Review: One Piece Pirate Warriors 3

One Piece is a giant, sprawling, action mega-epic, whether in comics or anime, and it needs something to match when brought to gaming. The sheer volume of characters, places and events from the series’ eighteen-year run can be overwhelming, and yet it keeps on barelling along getting bigger and more chaotic with each new plot point and weird character.  Making a game that comprises all of One Piece is not a small task and the Pirate Warriors series has done a good job of keeping up with it so far.  Now One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 has come along to not only retell the entire One Piece story from start to present, but also add in a free-form second quest as well.  It’s a whole lot of gaming, although the PC version also comes with a host of optimization issues.

If you’ve played a Dynasty Warriors game you’ll be instantly familiar with the basics.  There’s one You on a battlefield and an endless supply of Them, or at least Their peons.  The normal fighters are there more to look threatening than actually cause any damage, and they go down easily and in large numbers with a few basic attacks.  Each character has a normal attack, a ranged attack, and one unique to that character, and different button combos pull off different effects.  While you initially start off with one character open (in this case, Luffy) it doesn’t take long to have, literally, dozens of different options available.  With that many characters there’s bound to be some repetition on the attack patterns, of course, but you’d have to dig pretty deep into the roster for that to be an issue.  One thing One Piece isn’t short on is fighters, making it a perfect fit for the Dynasty Warriors formula.

At the start of each level you pick a character, usually after scanning the battle objectives to make sure the one you have is right for the job.  Certain bonuses only open up with particular characters in the primary quest mode, plus it also helps to mix things up if you aren’t working the same button combos over and over again.  The battlefield is a series of rooms and passages, and while the style may change to open fields, icy mountains, city streets, and other locales, it doesn’t take more than a level or two to notice that this is just window dressing.  Each level has a series of objectives that change and adjust as the battle moves along, and you need to quickly sprint from one point to another to keep your allies fighting and press forward into enemy strongholds, not to mention fighting the generals and other leaders who make up the actual challenge of the game.

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While the popcorn enemies aren’t particularly threatening, the bigger guys actually work like they’re interested in killing you, if only a little.  Each area and major encounter has a miniboss that’s either a larger version of the regular enemies or, more likely, a One Piece enemy central to the story.  The main plotline is a retelling of the original series, with each major chapter getting a level, and the enemies within being taken directly from that story.  Nami’s story early on, for example, has fishmen enemies swarming by the hundreds, some fishmen commanders in charge of most areas, and the octopus-man Hatchan showing up twice as a miniboss before the big showdown with Arlong.  Beating them isn’t that hard, but it’s great to see them in action plus, if you defeat them using a special Kizuna attack, you get a nice coin bonus.

As you work through the levels you get allies able to join you as finishers in combo attacks, with the odds of them helping rising as the gauge in the upper-left fills.  Max it out and you can activate a Kizuna Rush, which lets you do longer and more powerful attack combos plus activate a super-powerful finishing move calling in your support allies.  Initially you’ve only got one character to call on but, once you’ve used someone in a finisher once, they’ll join every time.  By switching up supporters and activating the Kizuna Rush, plus making sure you’re paying attention to the map and running to your allies aid when they need it so they aren’t forced to retreat, you can get up to four characters joining in a massive boss-killing combo.  Not only is it a flashy way to clear an area, it earns coins.

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Coins are used between levels to power up your characters, and they come in a number of types.  You’ll need the right coins to pay for the stat bonus, so if you need, for example, Smoker coins to earn a permanent defense bonus then you can’t buy it until you’ve both seen him in a level and met the requirements to earn his coins.  In practical terms it just means you end up saving the Kizuna Rush until running across a non-generic opponent, at which point it’s time to whittle them down a bit before unleashing the mega multi-character combo fury.  It would be nice to be able to open up the special attack more often, but I found that knowing it’s necessary to get the full bonuses from a character encounter meant I tended to sit on them until necessary.  Encounters tend to drag when you end up ignoring a boss to whittle down a pile of popcorn enemies in order to build the gauge back up.

The real problem with Pirate Warriors 3 is that, at least in the case of the PC version, it’s just not very well done as a console port.  This is the PS3 version, rather than PS4, and while it looks decent enough it’s strange that the ported version is from the older console.  Screen resolution options are fairly sad as well, and nothing I chose would fit the monitor I own.  Letterboxing isn’t that big a deal, but my monitor is by no means set to an esoteric resolution.  The major omission, though, is that multiplayer is local-only, as opposed t0 the PS3/PS4/Vita’s online options.  That’s a fairly inexcusable omission.

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Closing Comments:

While the PC port of One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 is weak in technical terms, the game itself is very playable.  The Dynasty Warriors formula has been honed over endless iterations to be great fun, and if it’s a bit on the easy side that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The various modes offer near-endless content to fight through with a huge number of playable characters, covering every single major storyline to date, a mode where you can play the main game with any unlocked character instead of the ones that make sense for the story, and even a large Dream Mode where everything and everyone combine in whatever way makes for the most entertaining level.  One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 is, like the rest of the games in Omega Force’s series, the gaming equivalent of high-quality comfort food.  The action is fast, there’s just enough strategy to avoid mindlessness and it’s always a good time blasting massive waves of enemies into the stratosphere.