E3 06: One Piece: Grand Adventure Preshow Hands-On

We get our hands on Namco Bandai's US-exclusive game based on the One Piece anime franchise.

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We were able to check out One Piece: Grand Adventure, the latest One Piece game from Namco, at its recent pre-E3 event. The game is a hybrid of the one-on-one fighting seen in previous One Piece games and an adventure mode. The game is being developed exclusively for the US in the hopes of offering a unique experience that will appeal to American players. We had the chance to try a work-in-progress version of the game to see how the grand experiment is coming along, and we're pleased.

The game features two main modes of play, the grand battle mode that should be familiar to fans of the previous One Piece games, and the all-new adventure mode. Grand battle is a traditional one-on-one fighter that makes use of an array of well-known characters from the series, such as poster boy Monkey D. Luffy. As with previous games, you'll find a robust cast of supporting characters, which now total 50 that you'll be able to call in to help during a fight.

Though the adventure mode wasn't shown, Namco reps filled us in on what to expect. From the sound of it, the new mode will play out like the mission modes in the Soul Calibur series, letting you take a character through a series of challenges spread out through a map of the sea. As you clear missions you'll unlock new content, such as playable characters, in both adventure and grand battle mode. The missions sound as though they'll be a mix of fighting and more minigame-style activities such as racing and shooting.

Control in the fighting game retains the same pick-up-and-play feel the previous One Piece games have; however, there have been some refinements implemented to the fighting mechanics. Blocking and countering have had some work done. The refined system makes countering a little easier to do. Also, you'll continue to find all manner of unique ways to use whatever's nearby to knock your opponents around. Fans will be pleased to see that each character's special moves are lifted from the cartoon.

The sights and sounds in the game are looking faithful to both the game's source material as well as the previous One Piece games. The game sticks to the anime-inspired visuals that blend a cel-shaded aesthetic with more conventional 3D backgrounds. The look is kept interesting by the inclusion of all manner of wacky animations that call to mind the game's anime and manga roots. Monkey D. Luffy and the rest of the cast look sharp and animate smoothly. The audio borrows liberally from the anime's voice cast and sound effects to ensure that the game sounds authentic.

From the look of things, One Piece: Grand Adventure is shaping up to offer fans of the anime a nice, interactive dose of wackiness. The gameplay is user-friendly, and the various modes should offer plenty to do. The visuals and audio nail the spirit of the anime. The game's US-exclusive status is a nice perk that should please stateside fans, who are typically behind on the One Piece releases. Look for more on One Piece: Grand Adventure from E3 and in the months leading up to its release.

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