One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 Review
Before I start, I should probably clarify that I never got into One Piece. I had a rough understanding of the events of the series, but I wouldn’t say I avidly followed it. It’s convenient then that One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 decides to recap the series from it’s very beginning to it’s most recent story arcs. For the uninitiated, Pirate Warriors 3 is the latest in Koei Tecmo’s “warriors” franchise, with it’s usual blend of hack and slash combat meeting lots of level and skill grinding. One Piece is a major anime/manga series that’s been going on for over a decade about the antics of a wacky band of heroic pirates who get into tons of fights. Combining both of those series, Pirate Warriors 3 is a fun game, but any real lasting enjoyment of it requires an appreciation of both Koei Tecmo’s gameplay formula as well as the anime.
The main campaign for Pirate Warriors 3 recaps the events of One Piece, starting with our archetypical shonen anime hero beginning his quest. Monkey D Luffy, who in classic fashion is short on brains but an absolute devil in a fight, sets off to assemble a crew, find the legendary treasure of the Pirate King, and to declare himself the new King of Pirates. Along the way, he and his crew run into all sorts of shenanigans, battling villainous pirates, and ruthless Marines who serve the authoritarian world government. They rescue princesses, save countries, depose dictators, fight in wars, and get into lots and lots of dramatic fights with super powerful opponents as they grow more and more talented. Of course, alongside the epic battles, there’s also the goofy humour and emphasis on friendship. The game does a rather slapdash recount of the series though, with major events or even entire story arcs crammed down into single stages. Despite brief bits of exposition from the narrator, it’s often disjointed, and a stage can occur with very little in the way of set up or explanation. To be fair, it is intended for fans of One Piece, so it’s assumed you know the storyline in the first place. Players who go in with no prior knowledge will probably leave absolutely baffled. Despite the fact that it tries recapping the entire series, it doesn’t do a particular Occasionally irritating, but helpful from a storytelling point of view are the cutscenes that crop up during stages. Yes a bit of dramatic dialogue as the heroes decry the villains and power up mid fight is standard fare for the source material, but it really does break up the flow of gameplay at times.
In terms of gameplay, Pirate Warriors 3 is more or less what you’d expect from Koei Tecmo. Your character, a stage absolutely filled with random mooks and interspersed with bosses, and a lot of button mashing. The characters of One Piece, their unique looks, and their incredibly unique abilities do mix things up though, and Pirate Warriors 3 does a good job of capturing the craziness of One Piece’s fight scene visually, if not mechanically. It is still a lot of button mashing, although there’s some wacky results that pop up on screen. Add to that an absolute ton of unlockables, an RPG style levelling system, and an overall gameplay formula that emphasises replaying stages to level grind and unlock stuff. There’s a lot to do, but it’s highly repetitive in nature. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, so long as you like what it is that you’re repeating. Enjoyment really boils down to whether you’re a fan of the Warrior’s series core gameplay style. If not, then this game really isn’t meant for you. Firstly, the major gameplay addition; as befitting a pirate crew, you can team up with other characters. The Kizuna system allows you to include other characters in your attacks, summoning them in to finish off your combos. Keep building up the Kizuna Gauge and you’ll eventually trigger your ally’s hero power, a powerful effect that will either buff your forces, debuff the enemies, or bombard the battlefield with attacks. You can also activate the Kizuna rush, which grants you even more powerful attacks, and a combined ultimate attack. The savviest of players will probably carefully select their crew based on the utility of their Kizuna attacks, rush, super, and hero powers to maximise their mook killing skills. A new gameplay mode called Dream Log also lets you play through a bunch of randomised stages with randomised foes to face and allies to recruit, allowing you to unlock all sorts of characters and collectables. In my mind, this is the best mode of One Piece Pirate Warriors, adding a lot of spontaneity to it’s basic gameplay formula.
That being said, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 might take the repetition a little too far, with their level grinding being more arduous than ever. Playing the game will allow you to level up your character, and you can use the in game currency to level up characters you don’t use in battle. Seriously increasing your stats requires unlocking coins though. Coins are earned during battles, with better coins having to be unlocked on higher difficulties, or with higher overall scores. That requires replaying a lot of stages. Getting the top unlockables and victory conditions on stages also requires a lot of replaying as well. While Pirate Warriors has a relatively small cast compared to say Dynasty Warriors, there’s still 40 odd characters to unlock and level up. It’s not all bad though, as the characters are rather distinct given their unusual abilities. Luffy has stretchy rubber powers, Zoro has swords, Sanji kicks the crap out of everything, Smoker has smoke powers. The game does a good job of capturing the oddball abilities of the characters from One Piece, and they rarely feel like the same, as it all too often happens in other Warrior games.
Presentation wise, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 captures the look of the anime admirably. Eiichiro Oda’s memorable artwork designs, with their rather goofy looking proportions are well rendered, well animated, and depicted with highly vivid colours. The soundtrack is an energetic mixture of jazz and rock, and features some quality tunes. The game features full voice acting, although only Japanese with subtitles. No English dub available. Frame rates are an issue though, with the sheer number of foes on screen and the incredibly flashy and explosive nature of attacks combining to drag things down from time to time.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 is a fairly fun game. Its highly repetitive “Warriors” style nature, and its somewhat disjointed recount of the One Piece series, may scare off those who aren’t familiar or who aren’t fans of either series, but if you happen to be someone who knows and enjoys both, then One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 is highly recommended.
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