Platforms: PlayStation 3/PlayStation Vita (Japan)
Developer: Tecmo Koei Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Genre: Action Platform Played: PlayStation 3
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is a Dynasty Warriors-styled action title, allowing players to take control of an abundance of their favourite One Piece characters in a non-canon storyline. Impressively fans of the series will be in for quite the treat, as Pirate Warriors 2 provides an addictive, yet repetitive gameplay style; alongside a plethora of content that will keep a hardcore One Piece fan busy for quite a long time.
The main feature of Pirate Warriors 2 is the non-canon narrative, known as Dream Story. The campaign puts together a completely new story for One Piece fans, while new fans will also find enjoyment as you slowly get to know these characters over the 12 hour adventure. The narrative follows Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates as they stumble onto a set of snail shell-like objects known as Dials, these Dials release a fog that can take over anyone’s mind; leaving them completely out of their own control. The individual who holds the main Dial has the ability to control those under the influence of the Fog, making it the number one most wanted object amongst the evil throughout the sea.
Luffy’s Crew encounter the deadly Fog, leaving his Straw Hat Pirates greatly out-manned. Luffy and the few remaining members must try to save their friends, while stopping the evil trying to capture the Dials for their own evil-deeds. As a new comer to the series the narrative worked quite well at slowly introducing new characters throughout each stage. Though it does flat line throughout the middle act;, the narrative comes to a fitting conclusion with a strong payoff throughout the final stages. Completing certain objectives throughout the final stages can also open up multiple alternate endings, offering great replayability for those wanting to squeeze every One Piece moment they can.
Fans of One Piece will also find the original Japanese voice actors voicing their corresponding characters, yet it lacks an English voice track. Purists will definitely find this a strong asset of the title, but it leaves those who don’t understand Japanese out in the cold. During battles characters will constantly chatter with their conversations appearing as subtitles, trying to focus on large-scale battles and reading subtitles is a difficult task. Meaning you will constantly miss points of the narrative. You may also miss key mission objectives as they appear in small text on the side of the screen, which may cost you the entire battle forcing you to replay the entire stage. It is a poor design choice that will frustrate during the harder stages.
Impressively battles include a massive number of enemies on the screen at one time. What makes that even more astounding is that the game’s framerate was barely ever effected. With such a huge number of enemies in your path, amassing thousands of KO’s in each stage is very achievable. One Piece also provides a decent camera experience, offering a lock-on ability during boss battles. This feature becomes quite useful when aiming for the stronger enemies, and the camera itself barely lost my position during battle.
Though the number of enemies you face will be large, defeating these enemies is very easy and you could easily finish the game by simply reusing the same button mashing technique through the entire experience. Fighting the array of bosses located throughout each stage will provide more of a challenge, but then again you can technically use the same method to gain victory. The problem is these moves are so effective there is little reason to learn the combos on offer, as button mashing effectively means you will finish stages quicker; earning you a bonus cash when you become victorious. Though the combat lacks the depth of titles such as DmC, I still found it oddly addictive as your KO count continues to ride to unbelievable numbers.
Completing stages and defeating enemies earns you experience, as you slowly level-up you gain bonus defense, attack and life points. As you complete more stages more characters will become unlocked, offering a large number of playable characters that can be used; all offering a unique style of gameplay. These characters can also be used for Crew Strike moves. These moves are activated by first killing enough enemies to enter a berserker mode, during this mode another bar is filled when you defeat enemies allowing you to activate Crew Strike. For a limited amount of time players will switch to an alternate character to deal a tonne of damage against their enemies. With such an extensive roster to choose from finding that perfect combination was something I found satisfying, allowing me to simply try out new characters if I became bored of my playable character combinations.
Pirate Warriors 2 also introduces a collectible Coin system. These Coins are different from currency as they are used in a similar fashion to perks, granting bonuses for playable characters attack, defense and health. Unlocking Coins can simply be done by opening chests scattered throughout each stage, or you can unlock rare Coins which require meeting specific battle conditions. Collecting multiple copies of each Coin means they level up, increasing their value to your loadout. The Coin system is a great incentive to push players to explore each stage completely, as I found myself going out of my way to try and improve my overall stats.
Stages become repetitive until you hit the final third of the main story, as each battle barely requires much strategic thought. Each stage becomes predictable as you slowly capture locations to have more control of the map, defeat mini-bosses to unlock new areas and then defeat the final boss to become victorious. However, when strategic play is introduced you will find stages more challenging as you juggle your entire team and try to meet mission objectives, this is a positive yet also a hindrance on the experience.
On one hand it means you will find yourself truly tested, however, on the other hand it will showcase just how useless your fellow team mates are as you find yourself running all over the map trying to save each team mate;- as they struggle to defeat 2 enemies on their own. It forced me to think of the bigger picture and become more conservative, yet left me with a sour taste in my mouth when Pirate Warriors didn’t clearly state which missions objectives will force me to lose the stage. Multiple times a Defeat screen would appear when I was close to victory, with me scratching my head as to the reason of my defeat.
Aside from the main story there are also mini-missions known as Crew Episodes. These missions have you facing off against a certain member on your crew, as you repeat the same process that is contained throughout the main narrative; yet on a smaller scale. There are many Crew Episodes to complete, rewarding players with extra experience and bonus currency for their efforts. There is also a Challenge Mode where players must complete certain objectives in order to finish the mission.
Pirate Warriors 2 also offers an online component where players can join each other to help complete missions. These Rescue Attempts (as they are called) will appear randomly as you compete during the main narrative, with an SOS icon appearing over the corresponding stages. Simply enter the stage and you will find yourself in another player’s game,. It is easy to join and there was no lag to speak of. It felt like a streamlined experience, that also offered a new avenue to experience and currency; making everything you do in Pirate Warriors 2 feel connected.
Visually, One Piece mirrors the cell-shaded style that has become synonymous with anime games,. It doesn’t push the envelope in terms of what we expect from an anime series coming to the video game medium;, but it doesn’t look half bad. One Piece shines due to the fact load times are almost non-existent. One Piece does suffer from a decent amount of pop-in, yet due to the notable amount of enemies on-screen this is bound to expected.
Currency is another main feature in Pirate Warriors 2, with a excess amount of cinematics, music, alternate costumes, images and more to unlock. Every item you unlock will become visible in the Gallery and raise the overall percentage of your collection, incentivising replayability. Hardcore One Piece fans looking to collect every piece of unlockable content will find hours, upon hours of fun to be had.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is not only a great game for One Piece fans, it is also a fun experience brimming with tonnes of activities, collectibles and various challenges to complete. The repetitive combat may not gel with every player, but those who find the strange addiction to increasing that ever growing KO-counter will find themselves spending countless hours of entertainment.
Pirate Warriors 2 doesn’t visually push the anime to game medium to another level, but it certainly does provide some impressive visual feats that must be commended. Though frustrations may occur from the useless team mates during the latter half of the campaign, it will force players to change their strategy to become victorious.
Even if you have never watched an episode of One Piece before, there is still many reasons to experience Pirate Warriors 2.
+ Impressive amount of on-screen enemies, with little frame rate issues
+ Load times almost non-existent
- Team mates are useless
- Repetitive mission structure
- Poor job at conveying mission objectives
- Lack of English voice-track hurts those who don’t know Japanese