Reviewed: October 11, 2005
Released: September 6, 2005
When I attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles in May, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the creative talent at Bandai at their booth where I was treated to a number of titles based on popular anime shows which are shown on the Cartoon Network in the United States. The first three games I was shown were all fighting games, based on Inuyasha, Zatchbell, and One Piece.
When you think about it, fighting games based on popular “shonen” (Japanese for “boy”) anime and manga are brilliant from a marketing standpoint. First of all, fighting games are fairly easy to produce. The formula is almost always the same, and once you have a good basic engine you can keep producing different titles without having to change the basic code (take Street Fighter III and Darkstalkers, for instance).
You don’t need to write a very convincing backstory for a fighting game - the fact that One Piece: Grand Battle! has virtually no story other than that of the original manga doesn’t seem to phase it). What a fighting game boils down to then is essentially interactive, sprite or cel-shaded action-figure play. What better medium for action figures than a boy’s cartoon?
From a marketing perspective, then, One Piece: Grand Battle will likely be a success; it cost relatively little to produce and there will be plenty of kids begging their parents to pick up this game at the mall. My job is to look at the game from a critical perspective: is it a good game? Is it something that merits playing, even if players are unfamiliar with the anime from which it is licensed? The answer is a qualified no, not because the game is deficient in any tangible way, but because there are much better fighting games to be had out there for better prices.
One Piece: Grand Battle is based on the manga and anime “One Piece,” created by Eiichiro Oda for Shonen Jump. The series follows around a young boy pirate named Monkey D. Luffy and his misfit crew in search for a legendary treasure left behind by the Pirate King in “one piece.”
That’s all that really needs to be said about the story because the story does not really figure in the game. The fighting game is a standard fighting game; you can either play single-player mode, where you go through a sequence of five opponents with silly taunts preceding and following each battle, or you can play against a friend in a best-2-out-of-3 match.
On the GameCube, there are a limited number of attacks, either forward, upward, or throwing moves. Each environment is at least somewhat interactive, with hazards such as water, lightning, or stampeding cows, and audience members throwing in random objects, including food, power-ups, or bombs. In order to pull off certain special attacks, you must fill up the character’s food meter.
The gameplay is fast enough to be challenging, but a bit more variety in the type of moves each character performs would have been nice. The key to winning battles seems to be speed. The faster characters were able to dominate in two-player battles, because most hits seem to result in combos. For those who are able to clear the single-player campaigns easily, One Piece offers unlockable characters and artwork as an incentive for the One Piece fan to keep playing.
At the end of the day, though, the fighting action is not nearly as fun as Street Fighter, and only die-hard One Piece fans will play to unlock all the hidden goodies.
The graphics in One Piece are well suited for an anime-licensed fighting game. Everything is presented in vivid color, from the 3-D cel-shaded characters, which are excellent likenesses of their 2-D manga counterparts to the whimsical 3-D environments, including pastoral farming villages, snow-covered castles, and stormy town squares. The animation is smooth and gives the game a cartoon feeling.
My one real complaint with the game’s graphics is that there is so much going on in the environments that it looks cluttered and distracts from the gameplay experience. I’m sure some people will find that part of the challenge, but I find it to be a nuisance.
The sound quality for One Piece is average in every respect. The music does enough to convey the feeling of a cartoony adventure without being too intrusive or memorable. The voice-overs for various moves by the characters get monotonous very quickly, however. With every move, from punches to sword slashes to finishing blows, the fighters yell out single-word catch phrases. The designers may have thought copious voice-overs would help tie the video game in with the anime, but the end result is grating on the ears. After hearing one character yell the same tripe over and over 50 times in one battle, I was ready to turn the volume down.
One Piece is steeply priced at $39.99, especially when you consider that much better fighting games (like Street Fighter Anniversary Collection) are available for ten dollars less. If the game were priced at $19.99, it might be worth picking up for a change of pace for fighting game enthusiasts; at $40, it is likely to appeal only to One Piece fans with too much allowance to spend.
One Piece is a passable fighting game, but has nothing to recommend it to people who are not fans of its namesake anime and manga series. If you’re looking for some good fighting action, you’re much better off picking up one of the tried and true Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Soul Calibur games for much cheaper.