Few pirates have as many wonderful and exciting adventures as the Straw Hats. The search for One Piece seems to get more arduous with each step. Luffy and his crew have gone from the blue skies of the East Blue to the depths of Impel Down and lived to tell the tale. One Piece Unlimited World Red is a celebration of those accomplishments, a flashback to some of the more harrowing moments in the series. It all starts with the Thousand Sunny docking at Trans Town to help Pato (an original character for the game) get home. As the Straw Hats get settled in, they all mysteriously get kidnapped leaving it up to Luffy to save them. He must also help rebuild the town to it’s former glory which adds some light RPG elements.
Trans Town is the haven for most of the depth that can be found in UWR. There’s side quests, gathering supplies, and mini-games to be played as well. You can also go there to equip items known as Words, which are used in place of spells and equipment. Various famous phrases said by the characters turn into stats boosts and keys to unlock obstacles in your path. Words end up being the biggest hindrance in this regard, as most of the keywords don’t spawn until after you’ve already gotten to the door. Backtracking can be fantastic when used in a game right, but this coupled with the main story leads a sense that everything is on repeat. The newest bad guy is Redfield, a mysterious pirate said to be mentioned in the same breath as Roger and Whitebeard. It seems as though he has the power to manipulate people’s memories so many familiar locales Seeing all the old arcs you know and love can be a delightful trip down memory lane, but it also means that nothing really new shows up. All the stories seem to keep to after the time skip save for a few chapters. Still they’re all old hat to the point that even the game seems tired of running through the same motions. Repetitiveness plagues this game like a case of scurvy on a long voyage. Normal enemies simply aren’t a threat even if you want them to be. Boss battles are tests of button presses rather than being burdened with glorious purpose. Many of side quests suffer the same fate of being nothing more than extra fluff.
An extra Battle Coliseum mode alleviates the issue a little, with unique boss fights and unlockable characters. This side story has Donquixote Doflamingo as the main antagonist, but this still doesn’t keep the game from slowing down to a crawl. There are a few different fights you can choose to do as you rank up in 3 lettered leagues. By performing various tasks you get to use the faithful Straw Hats and a couple legacy characters like Porgtas D. Ace and Crocodile. It even adds a Boss Quest mode where you take on missions in story mode as the villains instead. Unfortunately many of the extra characters play similarly and have less super moves than their main cast counterparts. Everything just feels like extra padding for what amounts to a little more than an hour of actual new content.
Absolutely none of this would be an issue if the combat was different or nuanced. It harkens to a basic two button beat-em-up, only it’s less about skill and more about timing. It can be fun in short bursts but this definitely isn’t a game that will keep you hooked. The Wii U exclusive features are pretty limited as well. Off-Tv play is the biggest feature and you can the transfer your save to and from the 3DS version. I wish the game had utilized the touchscreen more considering both systems have one. Maybe the next time Luffy and his crew cast off for a sea of gaming adventure it won’t be so rocky.