A snazzy pirate-themed Dynasty Warriors clone, One Piece: Pirate Warriors represents the anime in style, but it is quickly weighed down by overly simplistic mechanics.
I pride myself on being well acquainted with all areas of nerd culture, yet some of the bigger manga and anime franchises have wound up passing me by. One Piece is one of the big mangas I just never got into. Not that I have any issues with the adventures of Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates, as I’m sure they’re delightful.
I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time, so it makes playing One Piece: Pirate Warriors an odd experience. A Dynasty Warriors clone laced with a franchise I know nothing of, Pirate Warriors offers the same entertaining monotony of the Dynasty Warriors franchise but with an added craziness that suits the genre well.
The One Piece franchise is characterized by crazy characters and unabashed silliness, and it works incredibly well with the over the top action and huge melees that comprise Pirate Warrior’s gameplay. My lack of One Piece knowledge made the opening of Pirate Warriors 2 a bewildering experience.
" The game is set up to make you feel powerful, with a wealth of skills that let you mow through the hundreds of AI peons that stand between you and victory. "
Once I understood that main protagonist Luffy has a body made of elastic, I at least started to make sense of the whole thing. The story is a non-canonical plot written specifically for the game, and sees Luffy’s crew members turning against him after they are enveloped by a strange mist. It won’t win an award any time soon, but the writing is pleasantly silly and always aware of how ridiculous it is.
The narrative is mostly an excuse for the action. Players control one member of the Straw Hat Pirates and must complete the set objectives on large maps, all whilst fighting against armies of thousands. The game is set up to make you feel powerful, with a wealth of skills that let you mow through the hundreds of AI peons that stand between you and victory. Basic combos never get more in depth than spamming Square and Triangle, allowing for an accessible style of play that never fails to feel satisfying.
Your hero is never alone though, with a few AI companions taking the field as well. You even have a number of scallywags who join you directly that you can call upon for follow up attacks. You can even swap control to your allies mid-battle to keep your combos varied. At the end of the day though, there is no way to avoid the feeling of spam. Just as in Dynasty Warriors, this One Piece outing just throws enemies at you, and you respond by hurling out random attacks in the hope of cutting through. It’s fun, with a satisfying weight to the flow of combat, but it never transcends the mind-numbing two-button simplicity.
"There is a lot here to love if you're a One Piece fan. There are just under thirty playable characters, all of which are rendered in a beautiful visual style that captures the kinetic majesty of the One Piece anime."
A wealth of customization options are on offer to spice things up. The maps all hold a variety of coins you can find that, when equipped and upgraded, offer passive bonuses to your characters. You can even fit them into bingo cards to gain new skills. Add in support character that can offer new skills and you have a decent amount of progression avenues to explore. Sadly, they aren’t interesting enough to feel meaningful. A few stat boost and the odd passive skill isn’t enough to take Pirate Warriors 2 out of the repetitive rut it inevitably falls into. There is only so far the simplistic combos can go in a game like this without a more meaningful sense of customization.
There is a lot here to love if you’re a One Piece fan. There are just under thirty playable characters, all of which are rendered in a beautiful visual style that captures the kinetic majesty of the One Piece anime (or at least what little I’ve seen of it). It looks, feels and sounds crazy, with an emphatic Japanese dub adding to the authenticity of the experience. The gameplay gets dull after a time, but the graphics never have this problem.
As with the Dynasty Warriors series, Pirate Warriors 2 has no problems with longevity. There are plenty of lengthy campaign levels to go through, and a tonne of level ups, skills and crazy concept art to work toward. Add in local and online co-op and you have a plentiful, though not always engaging, action experience. There’s another issue with the game being too easy. I’m certainly not one to advocate challenge for the sake of padding out a game’s lifespan, but very few sections of Pirate Warriors 2 will give you much trouble. It all leads to a game that offers quantity, but not necessarily quality.
"One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is an odd exercise in accessible gameplay merged with a niche theme. One Piece is a popular anime, but licensed games with original Japanese dubs aren't exactly going for the global market."
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is an odd exercise in accessible gameplay merged with a niche theme. One Piece is a popular anime, but licensed games with original Japanese dubs aren’t exactly going for the global market. Still, it’s a flamboyant and entertaining experience that achieves its sole goal of relieving stress and making you feel like a combat deity. It’s shallow, repetitive and dull at times, but the game never fails to raise a smile.
I imagine these zany antics would be even more endearing to fans of One Piece. Even though I don’t know a lot about One Piece, Pirate Warriors 2 does enough to make it worthwhile, but I’d argue that it will only really flourish in the hands of a seasoned One Piece fan. Definitely worth considering if you love Dynasty Warriors and have a fetish for pirate-based anime, but the usual caveats of repetition apply.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Smooth visuals, Character designs add flair, Lots of content, Co-op is fun
Customisation isn't meaningful, Gets very repetitive, Relies heavily on familiarity with the franchise
Dynasty Warriors with a sprinkling of pirate-themed anime madness. Mechanics and theme link well in this entertaining, if largely repetitive, brawler.