Review: One Piece: Romance Dawn

Punk Hazard-ous to your health.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/24/2014 09:00 3 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Authentic character models; battle system is fun in concept; long campaign.
Poison Mushroom for...
Repetitive battles; sterile environments; wooden cut scenes; lifeless translation; no challenge to battles.

Like fellow Nintendojo writer Marc Deschamps, I’m a huge comic book fan. My top three comic series of all time are Ultimate Spider-Man (Peter and Miles iterations), Full Metal Alchemist, and One Piece, which clocks in at the top. One Piece is a manga series published here in the west by Viz Media, and revolves around the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy. Luffy’s dream is to become the king of the pirates, a goal so unattainable, that most people laugh when he says it. Over the course of the series, he’s assembled a super crew of fellow pirates to take on the perilous stretch of ocean called the Grand Line, all in the hopes of finding the titular One Piece treasure and making his dream a reality.

Romance Dawn, Bandai Namco’s latest video game to use the One Piece license, is an action-RPG that follows the storyline of the comic from the first volume all the way up to the series’ more recent New World arc. That is a lot of ground to cover, which translates to quite a bit of gameplay. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to Romance Dawn worth sticking around to experience. Sterile environments, monotonous battling, a weak translation, and an overall lack of fun really drag Romance Dawn down. I went into this game hoping to get the One Piece game I always wanted, but walked away broken hearted, instead.

Right off the bat, players are subjected to rudimentary motion comics in lieu of actual cut scenes. Static images cobbled together from the anime feature word balloons stuffed with poorly translated dialogue. As someone who has all 69 volumes of the comic sitting on his shelf, I was hoping for writing at least comparable to the quality of Viz’s translation, but sadly, that’s not the case. Common phrasing that fans have come to know by heart like “I’m gonna be king of the pirates!” have been replaced with lines like the more soulless “I’m going to be pirate king!” It’s a glaring drop in quality for series’ fans, but even a casual player will be put off by the jarring, lifeless banter.

This underwhelming presentation carries over into actual gameplay, as environments are nearly empty save for swarms of generic enemies. All the characters look well enough, but animations are minimal, outside of battles. Combat is probably the only saving grace of Romance Dawn, as it can be entertaining, in spurts. Rather than a traditional turn-based RPG system, battles are carried out in real time. Each character has a variety of moves and skills that can be developed and employed, and successfully aiming attacks can cause multiple enemies to be hit at once. Unfortunately, Romance Dawn lazily sends players careening down branching, overly long corridors (whether the stage is in a jungle or the guts of a ship, the level design is practically identical), where they’ll battle the same packs of bad guys incessantly. With little challenge to these battles, they become grueling tests of the player’s patience; hit the same attack button over and over until the enemies finally disappear. Repeat. Yawn.

I’d like to say that I’m being extra picky because I’m such a big fan of the comic, but there’s no getting around poor game design. The entire Romance Dawn experience is a hodgepodge of wooden cut scenes, menu screens, and endless halls and paths with little to do but fight the same enemies ad nauseam. While it was nice to see so many story beats touched upon, the energy and excitement of the comics are entirely lost here. Dungeon crawling fans indifferent to the One Piece license might find some enjoyment in tackling the game’s wealth of stages, but it’s all so heartless and stagnant that I doubt even they would be able to tolerate the game for long. Players will get to learn a good chunk of the One Piece mythos playing through this game, but this is not the way it was meant to be experienced. Romance Dawn is a misfire all around that only the absolute most completist of One Piece fans should give it a look. It’s a shame, because One Piece is normally something quite wonderful. Such a waste.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

3 Responses to “Review: One Piece: Romance Dawn

  • 0 points

    So while the competition gets One Piece: Pirate Warriors – we get . . . this?

    Huge One Piece fan. Robert nailed it above when he stated that this anime just stands a bit above all the others. And by a bit above, I mean in an entirely different league. Too bad to see none of the authentically amazing spirit of the actual series hit this title. This takes me back to the SNES/N64 days of the cash-in on the property name. One Piece fans who don’t know any better will hate both the people who made this game, and the system they’re playing it on for allowing it to exist in the first place.

    Shame. One Piece is literally the Pirate King of all anime properties. This could have actually been amazing.

    Oh, and Robbie. Subs all the way, bro. Like, the actual voice-actors of the original cast are amazing. I don’t know what the dub is like, but if it’s anything like 99% of the other anime dubs out there, it’ll be completely westernised, the style and substance of the anime will have been replaced with north american slang and idioms, any “outside-the-completely-normal-mode” character (re: non-straight) or displays of any PG13 material will be removed, all swearing gone, and any depth or ability to like the characters will most likely be challenged by consistent re-castings of the north american voice actors for the same character over and over again.

    One Piece isn’t guilty of all of those – but you do nothing but disservice the actual product, and lose out on the richness of the actual world, by consuming the English dubs.

  • 24 points
    simsjoe says...

    Now this is so cool, I love One Piece! A video game based on their characters would be so amazing !

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