The Official Games Radar Reviewer Handbook (Third Edition) cites two important criteria to look for when reviewing anime-based games. The first? They have to appeal to the fans of the anime. And the second? They also have to be fun enough to appeal to everyone else. Some games only manage the first point; a rare few manage both. Bandai's new One Piece: Grand Adventure is a textbook case of an anime game that is packed full of fan service but is lacking in areas of greater substance. Even so, it throws enough things into the pot that at least some of them will stick.
Grand Adventure is basically an extension of the previous One Piece: Grand Battle, which Bandai described as a "free-roaming vs. battle game." Others used the more descriptive "Power Stone knock-off," giving credit to the fighting game that was this title's obvious inspiration. Whichever the case, Grand Battle 's core arcade mode lives on here but is supplemented by a new Grand Adventure mode. The game's main attraction, Grand Adventure lets you take to the seas with the character of your choice to partake in a variety of battles and minigames on the numerous islands you'll encounter. Along the way you'll gather allies, win items and earn experience, all resulting in a bigger, badder, more funnily dressed crew of sea-sailing scoundrels.
The fighting is pretty darn simple, though you'll need to check the help at first to figure out the various types of special attacks assigned to the shoulder buttons. All of the main attacks, however, are done with a mere two buttons, with each of the 24 characters having a few attack variations depending on what order you press 'em in. Another button picks stuff up for purposes of throwing. And that's the fighting system: simplistic and shallow, with no especially interesting dynamics. It can be fun to watch the colorful carnage at first, but repetition and tedium soon sets in, as most fights are pretty similar to each other.
Since the actual brawling's not fantastic, Grand Adventure mode is the glue that holds this game together. It's reasonably enjoyable to sail around and encounter dozens of the ridiculous characters from the One Piece universe, each spouting preposterous dialogue as they attack you for no discernable reason. Then you win crap for your galleries, and maybe level up your warrior. Most of the collectible items serve no purpose, especially the 200+ trading cards from the official One Piece card game. You can collect 'em, but can't actually play the game. Oops. Still, the endless flow of unlockable junk might just be enough to keep kids playing.
For all its shortcomings as a fighting game - excuse us, "free-roaming vs. battle game" - One Piece: Grand Adventure still manages to exude the shameless, unfettered enthusiasm of its silly source material. It's not a great fighting game, but its wide array of characters, scenarios, and unlockable junk could be just the thing for less critical fans.