One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 Review
When I reviewed the original One Piece: Pirate Warriors on PS3, I didn't come away from the experience impressed. The QTEs and finger-purpling button mashing combat just felt like Dynasty Warriors with a fresh coat of anime paint, and not being a fan of the One Piece franchise didn't help much either. Its been a little while, and now we have One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 on the PS3. Does this one fare any better than the original? The answer is... complicated.
I still haven't become a One Piece fan in the time between playing the first game and this one, so this critique comes from an outsider. I spent most of my time in Pirate Warriors 2 trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I didn't really get a handle on things until I was a few missions in, and even then, I found it difficult to care. Players start as the series' main character, Monkey D. Luffy, an aspiring pirate who has more in common with Plastic Man than Captain Jack Sparrow. As you progress, you can swap in other characters from the series, most of whom play pretty uniquely. The main story mode, called Dream Story, takes a good 12 hours to finish, and if you don't know the plot at the beginning, you sure won't know it at the end. Being a Dragon Ball fan myself, I know it is tough to transition anime into games for people who don't already know the story inside and out, and I can't really fault Pirate Warriors 2 for playing to the fanbase, rather than all the gamers out there.
Not knowing the backstory may bother some just looking for a brawler, but what will bother them even more is the lengths the game will reach for to ensure your failure. Right off the bat, Pirate Warriors 2 is a simple button mashing brawler, putting you up against hundreds of enemies per stage, and usually a mini boss and boss fight as well. This is where the game works. One Piece fans will delight in seeing their favorites through the adventure - at first. Pretty soon, the game begins to introduce missions where you are supposed to support another NPC, and this is where everything goes to hell. Your teammates simply couldn't be stupider or more prone to danger than they are in this game. I failed half a dozen missions because teammates were off screen and allowing enemies to use them for punching bags. Did they call for help? If they did, it is news to me. These missions eventually boiled down to me following an NPC around, keeping them free from danger while only halfheartedly doing my own thing. Escort missions suck when they are labeled escort missions; they suck worse when they are disguised as something else. Like the incessant QTEs of the first Pirate Warriors, my severely stupid teammates all but ruined the fun of this one.
My last point on this game isn't one I usually make, but here it is warranted. Overseas, Pirate Warriors 2 was released on both the PS3 and the PlayStation Vita portable. In the U.S., the Vita version was scrapped. This move was a complete blunder. Pirate Warriors 2, with its quick action gameplay and mission structure, feels like it would be much more "at home" on a portable device than a console. In my eyes, scrapping the PS3 release in favor of a Vita one would have made much more sense. Aside from the escort missions, the game has some genuine appeal as a brawler, and would have found a much wider audience on Sony's still struggling portable device. With the game on the PS3 only, gamers are forced to make a no-brainer of a choice: Should I play The Last of Us/Grand Theft Auto 5/Batman: Arkham Origins? Or One Piece; Pirate Warriors 2? That question NEVER works in One Piece's favor, I'm afraid.
It seems in the transition from game to sequel, the Pirate Warriors series has traded one negative, QTEs, for another, escort missions. This game, somewhat more so than than the first, is one for One Piece fans and One Piece fans only. I just wonder how many non-fans or possible fans may have been reached by releasing the game on the system, Sony's Vita, where it would get some attention, rather than just on a console with tons of better games dominating the marketplace. If Sony ever does bring the U.S. a Vita version, by all means, check it out. But if you aren't a One Piece fan, you can probably not worry much about skipping the PS3 outing.
Final Rating: 60%. For One Piece fans and One Piece fans only.