One Piece: Grand Battle Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : 7.5
Overall : 7.5
Review by Bryan Sharp
One Piece: Grand Battle comes to consoles based on the popular anime series One Piece. Featuring all the characters from the anime, Grand Battle pits them against each other in hand-to-hand combat in chaotic battles that can only be described as, well, grand.

The story behind One Piece is certainly unique. So the story goes, a legendary pirate was captured and strung up from the gallows. Before his death, the pirate said that he left his massive treasure in ‘one piece.’ This dying confession attracted pirates from across the globe in an intense competition to see who can find the treasure first.

Where modes are concerned, One Piece follows the basic fighting game system. Players can choose to fight against the computer in Story mode or fight against a friend in Grand Battle. Other available modes include Training, Mini-Games, and Grand Tourney. Training allows the player to practice his or her moves against a defenseless computer opponent. Mini-Games mode includes several bonus games that unlock secret game content when completed. Finally, Grand Tourney mode pits several players against each other in an elimination system to see who can defeat all opponents and win the tournament.

Story mode is equivalent to the basic single player mode in any fighting game. The player fights computer-controlled opponents in a ladder system. By defeating an opponent, the player moves up to the next enemy. One Piece spices up this mode by including the in-game use of items and support characters. In each stage, items are strewn about in chests or barrels. Players can pick up a chest and throw it at his or her opponent for damage, causing the contents to spill out. Items inside the containers vary from power-ups to items that build up one of the player’s two energy bars, the Food Charge and Health bars. Eating fruit builds up the Food Charge bar, while drinking elixirs replenishes the Health bar. The Health bar ties directly to the player’s life, but a full Food Charge bar bestows a chance for a special, super or support attack.

These three extra attacks add some needed dimension to the game. The L1 and L2 buttons trigger special and super attacks. The special attack is a devastatingly violent explosion of physical force against the enemy, while the super attack is an onslaught of quickly executed combo moves. Support attacks are by far the most interesting attacks in the game since they make use of a helper character. By pressing L1 and another action button, the player can call a support character into the fray. If the player has mastered the support character’s moves, he or she can combine the attacks of the support character with the attacks of the main character. This makes for quite a brutal combination, since your opponent won’t be able to block two sides at one time, and because the two characters’ combined moves allow for many combo opportunities.

The standout elements of One Piece are the game’s visuals, done in a cartoon/anime style. Colors are bright and bold, and the fighting itself plays out smoothly. The graphics particularly succeed in showing off the unique personalities of the characters. Each combatant’s individual body language and fighting style is well defined and brought to life in vivid detail. One Piece demonstrates what solid cartoon-style game graphics should look like, and is one of the title’s high points.

The sound in One Piece does just what it’s supposed to do, no more no less. The battle music is fast and frantic and the sound effects are believable and clear. Fans of the anime will appreciate the signature voices and how they represent each character’s unique personality.

At its core, One Piece’s gameplay is stable but could use a little work. Hardcore fighting game fans will be disappointed by the lack of dimension in the fighting. The item system adds a nice touch, but it isn’t enough to set the title apart from the competition. Fighting moves are rather basic, and the fighter selection lacks a refined balance across the board. Each character has three action buttons that can be used in combination to create new moves. All the moves in One Piece are based on tapping certain button in rapid succession. This doesn’t mean that the moves are easy to master, but the button-mashing style of play isn’t conducive to pushing players to practice very hard. For example, one particular move is just as effective as several combos, and often a newbie hitting one button over and over again has just as much chance of victory as a player who has mastered his character’s move list. For this reason, those looking for a cutting-edge fighting game with balanced gameplay may want to look elsewhere.

The most advanced aspect of One Piece’s gameplay is the dodge and block system. Players can dash, block, counter, and break guard. Dashing allows a player to quickly move from one side of the stage to the other. Blocking helps the player avoid damage. Players can counter by pressing R1 at the exact second the enemy attacks, with a successful block raising the Food Charge bar slightly. Pressing X together with O utilizes the break guard move, useful in stopping opponents with a strong defense or who constantly block. If two skilled players play against each other, the real challenge lies in capitalizing on a weak moment. This defensive style of fighting lessens the action of the game, pushing the underdeveloped move system into the background.

A fun surprise in One Piece is the mini-game mode. Most games offer tolerable mini-games at best, but One Piece’s were rather enjoyable. Mini-games Usopp Race and Battle Bowl in particular were a nice change of pace from the grind of the single player story mode. Also, when friends get tired of fighting each other in Grand Battle mode, a mini-game helps greatly to break up the pace.

One Piece works well for its intended audience. Fans of the anime series will enjoy seeing and controlling their favorite characters in crisp detail. The fighting system may be a bit basic, but shouldn’t worry the casual fighting game fan. In the end, One Piece offers enough to amuse some friends on a Friday night, and more than enough to please hardcore fans of the original anime.