One Piece: Grand Battle (PS2, GC)
One of my all time favorites from the Dreamcast era was Powerstone, where colorful fighters could battle it out in completely interactive environments, throwing rocks or smashing each other with whatever weapons were handy. I can't tell you how often I've dreamed of a third installment to the series, but thanks to Bandai I won't need one.
Ironically, Grand Battle is the third game in a franchise that has only now been brought to US shores due to the overwhelming popularity of the anime and manga. The developers could have been lazy and localized this game as is, but instead they've tossed in all the extras from the previous games and improved the graphics to make this the ultimate One Piece fighter.
With sixteen characters to use, including a total of thirty two support characters, through the game's six play modes and eight stages, there's plenty to keep you playing with a grin on your face even before considering the unlockables. Unlockables that consist of additional costumes, items, and mini-games that can take over a hundred hours to collect... which will pass by all too quickly with gameplay this addicting, fast-paced, and fun.
The gameplay is a knock-down and drag-out brawler, with each character having twenty basic attacks, as well as special and ultimate attacks straight from the anime. That's without calling in a support character or taking advantage of the environment, where boxes can be thrown, bombs blown up, cows roused to charge, and even entire sections of the stage destroyed. Spectators will toss whatever is handy into the ring, so you'll never be short of blunt implements to smack your opponent with.
Once again cell-shaded graphics create a world that's vibrant and alive, with the characters having all the personality of their animated counterparts. The show stoppers are definitely the devastatingly hilarious ultimate attacks, whose animation and damage grow longer the lower your own health is at the moment. It's hard not to smile after seeing one of these elaborate attacks, even when you're on the receiving end of one.
You don't have to be a fan of the anime to enjoy Grand Battle. This is a fighting game for people who care less about honing their skills, and just want to have fun. As much as I played it at E3, it wasn't nearly enough to keep me satisfied until it's upcoming release.