How One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 Made a Fan Out of Me (Review)
Played on: PS4 — Hours played: 20+ — Recommended: Yes
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is zany, it’s melodramatic, it’s a little pervy and it’s flat-out ridiculous even at its mildest of moments, but it’s awesomely fun and has singlehandedly ignited my interest in One Piece and in Warriors games, and this is coming from someone who’s never seen the anime or read the manga, and the last Warriors-esque game I played before this year was back in the early PS2 days. It’s a colorful 1 versus 1000 style hack and slasher that’s packed full of content, including a 10 to 15 hour story campaign that is fully voice acted and features plenty of cinematics.
As you would expect, Pirate Warriors 3 is a franchised spin off of the Dynasty Warriors series. You’ll take a character into battle, cut down thousands of troops with flashy combos, navigate a large battlefield to complete various objectives and defeat enemy officers and bosses along the way. It’s been a winning recipe for developers Koei Tecmo and Omega Force for years, but the repetition that comes with it is also critics’ biggest gripe with the game and contributes to the franchise’s generally tepid review scores.
But I think that Pirate Warriors 3 stands out from the other Warriors games to mostly buck that trend, at least this one time. The combat is flashier, faster and more chaotic than Dynasty Warriors 8, the most recent mainline game in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Movesets are not only more over-the-top as you wail into enemy troops with a cast of dozens of incredibly diverse characters — thanks fully to the One Piece setting — but a few mechanical and technical changes between Pirate Warriors 3 and other games of its ilk results in a much more fluid experience that usually keeps the action running at full speed.
You’ll easily wind up with dozens, if not hundreds of kills in the first minute of a level, and I usually found myself finishing a level with upwards of 3,000 KOs in just 20 or 30 minutes.
For one, the typical Warriors jump has been swapped for a dash using the X button, and any combo can be cancelled mid-animation to jaunt a few feet forward. And because combo chains don’t immediately cancel upon dashing, you can actually land a few hits on a group of enemies and finish them off, and then dash forward to a new group to continue with combo and end it with a powerful finish. I found myself constantly dashing throughout the game to keep my combos going into new groups of enemies or to just maintain my momentum, and the gameplay felt smoother as a result because I didn’t have to wait for the combo animation to fully end and reset before I could continue moving.
The typical guard mechanic has also been removed entirely in Pirate Warriors 3, so players will need to rely on well-time dashes to avoid enemy attacks, but the game accommodates this by allowing certain telegraphed attacks from enemy officers to be cancelled by dashing head-on into them.
The flash in the combat has also been amped up with Kizuna Attacks and Kizuna Rushes, a spin on the traditional Musou attack that allows your allies to add attacks to the end of your combos, extend your move set and launch a party-wide attack that sends enemies flying across the screen. And speaking of enemies, Pirate Warriors 3 packs the battlefields — you’ll easily wind up with dozens, if not hundreds of kills in the first minute of a level, and I usually found myself finishing a level with upwards of 3,000 KOs in just 20 or 30 minutes.
I feel like of the main reasons I’ve been enjoying Pirate Warriors 3 so much more than Dynasty Warriors 8 is because of the diverse and zany cast of characters. They all generally follow the same rhythm of mixing heavy and light attacks to execute combos, but at the same time they’re all quite different from each other. There’s a character made of rubber, characters that control fire, ice or shadow, there’s a skeleton that plays music to put enemies to sleep, there’s a cross-dressing man who skirts around the battlefield — wait, there’s actually more than one of those — anyway — there’s a green-haired bounty hunter who fights with three swords,a speedo-wearing man who powers himself up on soda and so on. While Dynasty Warriors has officers with different weapons, to me it doesn’t come nearly as close to the diversity of Pirate Warriors 3’s colorful cast.
Story and singleplayer
Newcomers to the series won’t need to worry about jumping into the fray two entries behind. Pirate Warriors 3 runs through the entire One Piece story from its beginning until the start of the Dressrosa arc, which was the most recent part of the manga when the game was made. The story campaign is more of a highlight reel featuring missions based on the main arcs rather than a comprehensive retelling of the One Piece saga, but as a newcomer to One Piece myself, I found it kept me up to speed just fine as the campaign progressed.
For those who don’t know what a One Piece is, here’s a quick recap: The story is told through the perspective of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy who can stretch his body like rubber at will. After the former Pirate King was publicly executed and revealed that a legendary treasure called the One Piece existed, Luffy set out to form a crew, sail the Grand Line, claim the treasure and declare himself Pirate King. Along the way you’ll encounter plenty of friends and foes — and cross dressers, not that there’s anything wrong with that — as the golden age of pirates continues. Of course, pirating isn’t exactly welcomed in modern society, and so the Marines will be tracking down wannabe pirates like Luffy and his crew along the way.
The game begins each level with a short unvoiced narration that leads into the conflict that starts the stage. Before, during and after these battles, a mixture of voiced semi-animated text conversations and fully voiced cutscenes delivers the game’s story. If you’ve played Dynasty Warriors 8, you’ll know what to expect, and if you haven’t, you might be surprised by just how many cutscenes this game has.
One thing to note, the game was never dubbed, so you’ll have to live with Japanese voices and English subtitles. I’m not big on subtitles so I was bummed about this at first, but I soon grew to enjoy it and I can say it definitely fits in with the tone of One Piece.
In terms of graphics, the game looks just fine on the PS4, and the colorful palette is refreshing when compared to a more drab color scheme typically seen in Dynasty Warriors. The game generally runs well enough with an uncapped framerate, but it can occasionally chug or dip into the 20s when a large room is packed chock full of enemies. Overall I didn’t find this to be a detriment to my enjoyment, though.
After completing the roughly 10 hour story — or before if you want — you can enter the Dream Log mode, which has players navigating through a series of islands to claim territories and battle notable characters from the series. This mode not only adds a lot of longevity to the game with its varied missions, but it’s also the only way you can unlock some of the game’s roster.
The game has an upgrade system where you can spend Beli, the game’s currency, to increase your character’s stats, but you can increase them further or even unlock special attacks by using coins earned by completing levels in any mode. For example, Luffy might need 5 Zoro coins and 5 Nami coins to upgrade his attack, or he might need a single coin that drops by completing a story mission in a certain way that unlocks a more powerful Musou attack.
The game also has an online feature where you can send and receive rescue requests from other players, allowing them to join your game or for you to join theirs to lend a hand on a tough level. The game also does feature local split screen in both the story mode and the Dream Log, which I found to be a nice touch.
Overall, I understand Pirate Warriors 3 could be a hard sell for a lot of people. Its reviews aren’t great, it’s a Warriors game and it’s based on an anime that’s been running since 1997, believe it or not. I’ve put enough time into the game to complete the campaign and play through some of the Dream Log, and as someone unfamiliar with One Piece going in, I can now safely say it’s my favorite Warriors game ever, and I’m probably going to go check out the anime or manga at some point. I say don’t let the niche appeal keep you away from trying to new things — If it looks fun to you, grab it on a sale and give it a shot. You might just be surprised by how much fun you have with it.