One Piece: Pirate Warriors Review
Ok, I admit it - I'm reviewing the newest One Piece game, Pirate Warriors, despite not being much of a fan of the manga or anime. It isn't that I dislike the franchise; I'm just not that into anime outside of Dragon Ball. In fact, aside from knowing it is about pirates and whatever garbled Japanese language knowledge I gained from endless hours playing Jump! Super Stars and Jump! Ultimate Stars, I know very little about the series. So... if you are looking for a review of the game from a fan's perspective, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. If you want it from a gamer's perspective, by all means keep reading.
First things first, the graphics in Pirate Warriors are second to none. The next-to-impossible job of translating 2D anime and manga to 3D game models has been mishandled by more games than I can even remember, with only one or two games/series nailing it. Pirate Warriors nails it. The cutscene and in-game graphics are bright and beautiful, and they manage to bring a static, black and white world to colorful life. I did notice a little framerate stutter here and there, but with so many enemies crowing each battlefield it would be na�ve to think all slowdown could be totally eliminated.
The gameplay itself can be hit or miss. Pirate Warriors is best described, in the main quest anyway, as a mix between Dynasty Warriors and a 3D version of Final Fight or Double Dragon. You have a series of attacks and combos at hand to dispatch the thousands of enemies you come across, and these can be pretty cool - at first. The opening hour or two of gameplay feels fun and exciting, but things slowly sink into repetitive button mashing the further you get into the game. Luffy's million arm punch combo is neat to watch the first few times, but soon the animation becomes a means to an end and you just won't care anymore. Bosses, some of which can be a lot of fun, break up the monotony every so often, but they are almost too little too late.
And since I mentioned Dynasty Warriors, the game's other single player mode makes use of the territory capture mechanic that has long been a staple of Koei's franchise. Without the story and cutscenes to flesh things out, this mode becomes a button mashing bore almost immediately. Cutting through entire armies and defending your conquests should be fun, but it ends up feeling like more of a chore than anything. I suspect most will only experiment with this mode because it allows you to play with other unlockable characters from the One Piece roster. Other than that it is a snoozefest.
Another love it/hate it part of Pirate Warriors is the heavy reliance on quick time events, or QTEs. You'll often have cutscenes peppered with more single button presses and analog stick rotations than most will find tolerable, especially because missing one sends you right back to the beginning. Sure, the scenes have an unmatched visual flair, but if you were ever stymied by the Krauser fight in Resident Evil 4, be prepared to do some serious swearing at your television.
The last thing I'll mention is the game's story. I WILL NOT be subtracting points for this criticism because I don't have a One Piece knowledge base to go on, but from beginning to end I had no idea what was going on from a plot perspective. I've critiqued past anime games for this and it seems to be a trait most of them share, but I can't knock a title because I personally didn't do the homework. I'm sure fans won't have any problem following things, but non-fans should be wary.
Despite not knowing the property, I actually got a few hours of honest fun from Pirate Warriors. There is still a thriving audience for the beat 'em up genre, as well as for the anime-to-game transitions. This game tackles both and handles them with style, but more than a few hours with the game will lead even hardcore fans to boredom. Though One Piece: Pirate Warriors almost sidesteps the "for fans only" label, the QTEs and button mashing fail to elevate it to that lofty goal.
Final Rating: 65%. QTEs and button mashing for Pirate Warriors only.