One Piece: Grand Adventure Review

Nice potential, but a mediocre game. That’s how many critics categorized last year’s One Piece: Grand Battle. Making use of the One Piece characters and universe, Grand Battle was a new party fighter in the same style of Power Stone, and allowed fans to relive matches from the One Piece anime and manga. Fast forward a year later, and Namco Bandai has released their upgrade to Grand Battle-the US exclusive One Piece: Grand Adventure. Making use of the same solid core which kept Grand Battle from flopping, Grand Adventure throws some new gameplay features, characters, and gameplay fixes into the fray, making it the best One Piece game yet. (That takes into account the versions not out in America, as well-I do play my fair share of import titles.)

For those of you not familiar with the story of One Piece, the basic plot is simple. The story revolves around a young man named Monkey D. Luffy, and his dream to become the Pirate King and find the legendary treasure known as One Piece. Along the way, Luffy recruits crew members (nakama, as they’re called in the anime) and does battle with other pirates and the Navy. The main characters in Luffy’s crew are the former pirate hunter Roronoa Zolo, the navigator Nami, the sniper and inventor Usopp, the chef Sanji, the doctor Chopper, and the archaeologist Robin. Each character has their own goal in life (such as becoming the greatest swordsman, mapping the world, or finding an ocean known as East Blue), and to accomplish these goals they join together under Luffy’s flag, becoming the Strawhat Pirates.

Like Grand Battle, Grand Adventure uses the same party-style fighting inspired by the Power Stone series. Sadly, at times it almost seems too simple. Because of the fact that many of the better attacks can be done by pressing the same button three times consecutively, the game caters slightly to the button mashing crowd. As you play the game more often, you’ll memorize how to do special attacks and certain maneuvers with each character you use, but in the end it’s possible to win using only one attack button and no specials. It may get extremely difficult, but it is possible. Don’t let that make you have hesitations about the gameplay, though. At its core, Grand Adventure isn’t a fighting game-it’s a party fighting game, so simple doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, the simple controls add to the gameplay, making it a game which can be enjoyed by both non-gamers and the hardcore crowd (some of the stronger attacks can be difficult to pull off, so practice can help). Despite the combat being simple, the adage of those with experience beating those who just mash buttons holds true for Grand Adventure, as button mashing thankfully only really works against computer opponents.

Not only will you be able to bust out awesome looking combos and incredible special attacks during each fight, but you’ll also find the fighting area is filled with crates, boxes, and chests containing items inside them. The items range from things like cans of oil and flame dials to more bizarre objects like giant baseball bats and a small afro’d man who lives in a chest and shoots people with a gun. The variety of items adds greatly to the strategies available during each fight. There’s even a special attribute which directly impacts how much damage your character can do using items, so in some cases using the items may be more viable than using your fists. Of course, the complete opposite can hold true, as well.

As you can tell if you’ve played Grand Battle, the gameplay mechanics of Grand Adventure have changed little. There are a few minor tweaks and bug fixes here and there, but there’s no major overhaul. Where the real change from Grand Battle takes place is in the mode the game is named after: the Adventure mode.

Think of the Adventure mode as a more in-depth single player campaign. You start out with Luffy, and through a progression of levels and fights you follow what is essentially the normal plot of One Piece. However, once you complete Luffy’s adventure, you’re rewarded with a second one, where you take over the role of Captain Buggy. All in all, there are five adventure modes, and the estimated amount of playing time to beat them all clocks in around 40 hours. Luffy’s adventure is short (I cleared every sea in about 3 hours), but each one after him gets progressively more difficult than the last, making the fights longer and more plentiful. Once you beat Buggy’s adventure (his is the second), you’ll move on to Crocodile, then Chaser, and finally end with the greatest pirate of all time: Captain Usopp. The last two missions are especially hard, and forced me to go back and fight previous battles in order to level up my crew numerous times.

During the course of the Adventure mode, you’ll find yourself navigating from stage to stage via an overscreen map of a sea. Each stage is made up of either a one on one fight, a rumble, or a mini-game. After you complete a stage, you’re rewarded with experience points, which help the pirate you were using level up. As they level up, you can add a point to one of several stats. This adds a lot of customization to the game, as it’s possible that your version of a pirate such as Chopper can be entirely different from almost every other version out there. Some levels even have bonuses tied to the objective. These range from tasks such as winning in a certain timeframe to winning without jumping. When you clear a level and get the bonus completed, you’ll not only get the normal experience, but you’ll get something else, such as an item which can add to your stats, or a new costume for a character.

Other than the Adventure mode, the area where Grand Adventure truly shines is in the amount of content available. With 24 playable characters-all with their own unique moves and up to five costumes-you have more options in regards to which pirate you want to control than in the previous Grand Battle game, including a few new additions in fan favorites such as Trace and Princess Vivi. Not only are the playable characters increased, but there’s also 50 support characters now available, and the new support character system makes support characters much more useful-especially if you increase your pirate’s support stat.

The graphics in Grand Adventure are almost identical to those from Grand Battle. Sure, in a few instances they’re better, but it’s hard to tell when they are. The character designs and environments are faithful to the One Piece universe, though, making the game look and feel like One Piece. Although, I will admit it’s odd at times seeing some of the more vicious characters, since the characters in the game have a quasi-chibi look to them. The attack animations are well done, especially with the secret art attacks. When you use one of these (the strongest attacks in the game), the action will pause and you’ll be brought into a cutscene. After a brief period of pushing buttons, your character will execute the attack. For some matches, if you end with a secret art you’re even rewarded with a special cutscene you can see only in that area, such as when you battle Crocodile with Luffy.

Sound is the weakest area in Grand Battle by far. One of the most annoying aspects of the game takes place during the moments in the Adventure mode where characters are talking to one another. At the bottom, there will be the dialogue box with text. Rather than having one of the voice actors read the box, though, when a character begins talking they’ll spout out a stupid phrase, such as "Yeah! Let’s get started!" or "Ugh!" This really takes away from the moment, as you’ll be trying to read what the characters are saying, only to have the characters themselves pipe in with something completely irrelevant at the time. It may have added a few weeks to the production time, but it really would have been nice to see the entire dialogue converted to audio in the Adventure mode, rather than a few conversations scattered throughout. Even taking out the voice acted portions of the Adventure mode would have helped. At least that way it would be constant.

Of course, even adding voice acting to all of the dialogue would have had its problems, as the voice acting can get annoying at times. This may just be a personal opinion, as I’m much more familiar with the Japanese running of the show (and watch it every week), but I found a lot of the voices annoying, and they didn’t fit the look of the characters. Since the voices are done by the US voice actors, I’m sure if you watch that version you’ll enjoy the voice acting. For someone who watches the original Japanese one or doesn’t really watch One Piece at all, though, it can be unsettling and annoying at times having to listen to some of the characters talk.

In the end, One Piece: Grand Adventure is a very solid game, with a ton of features packed in. With a large amount of playable and support characters, a very expansive Adventure mode, a lot of options for those get togethers with friends (including a way to play your custom pirates on versions of the game on the other console), a lot of small One Piece nuances here and there, and a staggering number of unlockable content, Grand Adventure is a game that will last you a while once you’ve started it up. Of course, the game isn’t without flaw. One thing that would be extremely awesome in Grand Adventure would be an option for a four player battle, much like in Power Stone. The two-fighter Tournament mode is nice when you have a few friends over, but being forced into one on one fights constantly hurts the game, since it’s a party fighter at its core.

If you aren’t a fan of One Piece, you may want to rent Grand Adventure before you buy it, to see if the simplicity of the combat really puts you off or not. If you’re a fan of One Piece, though, this game is easily a must buy-you’d do yourself a disservice if you didn’t pick it up. In fact, if you’re a fan of One Piece go ahead and add one point to the total score, because the content and new Adventure mode is aimed at you, and you really will appreciate it.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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