One Piece: Grand Battle Hands-On
We get a look at Bandai's madcap arena fighter based on the popular, whimsical anime series.
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Bandai gave us a hands-on demo of One Piece: Grand Battle at its recent press event. This Power Stone-style arena fighting game is based on the anime of the same name, which itself originated from the One Piece comic seen in the weekly Japanese manga tome Shonen Jump. The delightfully piratical story stars a pluckish youth named Monkey D. Luffy, who sets sail along with a motley crew on his own ship in search of the world's most valuable and mystical treasure, the oddly named One Piece. Obviously Luffy and friends aren't the only crew plying the high seas in pursuit of wealth and power (no good pirate lets treasure go unrecovered, after all), so you'll have to contend with all manner of devilish opposition as you brawl your way through the game.
In the demo we got to try, there were 11 playable characters available, including Luffy, Nami the navigator, Captain Kuro, Sanji, and a host of others. There were also four question-mark slots that will presumably house unlockable characters later on. When you pick your character and choose his or her costume, you'll then get to select a support character that will determine the sort of special move you're able to pull off in the match. The fighting itself is madcap and hectic, as it throws you and your opponent into a large arena with generally uneven terrain. These backgrounds ranged from a verdant mill town with a creek and bridge, to more eclectic fare like a rooftop covered with snow that we had to wade through, or a largely busted-up dock that had us jumping across pieces of floating wood as we tried to keep our opponent from throwing us into the drink. It seems some of the environments will have interactive elements; the dock level had a giant wooden pole that we could use to punch and kick our enemy with, for instance.
Each character in One Piece has two standard melee attack buttons, as well as a throw move and a double jump. You can string your two attacks into some pretty wild combos. For example, Monkey D. Luffy has combos that extend his limbs out, Dhalsim-style, while other characters have combos that make them teleport around or fly through the air. Adding to the chaos are a number of crates and treasure chests that will drop into the arena at random times. These can be picked up and hurled at your enemy, though it's more useful to break them open and see what kind of power-ups they contain. You'll often find simple fruit items that will raise your health, in addition to special-effect items, like a sword, that make your attacks more powerful, or shoes that make you run faster for a limited amount of time. You'll occasionally even find offensive items, such as a torch you can throw at your opponent to set him or her on fire. Finally, you've got a special meter that charges up as you fight, and once it's full you can unleash your custom special attack, determined by the secondary character you chose along with your main guy.
Story mode is the primary mode of play in the game. In traditional fighting game style, it casts you as Monkey D. Luffy and has you fight a series of plot-related battles, each of which is preceded by some dramatic dialogue that sets up the events. There's also the expected versus mode, as well as a tournament mode that lets you set up an elimination ladder for lengthier competitions. Rounding out the playable modes is a minigame section that incorporates the core fighting engine into a number of unique challenges. You'll pick a main character and assemble his or her support team before the minigames start, and you'll be up against an opponent accompanied by a similar team. Whoever wins each minigame gets to choose one member of his or her opponent's team to eliminate. One of the challenges we played threw us into an arena with a giant pile of snow, and we had to get rid of all this snow before time ran out by running through it and throwing items at it. Another minigame made us use our combos to break through enormous stacks of crates and treasure chests (300 in all) within the time limit. Aside from all these playable modes, you'll be able to unlock One Piece artwork and other such goodies that you can view from the main menu.
One Piece's graphical presentation is quite vivid from what we saw--the game certainly evokes the anime style of its source material, what with its cel-shaded combatants, over-the-top special-move transitions and camera angles, and bizarre character designs. The fighting is solid and varied, based on our initial experience, and should serve as a good way for fans of the anime to get some up-close fighting time with their favorite characters. One Piece: Grand Battle is slated for release in the first week of September. Stay tuned for more.