One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 Review
Author's Note: The PS4 and PS Vita versions are nearly identical, so this review covers them both as a single unit.
I'm not sure how it ended up this way, but I've reviewed pretty much every One Piece game to release in the last few years, including both Pirate Warriors and Pirate Warriors 2. Some were definitely better than others (let's refrain from mentioning the abysmal Romance Dawn), and the Pirate Warriors games always seemed like the flagship for the property. Pirate Warriors 3 breaks the mold of the first two games from a story standpoint, but aside from one new specialty attack, the gameplay remains unchanged. The Dynasty Warriors-style action remains entertaining, though. If it ain't broke, right?
For Pirate Warriors 3, the story breaks from the past entries by going all the way back to the origin of the series, rather than building on what had been addressed in previous games. This can be a double-edged sword. New or inexperienced fans get the chance to see how the One Piece story began, and having the whole narrative in one place is certainly appealing. The downside comes from the series being a long-running one; smashing the whole thing in reduces entire plotlines to sometimes as little as a single level or boss. The truncated handling of major plot points and story arcs will leave One Piece fans saying, "Uh... that's it? Where's the rest?" For better or worse, at least the story is easy to follow for non-fans, a concept the franchise has had a lot of trouble with in the past.
To say that Pirate Warriors 3 is the best-looking One Piece game of all time is an understatement. Everything looks like it jumped right out of the anime into this game, and I didn't see a bit of slowdown anywhere, even during the most massive of battles. Remember, this game is modeled after Dynasty Warrior's signature style, meaning you'll often be facing dozens of enemies at once. My memory of the first two Pirate Warriors games is a bit hazy, but I'm fairly sure each suffered from at least a little bit of framerate slowdown. I couldn't find any in part 3, even during the game's new Kizuna super attacks.
Since pretty much everything is the same from past Pirate Warriors games, the Kizuna attacks are welcome and fantastic. They involve calling in other characters to fight with you, and can be used to unleash insane team attacks. Working with how and when to use these attacks adds in a splash of strategy to the combat, and the game is much better for it. The combat beyond these attacks is as good as ever, and each of the 40 playable characters has a completely unique move set. As you progress through the game, you'll see the combat go from mindless button-mashing to elegant, situational attacks and combos. This is probably the thing I liked most; learning characters and effectively utilizing their moves is fun and important if you play on finishing the game.
Pirate Warriors 3 has two main modes - story mode and dream mode. Story mode is exactly what it sounds like; you progress through the game along the same timeline as the events of the anime/manga, so nothing new. Dream mode is a little more tantalizing; it takes players through "what if" scenarios that play off of the main events of story mode. You'll also earn new characters by completing the scenarios here, which makes it a little more compelling than the story mode. Getting through both is going to take about 20-25 hours, though superfans and completionists could squeeze out much more in maxing out each of the characters. The game isn't crazy long, but there is something to be said about not wearing out a welcome. Just as I was starting to lose interest, the game was over and done with.
Pirate Warriors 3 is simply the best One Piece game out there. It captures the look and feel of the show perfectly, it is more than welcoming to newcomers and it defies the stereotype of Dynasty Warriors = button-mashing. Learning the Kizuna and combo attacks is all but required to finish the game, and with such a big roster of playable characters learning these stays entertaining right up until the end. If you are a One Piece fan, definitely check this one out. If not, the gameplay and anthology story might be just enough to make you one of those aforementioned fans.
Final Rating: 83% - They're finally starting to do One Piece games right.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.