The adventures of Monkey D Luffy and his ever-growing band of pirates are not really that well known here in the UK, at least outside of Manga-lovers and Anime-enthusiasts. This incredibly long-running series centres around a young lad, the aforementioned Monkey D Luffy, who dreams of becoming king of the pirates. This dream becomes more of a possibility when he eats one of the fabled “Devil Fruit” and is given special powers – specifically, he becomes very stretchy. He then sets off on his journey and, along the way, gathers a crew of interesting characters with which to share his adventure.
As the Anime show has had hundreds of episodes by now, a lot has happened in One Piece. The crew has grown to include many new characters, and their adventures have seen them come up against many enemies, including some who also have gained strange powers from eating the fabled “Devil Fruit” (My favorite will always be Buggy, the clown pirate who is able to take himself apart).
Hopefully the awareness of the excellent One Piece will now be expanded with the release of One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP for 3DS. Whilst not an original game, being a port of One Piece: Unlimited Cruise Part One for the Wii with some added content, its release on the 3DS will likely interest a whole new audience. It is a shame, however, that the game was not packaged with both parts one and two of Unlimited Cruise, as it was in Japan.
Whilst this 3DS-based action adventure title does have a storyline and does a very good job of replicating the overall feel of the Anime and Manga, it does feel that the story is somewhat unimportant, serving only as a loose reason to have the player visiting a variety of different islands as part of their adventure. The story is largely forgetable, unlike the excellent cast of characters that make up the crew of the Straw Hat Pirates.
There are nine characters to choose from, each with their own combat styles and abilities. Zoro, for example, quite happily uses his double swords for swift and rapid attacks, which is essential for quick combat and jumps quite high. Usopp, a ranged fighter, uses his trusty slingshot to fire out lead balls at incoming enemies, and using the right shoulder button he can quickly dash across the environment. Sanji, the ship’s cook, raises his right leg and performs a side swift attack, whilst the Sketetal Brook performs a rapid swift attack with his swords. The characters and their moves are all faithful to the series and the combat side of the game is all handled very well.
Most of the enemies are easily destroyed or damaged in the game, without any real fear of being completely defeated when they appear out of the blue for some random attacks. When it comes to the boss fights, things can get a bit tedious as these battles do tend to take a long time to conclude. The different environments are delightful to wander around, from the beachy shores of the Wooded Isle to climbing the peaks of forest filled mountains. You do spend a vast amount of time wandering and discovering new areas to explore, which again can become tiresome.
The most important part of the game seems to revolve around gathering and collecting items to proceed or unlock new aspects of the game. For example, the player can make something that allows them to cartch butterflies or the odd tree frog, or monuments that open new areas to explore will require specific objects. There are even different treasure map parts to be found whilst exploring or talking to different characters. The fact that this game seems to centre on the gathering of so many items will certainly keep collecting fans happy, but many players will simply find this too much trouble and will be put off the game altogether.
Visually the game does look stunning and the moment I started up the game, I was instantly impressed at how bright and vibrant the animated characters looked and the accompanying music all adds to the atmosphere. Sliding the 3D effect up and the characters spring out of the screen, making impressive use of the 3DS feature without going over the top.
Beyond the main story, there are a couple of extras in the form of a survival mode and the Marineford episodes. Offering a short indepenent story, the Marineford episodes focus much more on the combat with the player taking part in a number of arena-type missions. Survival mode is quite fun, with a huge number of playable characters and some epic battles.
I did feel I spent most of the journey through the game collecting random items and this often left me feeling a little bit unexcited about the experience. The structure of the game also felt quite messy and disorganized, and I often lost track of what objective I had to fulfill. The characters are excellent and true to the Anime series, making it easy to connect with each of the nine characters and their special abilities. One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP is a good looking game that performs well, but can get a bit monotonous with the constant collecting. For those with a bit of patience who are fans of the series, there is a lot of content here to enjoy.