One Piece is an interesting beast. In its home country of Japan, it’s broken numerous records –– it became the highest-circulating manga in 2008, and remains one of the best-selling manga series of all time. Though it doesn’t appear to be losing any steam in Japan, One Piece isn’t held in quite the same regard in North America. It has its followers, to be sure, but the ninja-riffic Naruto and never-ending Bleach have generally garnered more interest from western fans, including in the game department.
With this in mind, it may come as somewhat of a surprise that Namco Bandai decided to license One Piece: Pirate Warriors for a North American and European release. After spending some quality time with the game, however, I can safely say that of all the One Piece game adaptations available in Japan, this was the right one to pick.
A pirate’s life for me
One Piece: Pirate Warriors doesn’t make much of an effort to explain the series to newcomers, but luckily the general premise can be summed up quite succinctly. The story centers on Monkey D. Luffy, a young boy who dreams of one day obtaining the famed One Piece treasure and becoming the next Pirate King. Along with his Straw Hat Pirates, he sails the seas in search of the One Piece, meeting new friends and foes along the way. But Luffy isn’t without his own special “something,” and that comes in the form of his Mr. Fantastic-like ability to stretch his body after eating a Gum Gum fruit that bestowed him with the properties of rubber.
Rather than attempt to cover every single event from the One Piece manga or anime, which would likely prove impossible, Pirate Warriors instead chooses to focus on reenacting memorable storylines and scenes from the series, such as events that lead Luffy to his Straw Hat Pirate crew members. These story missions are presented in the game’s main mode, the aptly-titled Main Log, in the form of episodes that even come with a voiced “last on One Piece”-like sequence that helps get newcomers up to speed with where the game is in One Piece’s extremely long story. The episodes also contain a heavy smattering of voiced cutscenes and manga-style clips in addition to gameplay, and any fan of the series will undoubtedly be ecstatic to see the loving care with which their favorite characters have been recreated for the game.
I’d like to take a moment to tip my metaphorical straw hat at the developers for making the world of One Piece truly come alive in Pirate Warriors. The level of detail in the characters’ clothing, facial expressions, and overall atmosphere is highly commendable, especially when compared to most other game adaptations of manga and anime. It’s important to note, however, that though the game is fully voiced, the dialogue is in Japanese with English subtitles. While I appreciated this decision for its authenticity to the original Japanese version, some younger fans may balk at the amount of reading required, and it may be difficult to keep up with the characters’ banter during combat sequences. Even so, it’s hard to deny how well Pirate Warriors translates the One Piece anime and manga experiences into a game format.
Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Pirate Warriors
Presentation-wise, One Piece: Pirate Warriors hits all the right notes, but the gameplay has the potential to be severely dividing for fans. As the title suggests, the game falls right into the category of Warriors games, and its gameplay is straight out of any classic Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors title. Let it be known now that if you can’t stand the monotony of fighting hundreds and hundreds of identical enemies, even Luffy’s wide range of wacky attacks won’t save you.
Fundamentally, episodes play out the same as they would in any other Warriors title, with players having to defeat a certain amount of enemies or fulfill different missions to gain control of one area and move on to the next. In an effort to shake things up, however, Pirate Warriors introduces a way of traveling around the levels that utilizes Luffy’s wide range of elastic powers. Since the majority of the game takes place on ships at sea, Luffy must get from ship to ship using a mixture of rudimentary platforming and QTE-like prompts. The way Luffy navigates the environment is a lot of fun to watch, but unfortunately the game often gives little clue as to where the player needs to go to get from point A to point B, which left me running around in circles on more than one occasion. However, I appreciated the introduction of this mechanic as a way to break up the battles.
Players will be treated with the opportunity to play as Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirate crew as well as a handful of additional characters, and each member of the main crew is fleshed-out nicely, with their own unique powers and moves from the series making appearances throughout. Though the Main Log has you playing as Luffy for the majority of the time, Another Log allows you to choose your character, and you can even take your favorite character online for some multiplayer fun. Coins that are collected throughout the levels can be used to boost stats and provide some level of customization, but in the end all the coins and combo attacks in the world can’t really save Pirate Warriors from falling into the button-mashing trap that the Warrior games are so infamous for. It’s worth pointing out that the boss battles are better than most of what you’ll find in traditional Warriors games, however, and were surprisingly memorable experiences.
Shiver me timbers!
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll readily admit that I’m a fan of the Warriors formula, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors not only offers a gorgeous game adaptation of one of the most popular Japanese manga series to date, but a new and unique Warriors experience, as well. A handful of usual hiccups such as an unruly camera, QTEs (can we just ban them already?), and some awkward platforming sequences don’t take away from the overall package, and Pirate Warriors offers an extensive package indeed. One Piece: Pirate Warriors is highly recommended for fans of the series as well as Warriors aficionados, but even those who don’t consider themselves either may still be charmed by the fun to be had in Pirate Warriors.
- Release date: September 25th, 2012 (US), September 21st, 2012 (EU)
- Genre: Action
- Platform: PlayStation 3
- Developer: Temco Koei
- Publisher: Namco Bandai
- Rating: T
- MSRP: $49.99
Our Score: 4/5
Review Statement: A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.