One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP2 review: A rum deal for pirates?
15th Sep 2012 | 14:00
One Piece fans are not an impatient sort. They can't be, not when they've been searching the Grand Line for the One Piece over 550 anime episodes and 60 volumes of manga for the past decade.
But as the second part of the Unlimited Cruise saga finally makes its way into port, even the most die-hard of rum-swigging pirates would be up in arms about this 3DS monstrosity (itself a rehash of 2009's pirate punch-up for Wii), calling for it to be thrown back into Davy Jones' locker never to be seen again.
If you were unfortunate enough to suffer through the first one, very little has changed. After a few fishy plot-twists about as rubbery as Luffy's right arm, it turns out your magical reindeer chum Gabri needs feeding again and the only way to sate the little blighter is by redoing all the trials you've just endured in part one.
The five trial islands themselves have all had a rather miraculous makeover, however, showing that Ganbarion has at least made some effort in redressing such carbon copy objectives, but don't let your eyes deceive you. Any change to these bland and linear environments is very much skin-deep only, and when you're working with a textured complexion even more encrusted than Moby Dick's backside, you certainly won't find any sirens hanging out in these waters.
The trials themselves are pretty tedious work too. Just like the previous game, these involve collecting a handful of materials scattered round the various islands, crafting them into bigger and better items, and then using said items to unlock new pathways to scout out yet more useless clobber.
You're not even searching for treasure half the time either. Instead, you're scavenging for bits of rock, weeds and various types of shellfish that bear no relation to any of your poorly explained objectives, making this the very worst kind of foraging sim on the seven seas. With no clear instructions about what you're meant to be doing or where you're meant to be going either, you're often just left wandering round the same ten square feet of map waiting for items to respawn.
As if the mindless item grinding wasn't enough to warrant walking the plank, the equally dull combat certainly is. Moves level up as you use them, giving you at least some incentive to keep pounding away to see what your party will learn next, but when each attack is learned by simply hammering the A (and occasionally X) button until your thumb bleeds, there's very little to distinguish them technically, especially when you've got all nine of the Straw Hat crew to choose from.
Eventually, however, you'll be able to bust out each character's signature moves straight from the anime. Pity, then, that the majority of enemies are about as gormless as a sack of vaguely sentient potatoes, leaving each skirmish feeling even more unsatisfying, not to mention incredibly one-sided. Even the slightly more formidable foes don't put up much of a fight, but if you're going to stand a chance against any of the ridiculously overpowered bosses, then you've just got to grin and bear it. To make matters even worse, the ropey camera and sluggish frame rate that gave the last game such a severe case of the Black Spot are also back, guaranteeing SP2 a sound keelhauling.
About the only thing keeping SP2 afloat is the Marineford mode, a strict series of arena battles based off the same story arc in the anime and manga. But even these have been pillaged straight from the first game, exhibiting the height of pirating laziness. They also lack all the drama of its original source material, with agonising, episode-long plot points often squeezed into tiny, worthless 3D cutscenes.
The battles themselves are also laughably easy, leaving much to be desired if you're a fan hoping to recreate any of the original's tense action scenes. The arena set-up also takes quite a few liberties along the way too, as it shoehorns in as many plausible fights as it can get away with, giving the impression that it's more just a glorified excuse to scrap with as many characters as possible rather than pay any real homage to the proper story.
Oddly enough, with Marineford and a Super Smash Bros-style survival mode making up two thirds of the game, it's strange that Ganbarion didn't just ditch the brawler idea and develop these particular sections as a more nuanced 2D fighting game, given its substantially more successful track record with that genre, but considering how half-hearted the rest of the game is, it probably isn't really that surprising.