One Piece Romance Dawn

So, I read about this and got quite excited. A turn-based RPG based on the OP storyline? Fantastic. I love RPG games, I generally prefer turn-based combat and the anime is among my favourites. Once I was informed of this game, I was very much excited!

I was sorely disappointed. The game is repetitive, the dungeons all seems the same and the “cut scenes” are often expressionless portraits. It does have clips from the anime which is nice, and the craft system isn’t overly bad. But it just lacks polish in my opinion. I didn’t expect it to live it to the — my — hype, but I still expected it to deliver an enjoyable game.

That’s not what I got…

Let’s start at the beginning. The game arrives. Trembling from excitement, or perhaps lack of sleep, I throw the cartridge in and boot up my 3DS raring to go! Boom, straight into a cut scene. I suspect I’ve got some nifty tutorial going on here, it’s set far in the past when Shanks met Luffy.

A long while later…

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I’m still watching the same cut scene. Not even a hint of gameplay at the moment, and the cut scenes are lifeless and dull. Sure, they throw in some nice clips from the anime, but mostly it’s just static images with speech bubbles for minutes on end. Most of the avatars don’t even change expression. At this point, I’m already quite underwhelmed. But I stick it out hoping the game play is better. I can always skip the cut scenes if they’re that bad.

The cutscene ends and I’m thrown out onto into the world. I’m now faced with a world map and two locations. Absolutely nothing about a tutorial right now. But that’s fine, it’s not like anything is overly difficult to grasp here. The loading screens do offer some tips, but they’re not exactly timed well with the progression you’ll be making. But anyhow, I move on to the next island.

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Yay! Another cutscene, I’ve done nothing at the moment, not even explored the menus. I’ve just sailed from one island to another, I’ve literally pressed the D-left and landed on the new island. Now might also be a good time to point out there is no touch-screen facility in this game.

This cutscene doesn’t last as long before I get into some combat. A fairly basic maze-like dungeon. I say maze-like because it’s not particularly difficult to navigate. I engage in some fights… the turn-based system is fairly basic. There’s nothing fresh or exciting to combat, you do get penalties imposed upon you the further you move before attacking, but that’s about it. Creating combos at this point is also fairly boring, you just tap the same button a few times, and use up a special move once you’ve accumulated more TP. The only nifty thing I really recall about the battles is the ability to slam enemies against the wall, or each other, for extra damage.

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I head up to the next floor of the Marine base, hopeful for something more exciting. I assume combat will get better later when I’ve unlocked more moves, I still believe that to be the case, in fact. Suddenly I’m stuck in a run heading forwards without so much as a warning. Then a QTE pops up and I can either head left into a bunch of enemies, or right to avoid them. Being the XP-fiend I am, I engage the enemies. After killing them I note a line on the right of my screen, it appears I’ve got a timer to get to the end. For the following QTEs I evade the enemies and eventually I learn I’m also being chased by some marines. I’ve no idea what happens if they catch you, but I assume it’s game over. This farce of a level I later come to realize is called a Grand Stream, and it seems entirely out of place with the rest of the game.

I’m getting frustrated with the game at this point and I’ve not even done the first level.

Eventually I get through it, clear the boss, move on to some more levels, view some more lifeless cutscenes and recruit some of my crew. It’s going fairly well… accept every level feels exactly like the last. The dungeon design doesn’t really differ from level to level. Sure, some are square, some are more circular, but they don’t feel any different. The atmosphere of each level is identical to the last, even if the aesthetics are completely different. More over, the same backdrops are re-used several times over. It won’t take long until you’re bored of seeing the same jungle over and over. Level design is very limited.

Let’s just stop here. There’s no point in narrating the rest of the game, let me just give you a list of it’s flaws instead.

  • No tutorial. Not a major thing, but they missed a prime opportunity to bung this in here. In the anime, Luffy boards Alvida’s pirate ship in a barrel. This could’ve been a great scenario for a small logistics and combat tutorial.
  • Boring combat. Perhaps this picks up once you’ve got more options, and I suspect the two-year gap will also feature some improvements, but I didn’t play long enough to discover this if that’s the case.
  • Repetitive levels.
  • Lifeless and needlessly long “cutscenes”.
  • No 3D or touchscreen options. I don’t particularly care for 3D, but it just seems they didn’t really make use of the 3DS as best they could.
  • Frustrating World-interaction. You want to break open that barrel? Well, if you’re just 2mm off it, I’m going to kick mid-air instead – which I can’t do while moving.
  • Annoying Inventory. Limiting inventory space is fine, and the ship can carry stuff for you too. But I shouldn’t be able to max out one item so early in the game.
  • Enemy detection. I still don’t know how this works. Sometimes they don’t see you, but will chase, other times they’re looking right at you when you walk past unnoticed.
  • Repetitive. RPGs generally have various repetitive elements where you can grind away. Most of them require a lot of grinding to beat super bosses and the like, but a game shouldn’t feel repetitive so soon into cracking open the case. The level design flaw adds a lot to the feeling of repetition.

And that’s not even an extensive list. I’ve not mentioned the skill leveling system, or crafting. Both of which are actually okay, nothing new or fancy, though.

Overall, the game is just a complete let-down. My romance dawned and went back to bed pretty damn quickly. Would I recommend it to a non-OP fan? No. Would I recommend it to an OP-fan… not so much. They might find it enjoyable, but it’s repetitive, lacks any innovation and feels more like a rather bland RPG experience with the OP world vomited across the top of it. A game with such potential has really let me down. Hell, I often enjoy repetitive games, I’m a fan of the Disgaea series, and anyone whose played them post-game knows there’s tens of hours of grinding, hundreds if you want to get absolutely everything… but this game just doesn’t hold its own.

I’d give it a 4/10. Will I continue to play it? Most likely. I’ll grin and bear it and hope the time-skip will make it more exciting, but the closed-off level design and lack of any real atmosphere during levels is a major turn-off.

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