The latest title from Omega Force arrives as a somewhat strange addition to the franchise. Launching as a PlayStation 3 exclusive, the sidestep into franchise territory plays very similarly to Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, and yet doesn’t have quite the same pedigree associated with it. Instead, One Piece: Pirate Warriors is a videogame devised specifically for the most ardent fans of the One Piece franchise, and despite being enjoyable in its own right, will only ever make any real sense to that very specific audience.
The Dynasty Warriors: Gundam may not featured been the most accessible of storylines, with the accepted prerequisite knowledge being far more than that of the causal Gundam observer, and yet still there was enough to cling to that it would allow newcomers to get the gist of a single plot thread before adding additional exposition with campaigns from other characters. One Piece: Pirate Warriors works differently, offering but one story, that of our hero Luffy. The story is of course the original One Piece story and in addition comes a second side story, but the delivery is so woolly that realistically speaking One Piece: Pirate Warriors is unlikely to offer newcomers a pathway to becoming fully fledged fans.
Instead it’s up to the gameplay to draw gamers in, as is the case with any typical outing of the Warriors videogame franchise. As just as with any typical outing, One Piece: Pirate Warriors adheres to many of the staple mechanics of the series. Combat takes place as a series of combos engaged with basic and heavy attacks, designed to take on tens of foes at any one time. Once the provided meter is charged the player can perform a special attack which causes significant damage to all enemies in an enlarged range. It’s a simple and familiar system that is appropriately demonstrated through a series of step-by-step combo instructions which allow the player to progress even if they decide not to adhere to the advice given.
The are a couple of new additions to the gameplay however, beyond that of the inclusion of QTE events. Playing as Yuffy, the player has four unique abilities which can be scrolled through on the D-Pad. Each of the abilities has benefits both in combat and for puzzle solving (though the puzzles are rarely any more taxing than inflating yourself to bounce back cannonballs). Players also have a guard break attached to their dash manoeuvre, and enemies have obvious moments for when landing a counter-attack will guarantee significant damage bonuses. Players will also collect coins which infer special statistic bonuses when equipped, for example the Luffy coin will increase stamina while the Zoro coin will increase attack power. Only a limited number of coins can be equipped at any one time, so players will have to negotiate the statistic bonuses with either their weakpoints or to accentuate their strengths.
When facing off against hundreds of foes in every level, objectives will typical range from base capture to boss defeating. There’s a few curveballs thrown in to the mix, but by-and-large the formula will be very familiar to any players of the Warriors videogames. The more significant addition is the co-operative gameplay mode which adds a considerable amount of enjoyment to the basic gameplay and, thankfully, is not limited to online play. Both online play and the Additional Log side story allow you to play as any of the characters you unlocked by playing the main story, though only offers the same variety of levels.
The visual quality of One Piece: Pirate Warriors is of a high standard throughout, providing the best videogame adaptation of the One Piece visual design that has yet been seen. Bright colours, recognisable locations and elastic animation – both for facial animation and Yuffy’s trademark Gum Gum attacks – make One Piece: Pirate Warriors a prime example of how to adapt a well loved anime series into an interactive product. The sound quality however, isn’t quite as commendable. While never once falling below average, there’s nothing here that particularly strikes home as being remarkable.
As the latest addition to two well loved franchises – One Piece and Omega Force’s Warriors – One Piece: Pirate Warriors does a good job of nailing all the key points of both. It’s never going to take the place of the core Dynasty Warriors videogames nor will it even push in front of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam as the favoured step-child, but it is most certainly an enjoyable change of pace. Newcomers to the One Piece franchise won’t find One Piece: Pirate Warriors a stepping stone to bigger things, but existing fans of the anime and those looking for some more Warriors could most certainly do worse.