When the original source material already features single warriors taking down hundreds of random grunts at a time, it only makes sense that it would be a perfect fit for Omega Force’s musou formula. As such it only makes sense that the One Piece series has seen numerous musou games released for it over the years but this time around Bandai Namco has left the series sit for some time. Now five years after the original release of the previous game, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 marks the first time the Pirate Warriors series has appeared on the current generation of consoles and a number of new story arcs. So does this musou game manage to capture what makes the original series so popular while still offering entertaining gameplay?
Even with most of us having plenty of time on our hands at the moment, attempting to catch up with the One Piece series from the start is almost laughable but One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 does its best as the series offers a “Dramatic Log” story mode that serves as a streamlined version of the series’ storyline. Of course this means that some minor moments are glossed over but One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 manages to do a remarkable job presenting the story through a mixture of stills and in-engine cutscenes replicating the significant moments that occur throughout each major arc that is presented.
This style of presentation is something that fans will truly appreciate as the development team has made sure to portray all of the emotional moments in the series in the best way possible. This helps the storyline feel just as impactful as it originally was at times. It is worth noting though that thanks to this being the fourth entry in a game series that has already told the story before up to a certain point, longtime fans should be ready to see the same story retreaded through with only a few alterations here and there..
Rather than start entirely from the beginning gameplay wise, players will initially be told the start of the story through cutscenes until the beginning of the Alabasta arc all the way through to the current running Wano arc. There are a number of moments in the original storyline that are only mentioned but the real meat of the new content comes once the player reaches the final two arcs, Whole Cake Island and Wano though it is also worth noting, at least for fans who aren’t keeping up with the story to the letter, that the game does take an original approach to Wano in an attempt to wrap up the story in a satisfying manner.
Alongside the aforementioned Dramatic Log that serves to tell the game’s story players will also have access to Free Log and the Treasure Log, though both of these other modes come secondary to the story mode as players will need to advance the core story to unlock extra stages, characters, and challenges that are available in these modes. Free Log allows players to replay through any previously finished mission using any characters that have been unlocked so far, making for some rather interesting combinations at times considering the large amount of characters available, while the Treasure Log provides players with various missions that must be completed during a stage that grow more difficult as the player progresses. Alongside the story mode players will want to use Treasure Log the most as not only are some playable characters locked behind this mode but various character growth materials are also best farmed through these levels.
These growth materials can be used either on a universal skill tree that provides bonuses to every character or on individual fighters as well since every single playable character in the game has a unique move set and skill tree that allows them to grow stronger. In fact, thanks to the fact that the One Piece franchise as a whole features such a wide range of power, players will be delighted to find that nearly every single one of the playable characters, of which there are over forty, plays in a rather unique manner and has special traits and abilities that match the skills they are known for in the source material.
Speaking of these abilities and the characters themselves, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 excels at making sure that the player feels like an absolute powerhouse. One simple combo as any of the playable characters will send generic enemies flying to the point of ridiculousness and, where it used to be seen as a milestone to knock out a thousand enemies in a stage, that can now be done in a matter of minutes in many locations. Despite being incredibly flashy, the combat itself is quite basic at its core with only standard attacks and heavy attacks allowing for a mix-up of combo strings. Alongside this players now have the ability to perform air combos with every fighter by sending foes flying into the air and then pursuing them for extra damage. With players having the ability to now perform a range of ground combos that can then be transitioned into an air combo, fights happen at a brisk pace in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 even when facing off against slightly stronger foes. There are even a number of special moves that characters can perform mid-combo to extend the damage even further and really make players feel unstoppable.
That being said, the actual character balance isn’t handled the best. This really doesn’t come to be much of an issue as players can choose from a variety of characters when tackling a story stage or any character they’ve unlocked in the other modes, but it is a bit disappointing to see some fighters not taking as much advantage of some of the combat mechanics as well as others, especially with the flight mechanics of the few flying characters being a bit rough.
This problem only grows worse when the player factors in the awful camera angles and controls in the game. While it is possible to lock onto enemy commanders and the more challenging and intense boss battles against armored characters, doing so often makes a fight ten times harder as the fast paced combat that moves all around the battlefield forces the combo to often clip into walls or simply lose complete track of the action. As such players will find it better to simply play without locking onto foes and fighting the camera themselves as it is marginally better that way.
Visuals & Audio
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 manages to capitalize on the current generation of console’s ability to spawn plenty of enemies at a time and make sure that things run smoothly no matter how many enemies are on screen at a time nor how flashy the moves are that the player is ripping through them with. The character models for the playable characters and signature boss enemies are presented exactly as fans of the series would remember them but the standard enemy types remain as generic as they come. The same can also surprisingly be said about the battle arenas since, outside of a few locations, many of the environments that players will battle through are unimaginative and fail to capture the signature themes that One Piece usually features with its world.
Another odd choice is that, once again, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has not been released with any form of English dub and instead only features the original Japanese voice track. Thankfully the Japanese voice actors for all of the original cast have returned to reprise their roles here but it is something that is a bit disappointing alongside some fairly generic background music that runs through most stages.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 once again manages to capture the crazy abilities that exist in the One Piece world and transition them successfully into a fun and flashy musou game that really lets players feel like a powerhouse on the field when you’re not fighting the camera. With so many different characters handling different from one another, there is a lot of experimentation to be had alongside a story mode that goes right up to the current Wano anime arc but be prepared to tread plenty of old ground on the way there.