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One Piece: Grand Battle
Scheduled release date: September 2005
Publisher: Bandai
Developer: Bandai
Genre: Fighting
Number Of Players: 1-2
Bandai gave us a chance to play all four of its upcoming fighting games, but the one we were most taken with was One Piece: Grand Battle

The game is based on the currently-airing One Piece cartoon and features 16 playable characters along with 32 supporting characters. Basically, it's a 3D fighting game where you pick one main character and one support character to challenge CPU or human opponents.

All of the characters that One Piece fans know and love--such as Luffy, Nami, Zolo, etc.--have been put into the game. The supporting character gimmick is similar to the same concept that was in Capcom's Power Stone and Marvel Vs. Capcom games. During the match, you can call-in the supporting character, who will generally harrass the opponent and give you some breathing room for a few seconds.

The game itself plays quite a bit like Power Stone, with some Smash Bros. thrown in for good measure. The levels are large 3D environments that are full of interactivity. In the levels we tried out, we were able to duck into a stream, knock-down fences, chop down the grass, and make wooden signs spin. One level was set in a grassy area next to a town, with a lighthouse to one side and a cabin on the other. We chose Luffy vs. Zolo for this fight. In addition to attacking Zolo straight-up, we were able to spin the wooden sign and use it to propel Luffy into Zolo. There was also a cow sitting patiently on a path near one side of the level, and we were happily surprised to discover that kicking some grass his way made him stampede around the level. It was also cool to see how the blades of grass flew into the air and fell to the ground every time Zolo tried to hack away at Luffy. Meanwhile, the entire time, the spectators were cheering on the fight and tossing in items (bombs and weapons) for both fighters to pick up.

The combat system doesn't seem too-too complicated. There are two attack buttons, a guard button and a jump button. The shoulder buttons call-in the supporting characters and initiate super-special moves.

It was those super moves that really floored us (both Frank and Aaron) and made us think that both One Piece and fighting game fans alike will want to check this game out. Each character has three different super moves. Which one comes out when you press the button depends on how much health your character has. When you're low on health, the characters become desperate and bust out some intricate, wacky, and impressive supers. But, what we REALLY liked was that the supers are acted out in cinematic, over-the-top cut scenes that transition seamlessly to and from standard gameplay. In one level, Nami busted out a multi-step super involving a hammer that ended with us surrounded by people and pounded into the ground. It looked absolutely painful, and we can imagine friends playing the game and using the time during super cutscenes to giggle and gloat at their unlucky buddies.

One Piece fans can look forward to One Piece: Grand Battle to hit the PS2 this September.

5/20/2005   Frank Provo