One Piece Treasure Cruise
Bandai Namco's One Piece Treasure Cruise, free-to-play for iOS and Android, is weird to talk about. On the one hand, it's a fairly simple blend of turn-based RPG gameplay and reflexes, with stamina, timers, and several different types of currency. On the other, it's a colourful riot of weirdness, with an enjoyable story that loosely follows the plot of the wildly popular anime/manga series, with tons of collectable characters, and a high degree of polish. The story follows Monkey D. Luffy, who's out to become the king of pirates and assembling the crew he needs to track down the legendary One Piece, a treasure hidden by a great pirate who was executed a long time ago. Which would seem a fairly basic premise, until you throw in the fact that Luffy accidentally ate the "Devil Fruit", and now he's a literal rubber person, and along the way he's duking it out with a seemingly never-ending parade of over-the-top villains and taking on weirder and weirder allies. Despite some frustrating monetization and ultimately repetitive, basic gameplay, One Piece Treasure Cruise still manages to serve up a vibrant, funny, and cheerfully off-beat adventure with loads of cutscenes that'll appeal to fans and newcomers alike.
The basic gist is this... you travel from island to island, getting embroiled in stories that play out over several chapters, each of which takes a certain amount of stamina to play, stamina regenerating point by point over time, or completely if you level up. Each chapter is a battle consisting of several waves of enemies and one boss fight, and if you win, you get cash, experience points, and potentially Wanted Posters of varying rarities that become crew members. The game's lengthy, helpful tutorial will help you master the finer points of combat, but it's a mostly simple matter of timing. During each turn, you can attack with as many characters as you like, and each character has a different type that's stronger and weaker against others. Tapping a character's portrait sends them lunging at whatever enemy you have targeted, and if you tap another character before their attack is finished, you can chain multiple attacks together, though you'll only get a damage bonus if your timing when you activate each character is juuuuuuuuust right. The number next to an enemy's health bar is how many turns they have remaining until they attack, which does damage against your hit points, a cumulative pool that's added up from every crew member in your battle party. If you fail, you'll lose any rewards you earned during combat, and have to start that chapter all over... or pay a rainbow gem to keep playing.
See, much like many other free-to-play games, One Piece Treasure Cruise has several currencies. Beli, which you get simply from fighting, cola, which is a much rarer item drop, and rainbow gems, which can be earned in small amounts in a variety of ways. If you want some right away, you can pick some up via optional in-game microtransactions, but the prices are so ridiculous, you'd probably better sit on your wallet. Unless of course you want to throw the developers some cash because you're enjoying the game... in which case, feel free! Rainbow gems are used for a variety of things, from expanding the number of crew you can have on hand, to buying rare and powerful crew members from the tavern, at which point you'll be rewarded with a random character, usually someone from the show. Most normal Wanted Posters grant you nameless grunts you can use to fill your ranks, or power-up existing crew... powering a character up increases their level, and if you raise it enough, you can evolve them into a more powerful version... provided you have a special character to spend to let you evolve, of course. While all of its currencies can be earned (some very, very slowly) in the game, the sheer number of them combined with the timers is more than a little obnoxious. Since rare characters are chosen at random when you pay gems at the tavern, you might never get the one you want. With each shot costing five gems, which is roughly $5.00USD if you buy them, it seems a bit much alongside gems also being needed to expand your crew capacity.
I don't really watch a lot of anime these days. The last time I did as a serious hobby, Trigun was just finishing up its run, Slayers was still a thing, and people would fight you over whether Digimon was better than Pokemon. I never ended up seeing anything of One Piece, despite its massive fan-following and hundreds of episodes, but after playing the game and following the story in it, I can safely tell you it is the weirdest anime I have ever seen in my life. A lot of that is mostly due to the outrageous character designs, the story honestly not being all that strange compared to most anime in general, and a large part of Treasure Cruise's appeal lies in the way it folds its story around the gameplay. The cutscenes can be an odd mash of clashing art styles, the sharp character models clashing against murky screencaps from the anime, but the narrative is fun and silly, and there's enough of it frequently to be part of the incentive to play. The character artwork is absolutely fantastic, and on the whole Treasure Cruise's presentation is seriously impressive for a tie-in free-to-play title.
As simple as combat is, there are a fair amount of variables that tie into making it harder. Randomly cycling elements that can making a character weaker or stronger each turn, a healing mechanic that's mostly left up to luck as to when it appears, powerful tandem attacks that must be executed perfectly in exactly the right order with specific crew members... you get the idea. There's something addictive about Treasure Cruise's easy to pick up, hard to master gameplay, and you can go a long, long time without ever running out of stamina if you balance your crew types to win battles and keep leveling up. Still, as hard to put down as One Piece Treasure Cruise surprised me by being for a while, repetition set in eventually, and in a big way. There's really nothing to it beyond the combat, which has no real variation to it to speak of... apart from imparting some bonuses if you have them in the Captain slot, and their special attack which can be executed after a certain number of turns, all characters play exactly the same. The end result is a game that has a lot of charm and style, but likely not enough variety for longevity to maintain any sort of marathon appeal to non fans. With a little more meat on its bones, One Piece Treasure Cruise would be an instant recommendation, but its great style and casual appeal makes it worth a look if you're looking for a flashy, silly casual RPG and have the patience to withstand the timers and the currency issues.