One Piece: Grand Adventure - PS2 - Preview
Anime has been receiving quite a bit of attention from the game industry these days. Though action/adventure used to reign supreme, more recent anime series are being made interactive in the form of fighting games. Zatch Bell!, Naruto, Samurai Champloo – all anime properties and all upper-tier games that incorporate fighting-style gameplay.
One Piece: Grand Battle is set to enter the fray later this month. It has the simplicity of the aforementioned titles, plus the rarely seen gameplay of full 3D stages and interactive objects. Dreamcast owners should be instantly intrigued, but I'll tell you why just incase you're missing it: Grand Battle is like the classic, too-soon-forgotten fighting game, Power Stone.
Pick a character, any character. There are dozens, and all are available when you first boot up the two-player versus mode. Luffy, Trace, Nicc Robin, Tony Tony Chopper, Red-Haired Shanks, and many others from the show's quirky cast are coming to the game.
Diversity is a big part of the One Piece experience. Luffy can stretch his arms and legs like the classic Street Fighter warrior. He has a jump kick where his legs stretch way beyond that of a normal human, giving him the extra reach he needs to attack his opponents.
Nami attacks with what appears to be a metal staff. Her swings are fast and fierce, hitting hard and repeatedly until the enemy is pushed out of the way.
Sanji uses his legs in a way that’ll make Eddy Gordo turn his head. He spins upside down, kicking feverishly, making a deadly helicopter formation out of kicks.
The list goes on from there, with each character representing a key part of the fighting genre.
Support characters lend a helping hand when you need it most. They can be summoned at any time as long as you have one full skill gauge. Thus, you may call upon their assistance even when you don't need it just to rub the situation in your opponent's face. "Ha-ha! You lose! I'm the king!"
And then they can get you back by loading one of their own, personally-tweaked characters. By going through the Adventure mode, players get the chance to level up their selected character. The Adventure mode takes you through various storylines from key One Piece characters. You get a boat to navigate (simple point-and-click controls here), a world map, and several Mario World-style locales that can be visited.
Each locale constitutes one battle or mini-game. Mini-games generally feel like battles (example: one of them requires you to destroy several boxes before the time runs out). But there are also mini-games that divert from the main path, including a split-screen race with Chocobo-like creatures.
EXP is earned through battles and mini-games. There are no limits to how many times you can repeat a battle or mini-game. However, like weak monsters in an RPG, repeated killings do not lead to an equal amount of experience. It's best to keep moving forward and visit locations that you have not yet explored, or re-visit old locales that have been updated with a new mission. Missions are designated by a colored ring placed over the locale. If there's no ring, either the area has been cleared or it can not yet be visited. Rings will reappear over locales that can be re-visited.
Power Stone fans will love One Piece's battle system, which lets you pick up and throw any object within the battle area. I say "area" because these are not arenas, nor do they feel like the stages of a typical fighting game. They're small but have this wonderful adventure game feel. One that really caught my attention was a water stage with floating pieces of wreckage (presumably from a ship). There's a solid place to stand on, but if you try to cross the wreckage, it dips beneath the water, wobbling fairly realistically for a game that's based on an anime series.
Within these watery lands and other locales, players will find barrels, treasure chests, and other items that can be picked up and thrown at your opponent. The former almost always have something useful inside. At the very least you'll get coins that replenish your skill gauge (an energy system that lets you summon support characters and unleash super attacks).
Best case scenario: a weapon! Weapons, like over-sized baseball bats and Star Wars-inspired Lightsabers, let you attack your opponent from a distance. Weapons can be used as is or thrown further ranged attacks.
This kind of pick-up-and-toss gameplay hasn't been seen in a 3D environment since Power Stone hit the Dreamcast seven years ago. It's great to see this formula has been resurrected, especially with a PSP version of Power Stone on the way. Could this lead to a PSP version of Grand Adventure? I'll keep my pieces crossed.