One Piece Romance Dawn

Even if you've never watched one of One Piece's 630 episodes or picked up one of its 70+ manga volumes, chances are good that you're at least familiar with its characters.

It's almost impossible to visit a local con and not see at least a handful of fans sporting Luffy's iconic straw hat, after all, each one an enduring testament to Eiichiro Oda's story.

One Piece Romance Dawn, on the other hand, is about the furthest thing from a testament that Oda could have asked for - and it's a game that fans of the Straw Hat Pirates would do well to avoid.

Avast! ... waste of time

Romance Dawn follows the early days of Monkey D. Luffy, with events taking place during the stretchy hero's early adventures in the East Blue.

This is a tremendous time and area to set an RPG in, as everything is positively crackling with potential and adventure.

Unfortunately, you'll figure out straight away that this potential will go completely unrealised in Romance Dawn as each cut-scene takes 10-15 minutes to get through.

Character portraits are bland and uninteresting, and the dialogue is downright tedious at times. As soon as you arrive at the second major town, for example, you're greeted with the following flavour text: 'Once he arrived in the city of Orange Town, Luffy rescued Nami from some pirates.'

Storytelling like that ain't exactly gonna shiver yer timbers.

For all it does wrong with the story, cut-scenes, characters, and animation, Romance Dawn takes an interesting approach to typical JRPG turn-based combat.

Instead of rigidly lining up and taking turns, your characters are free to move about a 3D field and reposition themselves on their turns to maximise AoE effects and damage.

During each turn, you're faced with 'penalty rings' for particularly ambitious moves that take you across the battlefield. Each ring you cross penalises you on the following turn, which makes for a rather novel combat.

Or, it would if the combat in Romance Dawn was anything other than the repetitive slog that it is. Your usual attacks and combos entail boring routine presses of the A button to build up SP which you use to unleash a special attack with the Y button.

Run Aground

You might have heard by now that the 3DS has a touchscreen and the ability to show images in stereoscopic 3D. Well, for whatever reason, Three Rings decided not to harness either of these trademark features on the 3DS port of Romance Dawn, and the resulting game is underwhelming.

In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a game that's squandered the potential of a gaming handheld as expertly as Romance Dawn does on the 3DS.

Luffy's signature rubbery body would be a great gimmick to base 3D graphics around but it - like so much of One Piece's rich world - is completely overlooked in Romance Dawn.

Worse, textures in the game are almost completely flat, and every stage that I played had the same ersatz lighting that you'd get from fluorescent bulbs in an office.

It also doesn't help that each character also moves with a rigidity that borders on creepy.

After being bombarded with bouncing boobs over the summer and again in the fall, I've become inured to over-eager breast physics - but the complete lack of motion in Nami's chest, hair, and figure is far more unsettling than anything Dragon's Crown threw at me.


It's really difficult to tell who One Piece Romance Dawn will disappoint more: long-time fans of the franchise or newcomers.

Those who've been following the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy from 1997 on will find a bland, unconvincing retelling of his origins as an aspiring captain.

Newcomers unfamiliar with the sprawling world of One Piece will find a bland, if expansive, RPG which does a few things right with its combat but ultimately provides no incentive to become invested in the world or the characters.

Both sets of players would do well to stay far away from this particular outing.

One Piece Romance Dawn

A straight-up port of the PSP RPG with no efforts taken to improve the experience, Romance Dawn is not a journey many One Piece fans will want to take