One Piece: Romance Dawn Review

By Adam Ma on February 27, 2014

The world of shonen anime can be quite daunting, filled with manga and shows that boast a cast that often juggles dozens of main characters over a story that spans hundreds of episodes with no sign of stopping anywhere in sight. Enter One Piece, a show that fits the bill perfectly. Having run since 1997 it can be pretty overwhelming to try and catch up with, which is why a lot of less-dedicated (or simply more time restricted) otaku try to get their fix through video games. One Piece: Romance Dawn is such a game, meant to both capture the spirit of the show's goofy and lovable characters while at the same time recap as much of the story as possible.

Unfortunately when you have close to 15 years worth of story to sift through, knowing what to omit and what to trim down can be a pretty difficult task. Romance Dawn opts for what may have been the worst choice possible. Players are given the story through character portraits that have word bubbles pop up nearby, and though they are occasionally interrupted through animated scenes from the show or a 'full page' piece of art, most of your time will be spent sitting through incomplete sentences that aren't always tethered to a character. Couple this with Romance Dawn's need to go through the most boring plot points and minor characters and it becomes clear that the 3DS game is asking to take up far more of your time than necessary.

If you're a fan of plot it means the delivery will frustrate you at worst or bore you at best, and if you're a fan of the show who doesn't have a lot of patience it will probably mean the same; but the bigger disappointment comes from the lost opportunity to throw someone who's never experienced One Piece into the franchise properly.

Thankfully the combat is slightly better, as it offers a turn based strategy mechanic that combines Action Points with character positioning and combos. Assuming the fight isn't a part of a storyline aftermath most of your combat comes in the form of world-wandering. Pick a location, endure the chatty cutscenes then run around predetermined maps until you hit an enemy. From there characters are snapped into a turn order and put into an arena that matches the environment.

Taking an action that isn't specifically movement related will cost AP, and players can either blow through AP by using normal attacks and combos or can choose to take fewer attacks in order to save their AP for something bigger later on. Multiple enemies can be hit by a single attack and enemies can be bounced off walls (or one another) for additional damage, which means making sure your character stands in a specific location before attacking is extremely important. Attacks also range greatly from character to character, and learning which character can string together close range combos or can be used to set up multiple hits with another crew member is all a part of the strategy.

It sounds like a lot to take in and plan for but it really isn't, in fact the combat system is so straightforward you're left wondering if maybe the developers had intended for something a little deeper but were cut short along the way. Without any other elements of gameplay, combat becomes stale rather quickly, and if it wasn't for the fact that players are best optimizing their turns by adjusting where their character stands, the game could best be described as a standard JRPG with no extraordinary elements.

Final Thoughts

A slow paced story with clumsy delivery joins a repetitive combat system to create a One Piece experience that may be best left alone, unless of course you're absolutely dying for an extra bit of the franchise to immerse yourself in. As an anime that capitalizes from its frantic, strange and memorable action Romance Dawn is a surprisingly tame experience; one that will leave you longing for something a little deeper.

Japanese voice acting is enjoyable
Does a very thorough job with the story.
Sticks to the show’s plot, to a fault
Repetitive combat
Too much detail in main plot
Feels rushed where it shouldn't have been, and not rushed where it should have been.
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