One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 PS4 Review
I remember being fresh with One Piece back when the first Pirate Warriors arrived on PlayStation 3. I was nowhere close to seeing all the anime’s 500+ episodes, but I had a good grasp on the characters and world to appreciate the game. Pirate Warriors wasn’t without issues, as it tried to blend traversal movement with quick time events mashed with the Warriors trademark action, but it broke the flow of the game, a feature that Omega Force removed in the sequel for the better. It has been two years since the release of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 and I still haven’t seen anywhere near the now 700+ episodes, but that does not stop me from enjoying what Omega Force brings to the world of the Straw Hat Pirates in the third game, while also marking its grand voyage onto PlayStation 4 with One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3.
The third instalment is a great place to start for newcomers to Pirate Warriors or One Piece, since Legend Log mode retells everything from the beginning of Luffy’s adventure, from the East Blue Saga all the way through to the Dressrosa Arc. A quick warning for fans, since the arc had not finished in the manga when the game was released back in Japan, Omega Force came up with a exclusive ending to bring closure to the Legend Log. The sheer range of story content to cover is huge, which means that each arc is crammed into a stage, shrinking it into 22 levels, so don’t expect a comprehensive recap of the story here.
Bringing the original tale back is good news for existing fans, as those people can now play the story with improved gameplay compared to what was in the original Pirate Warriors. Pirate Warriors 2 came with an original narrative that was non-canon, meaning that until now, you could not play each story arc without having to deal with the first title’s problems. It also allows anyone who is a Warriors fan to come to Pirate Warriors 3 without having the need to watch hundreds of hours of anime or read the manga. Trying to understand everything that goes on in this world will induce mental confusion for anyone who does not know One Piece, but if you don’t think too deep about what is happening on screen the general gist of the story will be understood without issue.
The characters stand out for being unique. Luffy is the hero of the series, using stretchy limbs to perform ridiculous combat manoeuvres. Then there is Tony Tony Chopper, a reindeer doctor who can transform into a muscly man beast to pummel enemies – imagine an hairy Hulk that isn’t green or uncontrollable with rage and you have your badass reindeer. Yep, it’s fine to pull a funny face at the idea, as this cast is eccentric and bizarre, but all are charming and likeable. Plus, the cast brings entertaining personalities and a unique flavour to the tried and tested Omega Force hack and slash gameplay.
Omega Force’s core concepts for any Warriors brand remains intact here – take a hero and clear the opposing army’s strongholds while eradicating thousands of enemy opposition, taking down boss characters and finishing objectives – so anyone having played a previous title will have a good idea what to expect. Combat is kept to light and heavy attack buttons, which can be stringed together in various sequences to change the combo chain, and there is also the reliable musou button to perform a damaging special attack once the musou bar is filled. One thing I noticed is that Pirate Warriors 3 is not as in-depth as the recent Samurai Warriors 4 or Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition when it comes to a character’s move set. Those two games mentioned offered a lot of variety when it comes to pressing two buttons, along with multiple special attacks, special button features and other fancy abilities that have taken those two mainline series further ahead than simple button mashing. I felt with Pirate Warriors 3 that my attack range was limited to a few moves, so I often found I was repeating fundamental attack patterns without given the chance to experiment growth in figuring out beneficial combos.
Combat has been given its own distinctive flavour with the inclusion of kizuna rush attacks to spice up the action. It acts as an affinity system, where the select sub-character, switched by using up or down on the d-pad to pick anyone who is currently active in battle, can assist the player at the end of their attack if the kizuna metre is at least level one. Gaining metre is extremely easy, as it just requires the constant beat down of enemies to fill it. Maxing kizuna to level three means the assists will attack with stronger moves, a great way to easily capture strongholds, as the cannon fodder enemies are launched into the air with ease. Additionally, having maximum charge opens up the option of pressing R2 to enter kizuna rush, a buff state that changes the combo attacks to perform different actions that deal monstrous damage. If you have managed to perform kizuna rushes with characters while still on the same mission, they become stamped with a signal to say that they are now part of the assist team, which up to four can be at once. Casting a musou attack before the kizuna rush state runs out performs the most damaging move in the game that clears out whole strongholds in a single activation, especially if you have all four characters included to perform the finish with your hero – just watch the bodies hit the floor!
I know I said that I was a little bummed that the combat is not as deep as some other iterations, but there is some comfort knowing that this issue is somewhat alleviated due to the cast of characters and their diverse set of actions. The wonderful world of anime/manga is never shy of authors who design some outlandish characters, and One Piece is one such material that lends itself well to inking the combat with flashy moves and freakish action. With 37 characters eventually unlocked, the diversity in how these heroes and villains attack bring occasional refreshment to the combat. It’s not often that you are forced to repeat using the same character in story mode, and once you are out of that, you are free to take part in Free Log to reattempt the stages to complete all the optional challenges or step it up by moving to a harder difficulty with any of the unlocked cast.
Dream Log is the other major content mode to jump into, probably best to do after the story, so that you have a wider range of characters accessible. Dream log allows the player to pick their favourite character and tackle a group of islands packed on a map that are filled with missions, eventually opening up bridges to different challenge islands and boss fights that will unlock more characters and content for the game. Dream Log is a great diversion from playing story mode, and while it’s still the same core gameplay with a different set of missions from story mode, people who enjoy these games can easily be looking at a 30 hour plus game.
I think by now anyone who has tried to get into these types of games will know if it is for them. The added coating of One Piece does not change the fact that this follows the same principles as any Warriors title before it, but the lure of playing with the heroes can bring in new fans, just as Hyrule Warriors previously did on the Wii U. This issue is that if you cannot stand the gameplay, then Pirate Warriors 3 will do nothing to change that opinion. Cooperative action is included, but there are some stumbles with the online, as while story mode can be accessed with a friend or an S.O.S. call to signal that an online player requires help on this stage, you cannot play online cooperative in Dream Log, as this is restricted to local play only. While on the topic of disappointments, the level design still remains simple box shaped arenas, which are clearly made with the aim to get the player to an assortment of destinations and take down the hundreds of pirates/marines trying to stand in their way. I do wish that Omega Force would come up with some more open levels than these enclosed spaces, as the locations used from the One Piece world would be perfect for that.
If there is one thing I cannot fault it is the presentation. This title captures the essence of the show like no other video game has done. The Pirate Warriors series has always managed to bring the rich, vivid colour palette of the show to the screen, and that is once again true with the PlayStation 4 version, bringing One Piece’s lively cast in a lovely pencil cel-shading graphical style. Running at 1080p60fps, the third instalment looks sharp, if a little bland, thanks to texture detail not being great, probably due to this game also being on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. The frame rate holds up for the most part, but when things get real hectic, often during kizuna attacks, then expect to see drops. This is more so in cooperative, where it feels the game is running a solid 30fps – that is until you perform Tony Tony Chopper’s musou attack and the frame rate goes to shit, dropping to single digits until the move is finished. On the audio side, this game sticks to a Japanese audio track, which has been the standard for this series, but once again means that I did occasional miss a bunch of text that cropped up during times where action was at its peak.
Fans of Omega Force are getting spoilt with choice as more and more licenses are blended with their signature gameplay – it’s pretty much become its own subgenre inside the action category. When it comes to the quality of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, it does not take the crown for best Warriors title, I still believe that goes to Samurai Warriors 4. However, what it does bring is the best representation of One Piece to a video game, while giving fans the chance to get caught in all of Luffy’s mad adventures in a fun and solid, if uninspiring, Warriors game aimed to depict the madness that comes with taking down hundreds of enemies with unique characters.