One Piece: Pirate Warriors
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: 21st September, 2012
Price: $65.99 – Available Here
The One Piece franchise is the best selling anime and manga property in all of Japan, so it’s no wonder that One Piece: Pirate Warriors or as the Japanese know it One Piece: Kaizoku Musou was a major hit in the land of the rising sun. It really goes without saying that anything with the One Piece name attached turns into cash in Japan, it is just that much of a phenomenon. But the same can not be said for the Western world which doesn’t think too highly of One Piece largely due to the horrible 4Kids dub of the anime that ruined the franchise for many people.
So how does one bring a game such as One Piece: Pirate Warriors to the West and try to sell it? Well it’s simple really, don’t aim for mass appeal, just try and hit that niche audience of westerners that love One Piece and you know, it works in the case of One Piece: Pirate Warriors. It works, but to what extent?
What Namco Bandai and Tecmo Koei have done with One Piece: Pirate Warriors feels by and large like a love letter to the One Piece franchise, providing fans of the series a way to relive the series greatest moments with some Dynasty Warriors styled action in between. It’s effective, but the fact that little of the story is really told with highlight moments instead interspersed throughout it really limits itself to only being appealing to One Piece fans. Now that right there makes this a game that not many will enjoy simply on the fact that they will not be able to follow it or connect with the characters. It simply assumes that you have already been initiated into the One Piece universe. Of course this is not a problem for those the game is aimed towards – One Piece fans. But it does make it a difficult game to recommend.
In terms of how the game plays it is a simple yet addictive arcade style beat em up, reminiscent of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, the Genji series and even a little bit of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage. You have a variety of characters that you can encounter throughout the game both to fight alongside and against. The main centrepiece of the game is of course the story mode which focuses on the protagonist of One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy. The main story mode places you in famous One Piece locales and against many of the series most memorable enemies. Each level generally consists of hordes of enemies for you to beat down on as you maneuver through a number of obstacles that initiate quick-time events that focus on Luffy’s rubber abilities that allow him to stretch and swing and launch himself from different parts of the environment.
Usually quick-time events are boring, repetitive and feel like a lazy excuse for gameplay but they feel fully justified within the context of One Piece: Pirate Warriors and I found some of the most enjoyable levels to actually be quick-time event heavy levels. Most of the fun of the quick-time events is in bringing to life some of the greatest One Piece moments such as when Luffy defeats Arlong with the Gum Gum Axe Kick move.
The story mode itself is incredibly long and covers from the beginning of the series up until the end of the Marineford War Arc, excluding a few arcs which didn’t seem to make the final cut (Syrup Village arc, Loguetown arc, Skypiea arc, Davy Back arc and Thriller Bark arc). I found the exclusions of these story arcs to be troubling as this game had been marketed as the definitive and most complete One Piece game to date, however missing out on some of the series greatest story arcs is without a doubt a misstep of major proportions. I mean who wouldn’t want to play the Luffy vs Eneru fight?
Besides the main story mode, players can play through different stories as other characters in the ‘Another Log’ mode. This mode functions similar to the main story but allows you to play as other characters in somewhat different scenarios to the main story mode.
There is also an interesting online play mode that is essentially a horde mode type of game which has you team up with other players to take on hordes of enemies to earn points. It’s a lot of fun but I do wish there was a death match type of mode somewhere here but unfortunately none was to be found.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors is definitely a fun game, but with a heavy emphasis placed on the story mode it really makes itself nothing more than a tribute for One Piece fans only. Unfortunately this will be a hard game to follow plot-wise if you have never watched or read One Piece. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the game, because it is an incredibly fun title. No doubt about that.
Visuals and Audio:
Fans of One Piece will find themselves absorbed into the world they have grown so attached to with Pirate Warriors, as it damn near perfectly captures and recreates the unique personality and spirit of the One Piece world through both it’s visuals and soundtrack. Aesthetically there is a great deal for fans to sink their teeth into with players getting to explore the beautiful locales of the series in depth. The game itself is somewhat cell-shaded and looks great for it. The cell-shading style has proven in the passed to stand the test of time (see Legend of Zelda: The WindWaker) and has made for an impressive aesthetic experience for both fans of the series and those just interested in what all the hubub is about.
The game’s soundtrack is a blend of original tracks and tunes from the series itself. I personally loved hearing an instrumental version of ‘We Are!’ play during the game as well as some of the other famous tracks from the series. Not only that but the new original songs for the game are brilliant and of themselves and fit well within the existing musical catalogue of the One Piece franchise.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors exists by and large exclusively for One Piece fans. If you love One Piece than you will probably buy this regardless of what I have to say. The fact that this game aims simply for that niche market that is the Western One Piece fandom is both the best route and also the worst route that Namco Bandai could have taken. The problem is that the game has little mainstream appeal and will likely get lost in the shuffle because it doesn’t provide anything to entice non-One Piece fans and it doesn’t care to hold their attention and captivate them in game with the wonderful story that One Piece tells. Instead it simply opts to provide an abridged version of the series greatest moment without an ounce of real connective tissue.
All in all this game is for One Piece fans, it’s just a shame that a game that is pretty fun such as this doesn’t allow itself to be understood by non-One Piece fans. Regardless of that misstep it is an enjoyable experience from start to finish and is easily the most definitive One Piece game to date despite some missing portions of the story and gameplay mechanics that can be improved on. The bottom line is that it’s a good game, but it lacks too many things to be an easy title to recommend. It is best left for the hardcore fans.