If you’ve never heard of One Piece, it’s the story of a group of pirates, led by Monkey D. Luffy and his crew aboard the good ship Thousand Sunny, battling the World Government Navy during the Golden Age Of Pirates.
The story of One Piece: Unlimited Cruise 1 sees a mysterious creature find Monkey and his crew and offer them presents in exchange for exploring the islands before him/them. And so begins a very Zelda-style game, with all the characters from the original TV show, giving you eight distinct pirates to play with.
The game opens with a brief training level, with the crew splitting into two teams to find Monkey. Initially you control Monkey, as the game walks you through movement and combat controls. They’re easy to grasp and allow you to get straight into the action. Double tapping the “C” button allows your character to sprint for a short while, “B” is jump and “A” is the main attack button.
After this initial ‘how-to’ section, you’re soon into the game proper. Click the “-” button and a menu will pop up giving you the choice between the crew (with some being more useful than others. Zoro, for example, has a sword, Usopp, not unlike Link of Zelda fame, uses a catapult, while others, like Monkey, use their fists).
As you battle oft-repeated enemies, each character has extra moves that can be unlocked as you progress, helping you dispatch your foes that bit quicker, or with a little more style.
You’ll spend a large portion of the game collecting items such as bitter grass, coconuts and medicine herbs. These can then be given to different members of your crew, who convert the items into various bits of kit, from health-boosting meals to explosives used for clearing blocked paths.
I didn’t find the system particularly clear, though. The first time I had to use it I mashed a few buttons until I was able to proceed. Within minutes the problems begin. The European publishers are guilty of little or no localisation, as the game retains all of its original Japanese dialogue, with on-screen text filling in the gaps.
This is all well and good, but younger gamers (and One Piece‘s key audience) may struggle to take in all the text. A big problem is that a lot of things are not always well explained, the text was muddled and there was no opportunity to re-read it – when it was gone, it was gone.
There’s also an awful lot of back tracking. Not since the original Resident Evil have I travelled from one point to another, time and time again. It’s a cheap way to make a game feel longer, and one that I thought we had seen the end of.
I also spent a considerable amount of time hacking and slashing at every tree, shrub and coconut, looking for that elusive item. It’s possible one of the NPCs was telling me where or how to find it, but since my conversational Japanese is, well, non-existent, your guess is as good as mine!
Graphically, the game certainly captures the style of the original manga, the characters are well modelled and are a great representation of their TV and comic book counterparts. On the whole it looks OK. It’s not up there with Nintendo’s own Super Mario but its certainly better than the likes of Bully, for example.
The game is bright and colourful, but let down by a fair share of jagged edges and my own pet peeve, invisible walls. There are slow-down issues too, especially in two player mode, or during the boss battles. It’s not the only time the game struggles. Any more than three or four characters on screen and things slow to a snail’s pace. In this day and age there’s really no excuse for this sort of thing.
One Piece tries hard, but it’s a decidedly frustrating title. With a little more polish this could have stood out as a cracking little game, but sadly, it’s another one on the Wii’s ‘almost’ list.
I’m sure that One Piece fans will get a lot out of it and if you’re a Zelda fan you might get a some fun out of it, but I can’t recommend paying full price for it.
It’s Zelda-lite gameplay soon turns from fun to monotony. With the sequel due soon, it would’ve been nice if the fans had been offered better value by releasing it in one complete package. Don’t worry, though. You’ll soon find it in a bargain bin.