When it comes to video games, One Piece has always gotten the short end of the stick. With series like Naruto getting expansive games that cover the story, One Piece fans have made due with quirky fighters and a Dynasty Warriors series. However, this all changed with One Piece: Romance Dawn. Instead of vaguely touching on the story, One Piece: Romance Dawn is an RPG adventure through the first half of the series. While this is just the type of game fans have been waiting for, is One Piece: Romance Dawn worth the time or is it a lack luster RPG trying to cash in on the name?
One Piece: Romance Dawn starts at the beginning of the series and explains how Luffy got his iconic strawhat. After about ten minutes, you’re ready to start your journey and experience the world of One Piece. The only catch is, the world isn’t that interesting.
A big part of this has to do with the faithfulness to the story. Instead of having several moves and characters to work with at the beginning, you’re limited to Luffy and he can only do one combo and a single special move. With this you must make your way to Axe Hand Morgan, where you gain Zoro, who also has one combo and a single special move. This cycle then repeats with Nami and then again with Usopp. Around this point you’ll start getting new moves to work with and the combat system will become a little more advanced than spamming A. However, this is also when new problems come into play.
While you can complete the first couple of stages with ease, there is a massive difficulty spike with Don Krieg. First off, your party will most likely be under leveled and will require some grinding in order to proceed. Thankfully there are a number of new islands to explore, though they’re extremely bland. To give you an idea, a number of places are called “Maze Isle” and these dungeons look like a generic cave. Just various brown passageways with lanterns hanging and enemies/boxes placed throughout. After a few levels you should be ready to face Don Krieg, but before doing so, make sure to purchase/stock/obtain life restoring items. From this point forward, these items are a necessity.
As sad as it sounds, Krieg still might beat you despite all this prep work. A lot of this has to do with his power, which can easily take away twenty percent of your health and surpass thirty percent if you get knocked against a wall. Besides doing a lot of damage, Krieg defends himself a lot, so this fight could easily take four to seven minutes to complete. In the event you still can’t defeat Krieg, you can use the den den mushi to retreat and do some more grinding or resupply. However, upon doing so, you must complete the level over again.
As you progress further in One Piece: Romance Dawn, you will notice more esoteric elements come into play. For instance, Zoro and Sanji have boss fights at Arlong Park and the whole crew has a boss fight on Alabasta. This relates to the aforementioned faithfulness of the story, though who would expect a boss battle against Mr. 4 or Miss Doublefinger? Regardless, if someone is underpowered or without the right gear, expect problems/failure. On the bright side, after Alabasta/finishing this review, you’ll know what to expect going forward. That won’t guarantee success, but it will probably result in less problems.
With all the bad things out of the way, One Piece: Romance Dawn does contain a single redeeming quality, the story. For the most part the story is told through character portraits and word bubbles. Important scenes, like Luffy defeating Arlong and destroying Arlong Park, get a clip from the anime, complete with the original Japanese voiceovers and subtitles. Other scenes might get a single shot from the anime, though these aren’t terribly common either.
Despite the low budget approach, the story is relatively intact. Generally speaking, key locations like Alabasta have levels and less important places like Whiskey Peak are told through dialog. This makes Romance Dawn one of the most comprehensive One Piece games to date and a great introduction to the series if you can deal with the gameplay.
One Piece: Romance Dawn is a great idea that was poorly executed. While fans and newcomers will appreciate the story, the gameplay feels like an afterthought. It becomes bland after mere hours and starts to feel like you’re going through the motions. This is not the reaction you want in an RPG, especially a long one like Romance Dawn.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS