One Piece: Pirate Warriors PS3 Review

I am fairly new to the world of One Piece, as I only started watching the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his diverse group of companions called the Straw Hats a few months back. Story-wise, I am well behind where the anime currently sits with its 500+ episodes. That said, I can appreciate Omega Force’s attempt to blend the Dynasty Warriors formula with the extremely popular series, and you know what? It could very well be my favourite spin-off of the Warriors series so far. Fans of the anime are in for a treat as this isn’t just a good One Piece game, but a rather entertaining game in general.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors’ Main Log mode covers most of the major story arcs from the manga and anime, and tells the plot up to the two-year time skip. This includes the beginning of Luffy’s adventure, where he has to deal with Buggy the Clown, all the way to the reunion at the Sabaody Archipelago. Main Log mostly has you controlling Luffy, but occasionally you will be able to take control of some of the other Straw Hat pirates, such as Zoro, Nami and Sanji. If you don’t know much about One Piece then be warned, as the game doesn’t do a good job at explaining much to the player, leaving them baffled to fully understand what is going on. The Main Log is aimed at the fans that already know what One Piece is. Most of the story is told through still cutscenes with animations coming into play for the important parts of the action, such as the death of a boss or key story elements that take place during a stage.

It must be noted that the game’s visual style is fantastic, managing to capture the essence of the anime with its graphics. Rather than going for the typical cel-shading approach that a lot of recent anime games have been going for, Omega Force have approached the art with a look that closely resembles the source material. It is sharp, clean and very colourful, and really shines during the in-game cutscenes.

Each of the story chapters in Main Log are based around one of three types of gameplay: Musou, Action and Boss. The Musou stages play out like you would expect a Dynasty Warriors game too – run around fighting hundreds of soldiers (or in this case, the Marines) while capturing enemy control points situated around the map by killing enough bad guys in an area and then killing the guy in charge. There is zero gameplay change in the mechanic of Musou mode from past Warriors titles.

Action is where the game removes the capture points and places emphasis on getting from point A to point B. These sections have their ups and downs because it includes the new gameplay mechanics that interrupt the flow of the action. Platforming is incorporated into action stages, which is a bizarre thing to do when you think about it because One Piece: Pirate Warriors has no dedicated jump button – which the Dynasty Warriors series has always included. Jumping is done with the use of the context-sensitive X Button or sometimes a small, rhythmic quick-time-event, more often than not feeling unnecessary. There are some traversal sections that require you to move an aiming reticule with the right stick and press a button to attach onto the ledge. The camera cannot handle these sections as the view locks, often putting the required target platform in an awful position to aim at. Half the time I would move the reticule around the screen until it turned green, then hammer the correct button to proceed on. The traversal parts are an awful and unnecessary component of the gameplay that could have been bypassed with a quick, automated scene.

Boss is self-explanatory. These stages put you up against a boss that will need defeating multiple times (anime fans will know that anime villains never give up). Boss fights include cool-looking quick-time-event cutscenes, something that reminds me of the story battle sequences in the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. They are fun, if short, battle sections that do more to showcase the game’s brilliant art direction rather than change up the gameplay.

Luffy’s rubber man abilities that he gained from the devil fruit makes his combat moveset a cause for amusement, as his attacks are based around his inhuman stretchy powers. Combos can be performed by mixing up button combinations between the two attacks – quick attack on Square and strong attack on Triangle. For example, tapping Square constantly will see Luffy perform a combo that ends in a barrage of rapid-fire punches. Mix in the heavy attack and see Luffy use his arm like a helicopter rotor blade, taking out anyone around him. It would be nice if there were more combos to flesh out the fighting system – there are some unlockable ones you get from the coins – because there isn’t enough variety in the moveset. I found myself sticking to two or three combos for the most part of the game.

Handy, then, that some enemies require the use of special moves to defeat them, changing the gameplay slightly from the button-mashing nature of the Warriors games. Luffy can balloon himself to repel cannon balls or stretch out his arms for a huge clap that destroys any shields that an enemy is using. There are a few others, but whichever you pick becomes assigned to the R1 Button. These abilities can be changed on the fly by using the D-Pad. Anyone familiar with the Musou gauge will be happy to know it is still in One Piece: Pirate Warriors. Fill it up and you can unleash a devastating attack; the more bars you fill up, the more damaging the move, causing full screen death to most common units. Lastly, you can team up with an AI to do a partner attack, giving additional damage in a combo by swapping with the character nearby and continuing the combo before switching back to the main character. A nice feature, but you hardly ever feel the need to use it.

Completing stages rewards with experience points and coins – special items that can be equipped to buff specific stats. Each coin will come with one buff that it excels in, with rarer coins having better ranks than the standard. Think of coins as the weapons and items from Dynasty Warriors, then you will understand how they work. Coins come with a One Piece character attached to them. If you link three coins together that have relationships with one another then you are granted a special ability. Finding coins adds replayability and adds to improving your favourite characters, needed for taking on the harder difficulties where stronger coins and higher-level characters are required to beat the seemingly superhuman soldiers.

Once you have beaten the Main Log you can access the levels in Another Log, but now you can use any of the 13 playable characters on any of the stages. It must be noted that these levels that appear in Another Log are all Musou stages, but there is a reason to play them as you gain new cutscenes and story. New challenges are worked into these maps to make them slightly different than the Main Log versions. Another Log is also the game’s main mode to play multiplayer, which can be done splitscreen or online. Speaking of online, lag doesn’t seem to be much of a problem with the game, and since precise timing is not required for the gameplay a little lag doesn’t hurt the experience.

Voice acting is only in Japanese (to keep costs low for the title), which I found nice, but I did occasionally miss some dialogue text at the bottom left of the screen during a stage, mainly because I was focused on attacking someone. It is not a huge problem, but it is something that must be noted, as some people might miss warnings from characters that need help.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors is a game that surprised me with how fun it was. I have enjoyed other entries in the Warriors franchise, but I feel that the core gameplay of One Piece: Pirate Warriors gave me the most entertaining time. It does contain problems that need fixing, but with the recent announcement of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage getting a sequel, a One Piece follow-up is no doubt in the pipeline, and hopefully will build on what is already in place and remove the rubbish that brings down the overall experience. If you are a One Piece fan then this is the best game to come out in the UK for the franchise and should satisfy anyone’s craving for a bit of Monkey D. Luffy and his peculiar cast of friends. Warriors fans might also enjoy this One Piece iteration, but might be want to be wary of the additions to the gameplay that do more bad than good to the flow. Either way, you will have a good time with the Straw Hats if you can overlook some of its shortcomings.

7 out of 10