One Piece Grand Adventure
A little under a year ago fans of Monkey D. Luffy's exploits got the chance to duke it out with a party-like, Power Stone inspired atmosphere. Fighting games based on anime are nothing new to today's market. The only problem with endeavors like these is sometimes they are successful in what they strive to achieve and other times; not so much. You really have to nail every aspect in order to appeal to the show's fan base and the chance of garnering a new audience based upon the title is slim to none. The odds are stacked against you going in, but as any import gamer could tell you Japan adores these titles and the market is flooded with anime-themed games.
One Piece: Grand Adventure is essentially a sequel to Grand Battle in just about every way you look at it. The original game was a lot of fun though didn't have a lasting appeal or much depth. It took precious little effort to "master" a character and once you learned one you pretty much learned them all. With a group of buddies that loved the anime, the game proved to be an enjoyable experience though one that didn't really last longer than a weekend. Does Grand Adventure change all of that? Or is it more of the same?
One of the biggest challenges that a sequel faces in the gaming market is the fact that it's going to be compared to the original on just about every level. Whether the game makes any new improvements or not goes a long way to the enjoyment of the gamer that has played the first game. After some time with Grand Adventure it's easy to say that, yes, there have been "some" things that have been improved upon. The problem is that none of these additions are really groundbreaking. So that means, for better or worse, the sequel plays out eerily similar to the original.
For fighting fans the addition of an adventure theme is nothing new. We've seen it done countless times before though the best example is what the Soul Calibur series did. As an extra mode you could choose your path and fight around the world to collect items and power up your character. In Grand Adventure the same basic concept has been added but it's basically the core feature of the gameplay.
This Adventure Mode is still a step up from the Story Mode featured in the first game and will probably make many fans happy. The game lasts a little longer and the gameplay is diversified by a smattering of mini games tossed in between rounds of fighting. As you play through the adventure you'll also be powering up your fighter with experience points. They level up in a way that's kind of like an RPG and at every increase you have the ability to divvy up points towards health, attack, defense, etc. You can even get a password out of the game to bring your powered character over to the Versus Mode. This makes the Adventure Mode stand out compared to the Story Mode found in Grand Battle, but the changes aren't big enough to alter the experience when you get right down to it.
While the ability to level up characters, unlock more players, find treasures and explore the story is interesting and better than what the first game offered. The core gameplay is virtually identical to the original One Piece game, save a few additions.
If you were enthralled by the combat the first time around or just love over the top insane fighting games in general you'll love Grand Adventure. Each stage offers a bounty of crates and treasure chests to broken open across your opponent's skull and doing so spills forth their contents (from the chests, not the skulls). Various stat altering items or weapons await you like a virtual piņata and some new ones have been added to Grand Adventure. Throwing a beehive at someone, hitting them with a baseball bat or simply poisoning them with a mushroom makes the gameplay deliciously enjoyable.
Support characters help balance things out and make them even more insane. You can call upon your partner during the course of the fight for whatever support they offer. New stages also help broaden the horizons of the sequel but you can expect to see older ones as well. Secret power moves and a new technique known as Accel-Heat help flesh out combat and make it even more insane. The Accel-Heat is particularly interesting because it cancels any action you're doing and immediately allows you to continue attacking or doing whatever. This leaves the door open for nigh-unlimited combos if you time it right.
It's safe to say that there are enough new additions to the gameplay in Grand Adventure to say it's definitely worth playing if you loved Grand Battle. The only problem is despite the changes at hand, the game feels more like an expansion rather than a true sequel. The Accel-Heat action adds some depth to the gameplay and the Adventure Mode is much more enjoyable than the Story Mode from the first game. In the end your enjoyment will basically revolve around your interest level in a game like this. It's a solid game for any fan of One Piece looking for a well polished title and if you're looking for a kid-friendly game that will keep the younglings occupied Grand Adventure fits that bill as well.
Another way in which Grand Adventure looks like an expansion rather than a sequel is the fact that it looks virtually the same as Grand Battle. The super-deformed design is back with similarly implemented cel-shaded characters and environments that are decently textured. The animation is fast and furious with a lot of flashy nuances in the moves and overall presentation. The design will keep fans happy and attract new audiences but like I said there is very little improvement over the previous game.
Just like the graphics the audio presentation for Grand Adventure mimics the first Grand game. With voiceovers that are either pulled from the anime or cuts of the actors shouting out the name of an attack, the game is unmistakably One Piece. The music is good but again it sounds pretty much the same as the first game. Sound effects are typically for a fighter as well so all in all it's safe to say that the title is functional for what it is but nothing that will blow that straw hat off your head.
In many ways One Piece Grand Adventure is better than Grand Battle, despite the fact that it's basically an expansion rather than a full-fledged sequel. The adventure is much better than the story mode and offers more replay value as you level up characters and sail the ocean blue. The fighting system is basically identical to the original game with a few additions like the Accel-Heat system and some new items. Whether or not you'll enjoy this game depends on your exposure to One Piece and your desire to play a party-like fighting game similar to Power Stone. Even though I suggested a rental for the first game, this incarnation deserves a recommendation based on the expanded replay value and improved concepts. Just don't expect an entirely new experience if you played Grand Battle.