As a fellow pirate, I'm offended.
One Piece, an anime about a quirky kid in charge of a pirate vessel in search of mystical treasure, has quickly been picking up momentum in the United States since the dubbed version hit Cartoon Network last year, and as such, licensed games are a given. When Pirates’ Carnival showed up on my doorstep, I figured it’d be a simple party game with a few laughs between repetitive mini-games.
Well, I got one thing right – can you guess which one?
I can forgive One Piece for its annoying voice-overs and characters – this game is licensed from a children’s cartoon, after all – but I can’t understand what possessed the game’s developers to take the kind of missteps present here. Essentially a Mario Party clone, the game allows up to four players to fight for the tiles that make up a board – each tile contains a card and a cash prize. Certain tiles will have mini-games, where everyone will vie for first place in events like seeing who can dig up the most sand or who can stay on stilts the longest. Can you feel the fun yet?
Other tiles contain Captain cards, where the person who chose the tile will take on that Captain’s persona, and will defend his base/ship from the other three players. For example, a certain Captain will attack the other three characters, but he’ll exhaust himself after a while, and if someone depletes his health meter, he loses that tile to said player. Once every tile has been chosen, the character with the most cash wins the game, and is allowed to keep his or her cards (which can be seen later in the Extras gallery).
There’s not much incentive to replay the game (or play it at all, really), since every character is exactly the same. I’m not exaggerating at all – it says that in the manual. The first play-through takes around 25 minutes if you’re taking it easy, and after that, you’ll feel like you’ve had enough. As you might be able to guess, the game supports up to four players, but if you care for your friends at all, you’ll pop something else into your Cube.
On top of its generic gameplay, One Piece’s controls are extremely floaty, with little on-screen feedback that you’re doing anything right. It’s not like you can do much wrong, though – most mini-games only use the analog stick and the A Button. And, as I mentioned before, since there’s no difference at all between characters, you won’t have to adapt to different avatars.
One of the only aspects that Pirates’ Carnival gets right is the graphics. Colorful, cel-shaded environments and characters are scattered throughout, and they generally look good, if a little simplistic. There aren’t many effects to be seen here (which I found odd, considering the source material), so don’t expect anything too flashy.
One Piece: Pirates’ Carnival feels like another “phone-it-in" anime game. The mini-games are boring, the Captain events feel tired and generic, and there’s no replay value to be found. Avoid it and save your money.