|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ganbarion||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
One Piece has never been a franchise that has lent itself to great games. To its credit, it has never really churned out really bad games either. But most One Piece games have just fallen in that slightly below or slightly above average category. The newest entry in the series, at first One Piece: Unlimited Adventure looks like it will continue the series' trend of skimming along right around mediocrity, but as you play and become more immersed in the game you start to realize that there is really some depth to this game. Who knows? You might end up enjoying it. But there are some serious issues with this game as well. So then again, you might not.
In many respects, One Piece: Unlimited Adventure is a big departure from the earlier entries in the series. One Piece: Unlimited Adventure is not an unimaginative two-player brawler like Grand Adventure, nor is it a hodge-podge of barely playable mini-games like Pirate's Carnival. No, this One Piece is a completely new animal. Instead of giving players a gaming experience in short bursts with little to no story or cohesion, One Piece: Unlimited Adventure goes for a more adventure-type approach.
The story begins with Luffy and co. departing on yet another adventure. But just a few days in, they run out of food and water, probably due to an eating contest between Luffy and Usopp. While the rest of the crew stews over the trouble that these two have caused, Luffy wishes aloud that they would find an island in order to restock. And then suddenly one appears! Once the crew begin exploring the island, they realize that there are some strange forces at work that all seem to revolve around a "mystery jewel" that may lead to ultimate treasure. The plot of the game is definitely formulaic, which may add to an overall feeling of generalness in regard to the game, but I would encourage those interested enough to pick up the title to keep going past the somewhat unexciting story.
In terms of gameplay, the game's single player mode can best be described as a surprisingly engaging mix of discovery, combat, and skill that is pretty annoying at first, but will steadily grow on you. You can play as any member of the Straw Hat crew, from Luffy to Franky, and each character has their own set of moves and special abilities. The game offers little to no tutorial mode and doesn't outline the goals or specific missions that you have to accomplish. This is probably the worst facet of the game because it is very frustrating to try to figure out what you're supposed to do when the game gives you no hints and every other turn seems to be a dead end. However, this could be a good thing, if you are up for the challenge. But if you're like me and frustrate easily, you have been warned. This title will work on your nerves something fierce. But instead of throwing my Wii-mote at the television when times got tough, I stuck it out, and I'm happy I did. Because behind the frustrating discovery element of the gameplay, there are some positive discovery elements included as well. One Piece: Unlimited Adventure has a semi-open world where you begin in a hub and you have to unlock different areas of the island. Different areas can be unlocked via activation areas, which expand on and react to the power of the "mystery jewel" that Luffy has come into possession of. Different areas will become available as you unlock different components of this strange power, and the whole experience, despite its open world system, feels quite linear in this sense.
One aspect of the discovery aspect of the game that intrigued me quite a bit was the building system. Several members of your party have skills in building (and cooking in Sanji's case) and you can create useful items using materials you can find in the various stages. Usopp generally handles the toolmaking, while Franky working on heavier construction projects. Some projects, such as Franky's Bridge and Usopp's Pickaxe will be vital to your success in the game, but others will be optional stat enhancers that will require some pretty intense ingredient-hunting, but will pay off with an HP or attack boost in the end.