One Piece: Unlimited World Red was developed by Ganbarion many years ago for the Nintendo 3DS, and quickly started rolling from one console to another, all the while improving the quality and adding content and game modes. The title reached a peak on the PS3 and Wii U with the Colosseum, and it seemed like Bandai Namco was done, but UWR is back with a Deluxe Edition on PS4 and Nintendo Switch, the latter of which is the one we tested for this review.
We could summarise it as an all-in-one game; story, fighting, collectibles, building, character development, mini-games... everything but sailing (which is kinda weird in a game about pirates if you think about it). The game follows the path of the Unlimited SP saga with a quality jump in production values thanks to the involvement of the anime team. It feels like a true product belonging to the universe created by Eiichiro Oda, and that may be the reason why Bandai Namco didn't hesitate to release it across all territories and consoles.
Unlimited World Red is an adventure game that tries to recreate the life of Straw Hat pirates, which means basically going from island to island kicking butt while collecting treasure and resources along the way. Luffy and his nakamas are always the good guys, and in this spin-off story, the Mugiwaras find a woman harassed by pirates in a small town in a fully expanded stage.
In this hub, almost free of conflict, you'll take some time spending the resources obtained in your adventures, help inhabitants to open establishments like a pharmacy, a restaurant, or even a disco, and in exchange you'll get places to buy items and evolve your characters. There are also a handful of mini-games, but only one is actually rewarding. It's funny to move Luffy around using his gomu-gomu arms, but the design of this place, in general, is pretty dull and the conversations are meaningless.
The true game is out there away from the hub, in the missions awaiting on other islands. Before this, though, you have to make a party of three out of the nine characters in the crew and head out. The combat system is like that of a simplified Musou, based on combos of strong and weak attacks and a couple of special abilities, plus a very useful dodge move and counterattack. Opt for Luffy and Sanji for melee attacks, Zoro uses his swords, Chopper is the healer, and Usopp has a first-person shooter mode.
<video = 203034>
Musou mechanics are often criticised for being repetitive, and the shortage of combos in this One Piece make it nothing more than a button masher. Characters level up and can change boosters, but don't learn extra moves to encourage you to evolve them. The worst thing, though, is the AI, as we're constantly killing waves of the same repetitive enemies again and again, island after island, with just a cosmetic change between one and another. It only gets challenging and fun at the end, against the level bosses. There aren't many mechanics, but at least they're sometimes different, especially in two-player co-op (which is playable with a Joy-Con each, although it's a little bit cumbersome because of the triggers).
So, why did we play through to the end of One Piece: Unlimited World Red if the gameplay is so weak? For the same reason many of us have watched more than 800 chapters of the anime series; this game's narrative has that certain something that appeals to fans, and what at first seems to be a weak story at first gets much better thanks to a mix of original characters that work perfectly in the universe, mixed with a plot that gains a lot of momentum towards the end (in that respect it's more consistent than some One Piece films). There are a lot of high quality cutscenes with voice acting by the original actors in Japanese too, and although 90% of the missions are events from the past, it works. Maybe the reason is the nostalgic linked to those moments, or because it ends up being more entertaining than it initially appears.
From that first version on Nintendo 3DS to the Deluxe Edition, One Piece: Unlimited World Red has gone through several layers of reworking. Once again, the character design and animations shine when compared to the low-res backgrounds. The Deluxe edition includes all the DLCs, but these are actually just a multitude of costumes to wear based on films or events (such as the 20th anniversary), but really this isn't particularly good content. At least it runs at a stable 1080p resolution and at 60 frames-per-second.
The story lasts roughly ten hours, and then there's a wide range of secondary missions to obtain resources that, fortunately, we can move around via the powers of teleportation. Just in case someone likes the combat system, there is also a Colosseum mode with a lot of challenges as well. The good thing is that here the cast of playable characters grows and you can play with enemies and also friends like Portas D. Ace or Trafalgar Law.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red is the last call for fans of the Mugiwara to get lost in this amazingly well-told story, a story accentuated by the authentic portrayal of the characters from this much-loved series. It's the quality narrative that elevates the experience above the simplistic gameplay and worlds that offer so little in the way of enjoyable challenge.