Review by grimakis
"One of the best titles on the Wonderswan Color! For fans and non-fans alike!"
At the time of this review, I have a Nintendo DS Lite sitting beside me. Having said that I will be reviewing this game in the context of the time it was created. I consider myself to be one who is able to appreciate retro games, and I hope that my opinion can give you more information about this game. It is also worth noting that I have little exposure to One Piece in anime or manga form. One last thing is that I am unable to read Japanese, so keep that in mind.
Story - N/A
I want to say that this game does not have much of a story, but I cannot say for certain. Before each battle, there appears to be a short dialogue between the characters about to engage in combat. However, the text is in Japanese, and I am unable to read it. Therefore the game may have an amusing plot, probably pertaining to the anime, however I doubt it is anything too special. After all, this is a fighting game, not an RPG. Therefore it is also not very important to have a story. For this reason, the overall score will not be affected by the story. Last thing to be said is that the character confrontations change based on which fighter you choose. So clearly each character has different dialogues with the other fighters. With this knowledge, I believe this game has a deeper story than that of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter.
Unfortunately, the Wonderswan consoles don't have stereo speakers, however the cartridges still support stereo sound. In order to fully appreciate this game's fantastic music, one must use headphones. What is even more unfortunate is that Bandai decided against putting a 3.5mm headphone jack on the console. In order to use headphones, you must use a headphone adapter that fits into the extension port, an item that is quite hard to find these days.(December, 2010) Moving ahead, the music is actually quite catchy. I'm not sure if the music was originally composed for this game, or if it was borrowed from the anime or another One Piece game. Either way, it is quite catchy, and after playing for some time, you might find yourself humming or whistling a tune from this game. The collision sounds are quite nice, and are well-synchronized with the sprite collisions. There really is not much to say, other than the sound is on par to that of a GBA game.
Graphics - 9
Stunning graphics. They are well drawn, and are far superior to those of Game Boy Color games. The sprites are quite good looking, and are somewhat complex. After viewing a sprite sheet online, I was able to see beauty of each attack, frame by frame. Due to the superhuman powers of some characters, the sprites require extra detail, as in the case of Luffy. His rubbery arms and legs stretch across the screen during battle, and the animations look great. When a character connects with a special attack, the screen moves away from the battlefield, and a few still shots are shown of the character performing the attack. Everything is very colorful, and it would look even better if the Wonderswan Color had a backlit screen. The parallax scrolling is exceptional, and the fact that the backgrounds are animated makes it even better. The stages have all sorts of little things going on in the background that you can only notice if you aren't paying attention to the battle. Overall, the graphics are very enjoyable, especially the introductory movie that plays when the game starts up.
The most important aspect of a game is obviously the gameplay, an area in which this title does not fall short. If I were to describe it, I would say that it is a fusion of Super Smash Bros and Dragon Ball Z: Budokai. The game starts off with a small selection of characters, all members of Luffy's crew. After beating Story Mode on various difficulties, with different characters, new characters become available for use. In this regard it is like Super Smash Bros. The actual battles are quite fun. The different stages are more than just changes in scenery. Because there are floating platforms in the stages, the placement of these is crucial. For example, I have found that certain characters perform well on certain stages, despite there being only minor differences from stage to stage. Long and open stages facilitate running attacks, whereas leveled stages do not. The jungle stage has a variation in elevation. This prevents one character from running in a straight line for too long, as they will have to jump eventually. This makes fights interesting. Also, barrels and chests can be broken to reveal items. Some items can be picked up and appear under your character's power bar. I believe some restore health, and I know some can be thrown. One item can even cause your controls for moving left and right to switch. Characters build some kind of energy or power by doing damage to the opponent. When the power bar is full, it will reset and your character will get a starburst under his name. You can use this stored energy to unleash unique attacks, which trigger special animations. Stronger attacks require more filled energy bars. There are multiple difficulty levels, and when set to hard, the game can be frustrating. Both AI and enemy damage appears to increase as difficulty is set higher. It is possible to lose in a matter of seconds if the opponent connects with a few good attacks. A good strategy can be used to beat slower characters, but more skill will be needed when fighting faster foes. One missed attack can leave you open to taking a large amount of damage. This makes unlocking certain characters a real pain. However, when you do finally complete your goals, you are in line for commendations, because this is not an easy game.
The controls for this game are doable, very similar to those of Digimon Tamers: Battle Spirit and Digimon Tamers: Battle Spirit ver 1.5. The A-Button is used for jumping, and the B-Button is used for action. The control pad both determines movement direction, and which attack your character when perform when you press the B-Button. The if you press both the A and B buttons, you can perform your character's special attacks. Which attack is used depends on which control pad button you are holding. To my knowledge, the upper control pad a.k.a Y-Buttons are not used in this game, nor is the system held in the vertical position. Although a less traditional control scheme is used, I believe it is better than the one used in Guilty Gear Petit, which uses the control pad for all movement, and the A and B buttons to either punch or kick.
Replay Value 10
This game has immense replay value, as a true perfectionist has much to unlock. Beating the story mode with different characters unlocks different cards, which are akin to trophies from Super Smash Bros. Melee. In order to unlock all characters and cards, you must beat the story on hard with all characters without using continues. Some require you achieve a certain score in a mini-game, and others require that finishing moves be used on every K.O. Even after you unlock everything, you can still hone your skills against the CPU so you can take on your friends in VS. Mode.(If you can find someone else with this game and a WonderLink.
Conclusion / Final Score 9
This game is a solid fighting game, which probably would have fared well on the Game Boy Advance. While the Wonderswan is a good console in its own right, the fact that it was never released in the United States hurts it. Americans should have gotten a chance to own this game. Luckily it is very import friendly, as knowledge of the Japanese language isn't crucial, save for some simple menus and forgettable dialogue. If you can get your hands on this game, I highly recommend picking it up.
Editing notes: After playing this game a bit, I decided to look into the One Piece series a bit more. A comparable game exists on the DS, and it is known as One Piece: Gear Spirit. It wasn't released in the USA, but might be a better option if you don't have a WSC. Swan Colossuem appears to be the better game, but if you are a One Piece fan, you might want to take a look at Gear Spirit.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/11, Updated 01/11/11
Game Release: One Piece Grand Battle: Swan Colosseum (JP, 07/12/02)
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