Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Piece: Grand Battle Review

Shonen Jump's One Piece: Grand Battle lets you play as the Straw Hat Pirates or their enemies in an arena fighter that's very much inspired by the Power Stone games. Were One Piece also a four-player party game, it might be entertaining. One-on-one confrontations don't pass muster, as they basically become a race to see who pulls off a ludicrously damaging special attack first. There are 14 characters in total, but they play almost identically. A great cel-shaded graphics engine is the game's best feature. As a single-player experience, One Piece is inadequate; as a two-player romp, it won't hold your interest for long, even (and almost especially) if you're a fan of the One Piece anime or manga.

The increasingly popular One Piece show follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his ragtag crew of Pirates as they quest for the ultimate treasure. At best, Grand Battle is a footnote in their adventures. Story mode comprises five short matches, which take place in four or five disappointingly diminutive arenas. If you play as any of the series' protagonists, you'll find that all but one of these bouts pit you against your shipmates.

The justifications for these confrontations are invariably ridiculous and amount to domestic squabbles among the pirates. Most of these revolve around the distribution of food. Luffy will, for example, ask Nami (the ship's navigator) if he can borrow some of her tangerines. She'll then attempt to stifle Luffy's legendary appetite by besting him in deadly combat. In another instance, Usopp is attacked by Sanji, the ship's chef, after it is discovered that he has eaten the last of the eggs from the galley's fridge.

The fifth battle in the series finally lets you fight a baddie, but not toward any major goal. They just show up, and you have at it. No overarching mission unites the story mode. Your reasons for fighting are petty and are fueled by self-interest. Completing this game gets Luffy no closer to being the king of all pirates, and Zolo no closer to being the world's greatest swordsman.

As if to drive this point home, the ending cinematics--if they can even be called such--are three-second clips from the show and have nothing to do with the five battles that preceded their playing. The game then insults you by unlocking these character endings for playback in the game's treasure room. Who in his or her right mind would want to replay three seconds of anime?

After you complete a difficulty level with all of the initially available characters, you'll unlock four baddies. Complete the game with these guys, and you'll unlock four more. All characters are selectable in grand battles and grand tourneys, which are really just multiplayer modes in which you can, if you so choose, fight the CPU instead of a buddy. Grand battle is a single confrontation or exhibition, while grand tourney is, as the name would imply, a ladder-style tournament involving the characters and stages of story mode.

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