Full disclosure: I knew next to nothing about One Piece prior to playing this game. Vaguely, I knew it was about pirates. I also knew it was Japanese and therefore likely to feature talking animals, martial arts, and enormous, bouncing breasts. It is, of course, wrong of me to assume that just because a videogame is from Japan it will feature all of those things. The Pokemon series of videogames, for example, are from Japan, and contain almost no breasts whatsoever.
And while it may have been wrong of me to make such an assumption, the level of wrongness involved does not change the fact that One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is a battlefield-oriented action game that does have talking animals, various forms of martial arts, and at least two gigantic, trampolining breasts.
That’s right. Trampolining.
I’ve combined two sections here because I’m a maverick who doesn’t play by the rules, and also because I already wrote this next bit without thinking of putting it into sections so, yeah, down with the establishment, etc.
One Piece is a Japanese franchise of anime, manga, and just about every other derivation of the two including films, action figures, and videogames. The series follows Monkey D Luffy, one of seventeen million characters taking his name from ancient Eastern literature, who organises a diverse crew known as the Straw Hat Pirates to go on adventures searching for treasure, and, occasional talking fish monsters. Pirate Warriors 2 follows an original storyline, so fans of the franchise won’t get to play through any of their favourite episodes or plotlines; what they can do, however, is play as pretty much any character they like.
It works like this: you start out controlling Luffy, who is fighting a ton of enemies on a battlefield reminiscent of the Dynasty Warriors series. You are given objectives; for example, to assist your allies whilst plowing through waves of enemies, to reach a certain area whilst plowing through waves of enemies, or to kill a certain enemy whilst plowing through waves of enemies.
On top of these objectives there are bonuses to unlock, items to collect, and experience to be gained, which results in levelling up for increases in strength, thus improving your ability to plow through waves of enemies. It’s not revolutionary gameplay, but there’s plenty of it and it’s fun – there’s something very satisfying about ending the lives of thirty soldiers with a single well-timed move, which is exactly the kind of sentence that keeps me out of the armed services.
The plus for existing fans of the franchise is that there’s some 27 unique playable characters in Pirate Warriors 2, as well as a few additional versions of certain figures, so it’s likely you'll be able to play as your favourite from the series. Story mode has been designed in such a way that finding additional characters is worked into the plot so you unlock more and more choices as to who you’ll play as the more you progress.
Levelling is a fairly important aspect of the game, and works in a couple of ways. First is the traditional system of fighting, gaining experience, and levelling up automatically. Second comes into play when you’ve just unlocked a new character, who starts at level one, but you don’t want to wait until they’re a high enough level to participate usefully in a stage. You can spend hard-earned cash to level them up to match the level of your strongest character and enter the fray immediately, which is a pretty good system actually. Collectable coins can be equipped for further stat bonuses.
Although the hordes of enemies can begin to feel a little bit monotonous at times, for the most part Pirate Warriors 2 does enough with objectives and bonuses to keep things from getting boring and maintaining your interest.
Anime art in videogames seems to work about fifty per cent of the time, and thankfully Pirate Warriors 2 pulls it off. A lot of games utilising this art style can look blocky and lazy, with whole scenes using just three different facial expressions and no body movement whatsoever – think Goku charging up his Spirit Bomb for half of the Frieza Saga, arms raised and grunting meaningfully. Pirate Warriors 2 has quite a lot of cut scenes, most of which are fairly well animated and action-packed. I’m not sure if the cutesy anime style lowered my expectations or what, but even though the graphics aren’t spectacular in any way I still found myself admiring the visuals so credit has to be given for that.
The game sounds, uh, Japanese. There’s no English voiceover, which is a shame but not a particular blow, and subtitles are fine unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t like them – “Subtitles?! I can’t read while I’m also trying to see things!” – but they weren’t an issue for me. Otherwise the music is mostly taken from the show (I guess. I’m starting to wonder if I was perhaps the wrong person to review this game. Responses on a postcard, a piece of fruit, or an envelope tied to a brick can be directed to my editor) and is suited to the game, so it’s unremarkable and I’m going to finish this section now.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is good. It’s the kind of franchise game that fans of One Piece will love, much like the Dragon Ball Z Budokai games, while for others it will probably be worthy of a few hours before moving on to other things. There’s replay value in the amount of unlockable stuff and extras to find, and if you’re a serious One Piece lover you’ll probably get a much bigger kick out of the brand new story than I did.
Verdict: it's worth renting or borrowing the game if you aren’t into the One Piece phenomenon. If you’re a massive fanm it’s a must buy - especially given the fact you won’t see this particular One Piece adventure anywhere else.