement items are there to save the day.
Performing a sequence of combos will send your character into a rush mode, which seems to marginally improve the damage output of your team. Taking and receiving damage will fill up a bar that allows your entire three person team do a sort of crew attack that inflicts damage on all on screen enemies. If you need to mix it up, swapping teammates is as easy as hitting a button and a second player can take control of one of them, which is a fantastic addition I wish more modern games had.
Strong words are another important part of progression, as many stages will gate off progress until you have the right ones. It’s not as if each area is particularly long anyway, but I did find it annoying that a strong word might require you to do something that isn’t triggered until you actually reach the barrier, forcing you to backtrack to an area you may have been. Beyond unlocking paths, strong words can be equipped to boost your crew’s stats and others are used as items, so they’re useful to seek out when you can.
Compared to the Pirate Warriors games, the attacks of the Straw Hat crew just feel… slow. And without much oomph behind how they connect with the enemy, battles just aren’t as satisfying as they otherwise could be. Granted, the original game is several years old by now, but with so many other titles out there that do it better, I was a little underwhelmed. At least the characters feel varied enough to help make up for it, and the computer controlled allies are competent enough to at least not seem like a hindrance.
But despite its drawbacks, I still had fun with One Piece: Unlimited World Red and would qualify it as one of the better games based on the franchise. The story is as decent as non-canon material can be, building new shops is satisfying, and I loved that there was a couch co-op option. Much of the side content is repetitive and you’re in for a lot of grinding if you intend to earn the platinum trophy. I also felt that the $39.99 price was a bit high considering how cheap it is to obtain on other platforms. In terms of anime based games as a whole, I would call this one a win, but only if you’re familiar with the source material.
Short Attention Span Summary
One Piece: Unlimited World Red – Deluxe Edition graces the PlayStation 4 platform with all of its DLC in tow. The game runs really well, and the presentation really does the One Piece franchise justice. The combat left a lot to be desired, as flashy as many of the attacks have the tendency to be, though it still gets the job done. The core story mode is fairly short, clocking in at around 8-10 hours if you rush it, though there is plenty of side quests and diversions to do outside of the main missions. And it doesn’t hurt that the plot is decently written for what amounts to your average filler arc. The ability to turn in materials to construct shops was a neat addition, and the ability to play two player couch co-op is a feature that I will always approve of. It’s by no means a must play, but for die hard One Piece fans, it’s certainly one of the better games based on the franchise that you can buy, though I’d recommend getting it on sale.