Sunday, March 2, 2014

One Piece: Romance Dawn Review

One Piece is a series that I'm sure most people have heard of, but aren't aware of how popular it really is. One Piece is a manga and anime series that, as of right now, has sold the highest number of manga volumes in existence and has been in publication since 1998. To say that One Piece is a monster of a franchise is a complete understatement. And yet, most Westerners have no idea what One Piece even is. I mean, it's popular, but not to the cataclysmic extent as it is in Japan. It's even worse for video games. Since the release of One Piece: Unlimited Adventure in 2008, the series has had barely any games released in North America. If a One Piece game was released, it was usually only a digital only release that wasn't well marketed. The same applies for One Piece: Romance Dawn, except for the fact that the game actually had a physical release in an insanely limited run. Only 16,800 physical copies of the game exist, so it has to be good if it's so rare, right?

Trying to explain the story of One Piece is futile, since its an ongoing series that still has no end in sight. The game does cover approximately the first half of the series from volume 1 to volume 60. So yeah, it's a pretty hefty game in terms of how much story and how many arcs need to be covered. In a bizarre twist though, the game is fairly haphazard with its plot and how it presents major arcs. The story is told through several chapters, and each chapter usually covers a story arc. What's odd though is how much detail goes into each story arc. Some story arcs are very extensive and thought out, with numerous sections and boss battles in them. At the same time, you'll also have arcs that are barely noteworthy and have several battles glossed over, even if the arc was good. 

Take for example the Skypia arc. In the series, Skypia was a large 9 volume arc where our hero Monkey D. Luffy and his crew get blasted into the sky, sail and clouds, and fight against people who believe they are legitimate Gods, lighting powers included. It was a fun arc and even was the first point in the series that had legitimate weight behind it and large stakes. How is that represented in the game. A simple throwaway line that says "Luffy and his crews had many adventure, like going to Skypia." For die hard fans, that's pretty inexcusable. 

Looks basic enough for you?
So the plot is good in some parts, bad in others, and pure WTF in a few spots. Okay, how's the gameplay? Boring beyond all words, yet strangely decent in a sense. There are two parts to the actual gameplay; sailing around the world and exploring islands. Exploring islands is the actual meat of the game, which has you explore around islands looking for treasure, fighting enemies, and progressing the story. When fighting, characters fighting by stringing together combos that build up a TP meter. When the TP meter gets high enough, you can use stronger attacks that can inflict effects, have a wider range, or just be insanely strong attacks. However, you can only attack as many times as the AP meter allows you too. Attack all at once, and the AP meter will drain fast. Save up a bit, and you can launch more attacks to deal more damage. 

It's a good system and can be pretty fun under the right circumstances. Fighting bosses becomes more tense when you have a dwindling TP meter and you need to decide whether or not to use your strongest attack, or block a little bit to build up more AP. The problem though is that standard enemies litter the map, so you have to be in a battle every minute or so. It takes a decent combat system and makes it tedious to play through and even drags down some boss fights if you had to fight a massive amounts of enemies to get there. 

Explore on islands is even worse, because every area you explore is a maze. Whether its a maze of buildings, trees, or rocks, you always... always... have to go through a maze. Going through an area can take up to a half hour, just because you're running around trying to find the exit, or even find treasure. Finding treasure can help you get new armor to wear, but your pouch space is so ridiculously small that's its meaningless. So you're left with running around a maze trying to find an exit, get items that don't really help you out, while avoiding enemies at every turn looking for a fight, and you most likely have to go through four areas to get to a boss. If that isn't a recipe for fun, then I don't know what is!!!

As for the sailing part, it might be a bit glorified calling it a part of the "gameplay". Essentially, you just click on an island and you move to the island. While there, you can improve the special abilities of your crew, give them different armor, or sell items at select places. That's it. There's also a crafting system that is fairly comprehensive, but there's no way to tell what you can craft or not based on what you posses. It says that you can craft from a list, but it lists everything that you can craft based on the items in your possession, even if you don't have the right amount. Take for example, I want to make a new hat. I have a hat blueprint, but to make a new hat, I need five of them. Regardless, it'll show me all of the possible hats I can fuse based on everything I have, even though I don't have enough to make a new hat. 

But what about the cut scenes? Surely the story may be mixed and the gameplay subpar, but the cutscenes have to be at least good! And to that I say, how do you like floating boxes with each character's face moving around and indicating that they're talking? No voice work, just moving boxes. If you didn't just jump at the chance to see boxes move, you and me are on the same boat. And these cutscenes go on for an eternity. No joke, I timed the very first cutscene in the game, and it clocked in at over 20 minutes long. 20 minutes!!!! And in certain arcs they can be longer! I actually had to skip through several cutscenes just because I was so bored I wanted to see some gameplay again and not a poor man's retelling of One Piece.

I will give the game this though. Funimation did remake some scenes from the anime in HD for the game, and they look great, Key scenes get a high amount of work done on them, and they look fantastic. Animation is phenomenal, voice work is great (Japanese voice work mind you), and they're all done so well. It's kind of like a treat to sit through this game just to get some spectacular cutscenes. Screw the game, give me a little theatre option to just watch the cutscenes again.

Luffy, I'd love got this game to crash.
This is such a disappointment. What sucks even more is that there's a phenomenal One Piece game that just released not even a few months ago. One Piece: Unlimited World Red just released last November in Japan and has gotten great reviews. It looks great, sounds great, and is a continuation of the Unlimited series, which is a really damned good series, let alone a One Piece series. But instead, we get this game. And we get it in such a small quantity that indicates that if we do get Red, it might be under the same circumstances. It'll be another limited release with barely any mention whatsoever. What's even worse is that because of the relatively poor reception of this game, we might not even get Red. If we lose out on Red in favor of having this game localized, I will be very, very, VERY PISSED OFF. 

Romance Dawn is just a complete letdown of a game, and it's a shame that it has the One Piece logo on it. It's a hackneyed, worthless, and poor man's One Piece game and is the very bottom of the barrel for the series. What's good about this game is completely overshadowed by the numerous and glaring flaws that put a damper on the entire series. I was at the Water 7 arc, the arc that people call the best in the series because of its great battles, character development, and impact on the series, and I was tempted to just stop playing out of boredom and dissatisfaction. This game sucks, and the one good thing about it is that because of its limited release, not many people will be able to play it. Thank God for that. I give One Piece: Romance Dawn, a very poor and pitiful 2 out of 5. Why not a 1? Because this game made me go back to the series and has me very dedicated to catching up on it, and at least it has great cutscenes. If it wasn't for those cutscenes, I'd be much more livid then I am now. 

I'm going back to reading the manga, cause at least I know THAT'S good. 

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