FEATURE: "One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3" Review

FEATURE: “One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3” Review

Thematically, One Piece and Dynasty Warriors games are a match made in heaven, both populated by a small number of godlike fighters championing literal armies of warriors who are absolutely insignificant to the outcome of a battle and serve primarily as fodder for the powerful to display their immense strength. Important characters striking down double-digit unnamed enemies with every attack isn’t just reasonable, it’s expected if anyone is going to take you seriously. Combining the two would seem like an obvious slam dunk and, well, it absolutely was. Still, Warriors spin-offs aren’t exactly uncommon, so a certain expectation when approaching one of these new titles. I suppose that’s why the build of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 I played at the Namco Bandai press event left such an impression on me. Not only does anime fit the dynamic of the game, but Pirate Warriors has been excellently adapted so that the game also fits the anime. Now that I’ve got my hands on the full release, I’m happy to say that the rest of the game is just as satisfying.



Pictured: my hype


What first struck me about Pirate Warriors 3 is that cut off a tremendous amount of the fat of the Warriors franchise, and replaced it with features that really resonate with One Piece as a series. The result is a lean game that enhances the high points of a Warriors title with more intense combat by including crazier combos, group attacks, and higher mobility, while removing a lot of grinding elements to create a simpler leveling progression and less downtime between fights. Even more surprising is the creativity with which each characters combos and abilities were designed, adapting the relatively simplistic Warriors system to create a move sets which are extremely appropriate to their fighting style in the anime. Luffy is a hard-hitter who can also do insane flurries and randomly throws out bizarre but surprisingly effective attacks, Nami’s combos aren’t very effective but they allow her to tag enemies for devastating lightning strikes and her weather provide great area of effect damage, Usopp is most effective at range and can damage and disable large numbers of enemies with his different projectile, and Robin more accurately attacks entire directions than individuals by creating fields of damaging strikes. In addition to mechanics, steps have been taken to make the violence more visually appealing, one particularly satisfying aspect of combat being your ability to knock enemies against walls so hard they momentarily stick, allowing you to make momentary Jackson Pollock paintings with enemy squadrons on every nearby vertical surface.



My artistic medium is mermen


Combat itself has been revamped in Pirate Warriors by replacing the Warriors emphasis on spacing and chain combo pressure with a heavy emphasis on speed that gives fights a frantic pace. Completely foregoing a block command, characters instead possess a directional dash that provides a ton of invincibility frames, allowing you to cancel out of combos into instantaneous movement, dodging reprisal attacks and flanks or moving clear of an area of effect. This plays in wonderfully with a staggering feature added for important enemies, in which their strongest attacks leave them momentarily vulnerable and a well-timed strike will dizzy them, exposing them to even more damage. Fights, especially against enemy captains, become extremely dynamic as you switch between landing combos and dodge attacks the split second they come out then exploiting their opening. Your improved mobility becomes especially relevant with enemies special attacks that generate zones of danger which you have to vacate to avoid taking massive damage. The emphasis on speed even extends to map movement, as character break into a high-speed sprint after about a second of uninterrupted running, avoiding potentially monotonous travel time between fights.



You don’t need to dodge if your enemies are too busy being on fire to attack you


If the new mechanics are Pirate Warriors’ heart, then the Kizuna Rush is its soul. During battles, you can choose allied characters on the battlefield as your support character and each of them has a Kizuna bar that fills when you hit enemies. Once the Kizuna bar fills, the support character will supplement your combos by jumping in after your last hit to deliver another attack. Additionally, you can expend the bar to enter Kizuna Rush, which increase your support characters damage and makes your own attacks more elaborate and damaging while enemies defeated during the Kizuna Rush drop a huge amounts of Beli. You can also perform a combo ultimate with your ally which immediately ends your Rush. Using a Kizuna Rush with one character links them to you for the remainder of the fight, causing them to jump in along with any other ally during future Kizuna Rushes. This allows you to slowly bolster your strength over the course of a level by cycling through your allies until you are summoning up to 4 other characters to combo with you and creates a massive finisher for the final boss with 5 character group ultimate. This mechanic really makes you feel like you are fighting as part of a crew–rather than just an individual roaming a battlefield dueling enemy officers–which come together over the course of a conflict as an overwhelming squad. For diehard One Piece fans, there are even special character interactions for certain team attacks, such as Sanji using a unique ultimate when his primary support in a group ultimate is female.



Some combos just shouldn’t happen


Omega Force did an excellent job compressing the story into the rapidly digestible form of an intro and outro cinematic, a few in-level cut scenes, and character dialogue throughout the level. Events in each arc are slightly modified, not only for brevity, but also to make it seem to all take place over the course of a single, titanic free-for-all. The final result is the story reduced to only the bare necessities to provide context for each battle in the form of quick but extremely impactful scenes. It’s surprising how satisfying even moments with a lot of build-up like Luffy first sucker-punching Arlong can be using this formula. Including some of the more emotional character dialogue directly into the gameplay makes some areas surprisingly intense, Vivi desperately pleading with her people to stop fighting while you are trying to stop Crocodile in Alabasta adds a huge sense of urgency where you might otherwise play the level out more methodically. It helps that the graphics are a spot-on representation of Oda’s style, perhaps even a little too good since some of the more exaggerated facial expressions are downright disturbing in three dimensions. Pirate Warriors covers from the beginning of One Piece all the way to the Dressrosa, so there is a lot of story packed into the game that takes a substantial amount of time to cover despite how fast you seem to blow through each arc.



Some last longer than others


Since Pirate Warriors plot follows the linear story of One Piece rather than presenting individual tales for each character like its Dynasty Warriors progenitor, some clever features were included to prevent the game from feeling like a grind by making the barrier of entry for picking up new characters essentially non-existent. Rather than having to individually level each character you would like to use to relevancy, you can simply use Beli to forcibly level up characters to catch up with the rest of the party from the outset and immediately make use of them at whatever point in the game you have reached. To compensate for this mechanic, which might otherwise give the game little replayability, characters can get permanent stat boosts separate from their level by using character coins obtained by playing levels that involve that character, so while you may be able to instantly level Robin to the level of the rest of the Straw Hats after obtaining her, if you want to focus on making her even more powerful you can find out what character coins she needs and replay levels including those characters.



Timeskips also help


It’s difficult to think of some serious criticism of the title beyond that their quite simply could be more. 37 characters is by no means a small cast, especially considering most One Piece games limit playable characters to the Straw Hat crew, and allows you to play some of the more interesting members of the supporting cast and rogues’ gallery. If anything I would probably cite my disappointment, but understanding, that not all of the prominent crew members for various captains could be included in the title. Unfortunately you can’t fight Beast Tamer Mohji, Jango, Pearl, or Choo but given that there is no way any of the characters could pass muster to be included in the playable roster it’s understandable that not every single member of Oda’s insanely diverse cast was going to make the cut to be reproduced in the game. Additionally, while your allies are a tremendous aid as support characters, they have the Warrior’s habit of being pretty helpless on their own and constantly require aid against no-name mooks. If there is one part of the game that is not very representative of One Piece, it’s needing to run across the map because Luffy requires aid against a guy whose name is “Pirate Captain”.



I don’t mind leaving some people out…


Pirate Warriors 3 isn’t exactly an ambitious technical achievement in game design, but it does a tremendous job of adapting the Warriorsfranchise to capture the feeling of One Piece where they probably could have gotten away with just producing a cheap reskin. Some of the adaptations I can’t help but feel are flat improvements to the Warriors series which should really become permanent fixtures of the franchise going forward. The game isn’t complicated, which fits the now 20-year-old refined formula of Warriors and the zany action ofOne Piece to a T. I think what I found most surprising about the game was how much I enjoyed it. After so many iterations of Dynasty Warriors and its various spin-offs, I had honestly burned out on the series, but I had absolutely no trouble picking up this game and playing it for hours. It’s simple, straight to the action, and manages to take the best out of both franchises.



Dynamic, fast-paced fighting system

Kizuna Rush is awesome and thematic

Simple, quick, and easy character progression

Excellent adaptation of story into Warriors-style battles

– Can’t beat up literally all the lieutenants

– Allies can be needy/helpless without you

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