Like many licensed games, One Piece Unlimited World Red is a victim of its own popularity.

An action/adventure game based on the popular manga and anime series, One Piece Unlimited World  Red offers gamers the ability to play as protagonist Monkey D. Luffy as he fights to free the rest of his pirate crew from the diabolical Patrick Redfield. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the series, Luffy is on a perpetual quest to find the treasure known as One Piece in order to become the next Pirate King. Yo-ho-ho, pirate’s life, parrots, the whole deal.

The combat in One Piece: UWR involves little more than mashing the X and Y buttons during enemy encounters on the map. There’s a bit of dodging involved, as well as the execution of special abilities known as “words” with well-timed presses of the RB button, but all you really need to do is slap enemies around with X and Y. I was hoping for a more involved combat system as Luffy’s signature stretchy Gum Gum Rocket maneuver makes traversing around the hub of Trans Town a joy (akin to Spider-Man’s web slingers), but you can coast through most fights paying little attention and still enjoy the experience.

Much like practically every Dragon Ball game released in the last decade, One Piece: UWR relives many of the famous face-offs and story arcs in the anime’s history. While this does strike a nostalgic chord for fans, it also means you know exactly what you’re going to get. The game boasts a few side quests and minor RPG elements, including the ability to fish, automatic character upgrades when leveling, and the upgrading of buildings in town as you would in the Assassin’s Creed series.  Those who are unfamiliar with One Piece and want to jump straight into the pirate action may opt to skip the cut scenes, but then what do you have to look forward to?

An alternate to Story Mode, the Battle Coliseum is where gamers can go to thwomp baddies and unlock Straw Hat shipmates to their heart’s content. Said characters can then be used in Story Mode, but it still doesn’t make up for a shallow experience.

Where One Piece: UWR undoubtedly thrives is in its visuals. Despite being on the 3DS, I personally had no frame rate issues as I ventured through each map and met up with more and more familiar faces. Every character is faithfully recreated in-game, some even featuring multiple outfits. As good as it looks, though, I cannot justify playing a game solely for its visual prowess. If I just wanted to look at vibrant visuals and coast through the unique action and comedy aspects of One Piece, I’d just go catch an episode of the anime.

So long as you understand it’s a licensed beat ‘em up, One Piece: Ultimate World Red is worth every moment spent on the digital high seas. On the other hand, if the name alone isn’t reason enough to endure a repetitive brawler, then all the upgrades and unlockables in the world can’t rescue this game from certain oblivion.

One Piece: Unlimited World Red is now available on Nintendo 3DS, as well as the Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Sony PS Vita.

Related: One Piece Unlimited World Red WiiU Review
http://coin-op.tv/one-piece-unlimited-world-red-review/

One Piece Unlimited World Red Gameplay
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1f6E0K4IPI