The manga/anime series One Piece has been around in Japan for years now, but it has only recently made it to the U.S. As it’s an extremely popular series in its home country, there are about a million games based on it. This, along with the recently released One Piece: Grand Battle for PS2 and GameCube, are the first titles to make it to the States.
This portable action game, simply titled One Piece follows the adventures of Luffy D. Monkey, a rambunctious kid who dreams of becoming king of the pirates. As he travels the world, he meets new people to recruit to his crew, and of course, he makes several enemies along the way. His story is played out here as a 2D brawler, one of the genres that have been greatly ignored since the days of 16-bit games.
In the story, Luffy has eaten the cured Gum-Gum fruit, which has turned him into a rubber boy, capable of stretching his limbs to outrageous proportions and inflating himself up like a balloon. These powers come into play during combat. In addition to standard punches, you also have Gum-Gum powered attacks at your disposal. Wind up Luffy’s arm for a long range attack or throw your neck back to deliver a powerful headbutt. As you progress in the game, you’ll also learn new techniques to get past new obstacles.
As you gather crew members (like Nami, Zolo, Usopp, and Sanji), they can be called out as a sort of super attack. As you might expect, though, you can only do this when you have a super meter filled. Your friends’ attacks will come is especially handy during the boss battles, which can be surprisingly challenging.
Although the game controls quite well, one move is pretty tough to get the hang of. Luffy can stretch his arm out and grab onto certain poles to catapult himself in the opposite direction. This isn’t hard to do when you’re just flying across one pole, but some levels require you to chain your swings together, changing direction in mid-air and grabbing another pole. For some reason, the controls don’t feel quite as responsive here, leading to a lot of missed grabs. With practice, though, you begin to adapt.
Graphically, this is a terrific looking game. It’s got some awesome sprite artwork, and the animation looks great. Try playing it on a DS or on the new Game Boy Advance with the backlit screen — this is a colorful game, and the colors pop that much more on those systems.
One Piece was actually developed by Dimps, the company that created the also-quite-good Sonic Advance GBA games for Sega. These guys really know how to put together a portable 2D platformer. If you don’t follow the One Piece manga or anime, you might be confused by the game’s storyline, but don’t overlook this title based solely on the license. It’s a fairly simple game, but it’s quite a bit of fun. Now that Bandai was smart enough to release this title, maybe Atari will wise up and release Dimps’ other great anime-based GBA game, the Japan-only Dragon Ball Advance Adventure.