One Piece, for those who are unfamiliar, is an insanely popular manga and anime series that has been around for over 20 years now, and has received a slew of video games. The series focuses on Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat pirate crew as he strives to claim the title of Pirate King. One Piece: Unlimited World Red first released back in 2014 on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, but has now received an upgrade and a stack of extra content for its PlayStation 4 debut, including all of the DLC.
Fans of the series will be pleased to see how well the animation style of the show has translated into a 3D world here. Unlimited World Red maintains all the vibrancy and lively colours present in the show and they've even nailed less obvious characteristics to help make this game feel like an extension of the anime and manga. Simple things like the way in which Luffy runs and interacts with the people and environments around him help to fully immerse players in this world and feel like they're in an episode of the anime deve or chapter of the manga.
Similarly, the writing here perfectly captures the essence of the series and the interactions between all of the Straw Hat crew are a delight. Moments where you're just running between bouts of action are made less dull by clever quips and they help make what would be some of the dullest moments in the game a lot more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the story can be a little tough to digest at times and newcomers to the series or even just casual fans may find it difficult to keep track of everything going on.
While the story and characters are mostly spot-on, Unlimited World Red's greatest strength is found in its gameplay. Combat here is so satisfyingly fluid and it doesn't take long before you find yourself moving from combo to combo and taking out enemies. Making sure the combat flowed well was crucial as many times throughout the game you'll be facing dozens of enemies at once, so the ability to jump from foe to foe without a second thought was imperative. You won't have to worry about remembering complex combos either, as the overwhelming majority are straightforward and you even have the benefit of a handy combo list in the corner during fights, which when successfully completed you'll be rewarded with buffs to your moves.
Luffy's Straw Hat crew is made up of nine members, and somehow developer Ganbarion has managed to make each feel unique in combat. Generally, characters either specialise in melee or ranged combat, but the studio still implements enough differences to give everyone their own strengths and weaknesses. On the surface it might seem like melee characters such as Luffy and Sanji are identical, or ranged characters like Franky and Usopp are the same, but Ganbarion has perfected the difference in attributes and weapons as well as the way each character moves.
You'll find quite a deep RPG-style levelling system here, with each character building up their stats when used in quests. You'll also be obtaining items that buff certain aspects of your team, add special abilities, and provide resistances to different elemental attacks.
Throughout the main story mode you'll constantly return to Transtown, which acts as a hub world where you can continue on with the central quest or take up a number of side quests to earn extra money or resources, which can then be used to make upgrades to your town. Expanding the town and upgrading various shops will give you access to even more items and chances to power your characters up to aid you as the main quest becomes harder.
The ace up Unlimited World Red's sleeve is the local co-op, allowing you to replace a quite competent teammate AI with a friend. The computer controlled characters are quite helpful, but playing with a friend improves the experience exponentially, especially in some of the more tedious sections.
Battle Coliseum is the game's other mode, and is focused purely on combat. Here you'll climb up the rankings by battling extreme amounts of enemies in hordes, or one-on-one against stronger, iconic characters from the series. This mode is an enjoyable test for those who enjoy and master the game's combat and provides even more content on top of an already meaty main story.
One Piece: Unlimited World Red - Deluxe Edition is exactly what a licensed game should be. It captures the essence of the One Piece franchise through its story, writing, and characters, while also providing gameplay that could stand on its own without the name attached to it. Ganbarion has struck a delicate balance of creating a game that works for both hardcore One Piece fans and players who have never heard of the series before.