Licensed games based on popular Manga like Naruto, DragonBall Z, and One Piece have had mixed success; some - like Super DragonBall Z - have been solid, while others have been less than great - and that’s being kind. Unfortunately for One Piece fans, the show’s latest game, One Piece: Pirate Warriors, falls into the latter category.
For those not familiar with the series, One Piece revolves around the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his motley crew of pirates. Setting him apart from the generic Pirates of the Caribbean archetype is that, as a result of eating gum-gum fruit, his body is made of rubber. This peculiar trait grants him various abilities - referred to as “Gum Gum actions” – that involve stretching out his limbs to whip his adversaries, pull something toward him, or swing between polls.
Pirate Warriors has you primarily take control of Luffy; occasionally you'll switch to newly introduced characters, before swapping back again after a few minutes of fighting. Unfortunately, gameplay is a mix of room clearing (bashing through a few hundred enemies, going through a quick-time event, etc), and taking out bosses. Luffy and co. all have hack 'n’ slash mechanics – similar to Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors franchise. It's all rather dull.
Another problem plaguing the game is the camera: it’s too slow, most notably during boss battles. Although you can lock onto a boss, the camera just can’t keep up with the action. It’s a shame because the boss fights are probably the best thing about it – in the main story mode at least. They play out fairly similarly; boss characters typically have a few health bars – switching up their attacks as the bars are drained - the final bar is then taken out in a quick-time event.
The game also suffers from a poor localization; this isn’t because of a bad English dub, rather that it simply doesn’t have one. Characters occasionally have discussions mid-battle – sometimes giving hints - and you have to take your eyes off the action to read them; it's an unwelcome distraction when you need to be focused on fighting hordes of enemies, or an intense boss battle.
Aside from the obvious combat utilization of Luffy’s abilities, they are also used to get around levels quickly via quicktime event actions. Although the game points out that Luffy can’t swim due to his body being stretchy, it’s a moot point because if you miss a beat when swinging over water, Luffy will automatically stretch out and save himself.
Once you finish the first chapter, the game unlocks Pirate Warriors’ "Another Log" and Online modes. Another Log lets you play through the chapters as either Luffy, or his allies such as Nami, a busty pirate girl, and Roronoa Zoro, a sword wielding pirate who looks more like a Samurai. You unlock more chapters and characters to use as you progress through the main game.
Each character has dozens of combos; unfortunately - just like the main story - you’re quickly reduced to simply button mashing your way through levels. In addition, it’s more repetitious than the story mode as you simply run from room to room, claiming each from the bosses - who themselves are easier to defeat here as they are a simple button mash kill.
On the multiplayer front, Pirate Warriors is a little weak, featuring just two modes: quick match and custom match (an option for you to create a session). It’s effectively a cooperative version of Another Log in which you play a chapter together. You get the same benefits you would from playing alone, with the addition of an online ranking. Quick match comes up with three sessions to play; upon trying this myself it came up with multiple sessions based in Europe – which were surprisingly lag free compared to my recently reviewed Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – which lagged even when playing against friends based in New Zealand.
Visually, Pirate Warriors is colourful and crisp, with cell shaded buildings and characters that blend in with the manga-style cut scenes that tell the story between chapters. Unfortunately, little details such as splashes are missing – something you might expect to be a top priority when making a game about pirates.
Overall, One Piece: Pirate Warriors has few redeeming qualities. That said, it’s a good title for fans of the franchise looking to play their favourite chapters from the on-going saga. Unfortunately, its poor localization, repetitious ‘room clearing’ level design, and shallow multiplayer mode make it hard to recommend to a wider audience.