‘One Piece: Unlimited World Red’ Sails on Nostalgia

Lucas DeRuyter
Games Anime
Games Anime Nintendo PC Gaming

One Piece is arguably the most successful anime and manga series in the history of either medium. Fans the world over have been enticed with the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his lovable crew since the first chapter debuted in 1997. One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe is the latest video game adaptation of this monumental franchise and allows players to revisit some of the best moments in the series. While UWR comes incredibly close to capturing what made the manga and anime so special, budget constraints and a somewhat uninspired story make the game feel a bit weaker than the source material.

The deluxe edition of One Piece: Unlimited World Red is available now for Nintendo Switch. As One Piece games tend to range from occasionally solid to lackluster, it’s refreshing to see Unlimited World Red trying so hard to match the style and energy of the original material. Living up to one of the best manga/anime of all time is a pretty steep task, though. While fun and nostalgia triggering, UWR isn’t quite up to this challenge.

Sailing Through Memory Lane

Set sail to the best destinations in the series.

One Piece: Unlimited World Red takes players to numerous classic locations from the series and lets them relive some of the most memorable fights in the anime and manga. It’s amazing to see the half fire and half ice island of Punk Hazard again as well as the dessert nation of Alabasta. Little details from the Straw Hats‘ exploits are also present in these levels, such as the slashed gate to Punk Hazard or the destroyed buildings on the judicial island of Enies Lobby.

These levels also have fun nods to events from the source material; like needing to dig for water in Alabasta or Franky’s hair changing depending on what kind of attack he’s using. Secret treasures or useful items hide in places that are only reachable by using abilities related to specific characters, such as Brook’s ability to run on water. These levels are really well designed and it’s great to see these locals once more as they will probably never appear in the show or manga again.

Straw Hat Scuffles

Competent combat that's true to each character.

The best feature of One Piece: Unlimited World Red is being able to take control of each member of the Straw Hat Pirates. Each character feels unique to control and has move sets closely tied to their abilities from the source material. Franky, a cyborg, is very durable and delivers powerful ranged attacks by shooting fireballs and laser beams. On the other hand, Usopp – the sniper for the Straw Hats – can temporarily turn the game into a first-person shooter.

The way new abilities are equipped and unlocked is also a nice nod to the source material. Characters become more powerful by assigning them “strong words” or iconic quotes that they uttered at some point in the series. This is a nice touch, and the quotes are diverse enough to show that the people behind the game put the time and effort into researching the series.

Depreciating Deviations

As the game is pretty solid, the weaker aspects stick out more.

The places where Unlimited World Red starts to feel weaker than the original One Piece manga and anime overlap with the areas where creative and budget constraints are the most apparent. The main antagonist in this game – Red the Aloof – is an older man who was once on par with the likes of Gol D. Roger and Whitebeard, and escapes from the prison Impel Down so that he can achieve his dream of becoming the Pirate King. This is incredibly similar to the canonical villain from the tenth One Piece movieShiki the Golden Lion. In a series that has hundreds of characters with such distinct motivations and backgrounds, it’s frustrating to see Unlimited World Red feature a primary character that overlaps so much with another classic antagonist.

This game also only has full character animation in cut-scenes, with every other line or interaction a character performs only featuring a static image of them. While animation is expensive, this decision is rather disappointing as a key feature of OP’s art style is character models being pushed to their absolute limit when a character is being expressive. The decision to deviate from this art style makes the game feel a bit flat and story beats a little underwhelming.

The Best So Far, But Still Limited

A lot of fun, but just one coat of polish short of the manga/anime.

One Piece: Unlimited World Red is definitely one of the best One Piece games ever made. Any die-hard fan of the series should check it out and will almost certainly get their money’s worth. However, it’s clear that the creators of this game did not put the same amount of passion and effort into this game as Eiichiro Oda puts into writing and drawing his monolithic series. If you are able to overlook these shortcuts, though, you’re in for a wonderful nostalgia trip.

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Lucas DeRuyter
University of Wisconsin Madison graduate with a deep interest in media, writing, and storytelling.