by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Sailing the four seas
I’ll admit, although I’d heard about One Piece: Pirate Warriors prior to playing it, I’ve not played the games or read the manga that the game is based on. So, coming into the game, my knowledge of the lore of One Piece was somewhat limited. I was expecting wooden-legged pirates with parrots for pets, but instead was greeted with a scraggy looking kid in a straw hat. But the game does a reasonable job early on in getting players acquainted with Luffy and his backstory. This allows gamers to get a sense of how Luffy and his Straw Hats crew came to be.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has you taking the role of Monkey D. Luffy – also known as ‘Straw Hat’ due to his signature headwear – as well as other characters in his band of pirates known as the Straw Hats. It is Luffy’s goal to become the King of the Pirates and find the treasure of the previous King of the Pirates, Gold Roger. It is a fighting game that has our heroes tackling hordes of enemies with brutal combos across a number of open locations in an effort to help Luffy and the Straw Hats become the most powerful pirates in the world.
Although Luffy is the main character, and is the one you’ll likely use the most, there are numerous allies that you will be able to play as. As you’d expect, each of the crewmembers have varying special abilities and this often determines (if you have an option between two) who you’ll choose to take into battle. In most battles, although you control one character (and gain XP for that character throughout the mission), many of your comrades will also enter the battle. Battles each begin with a starting goal, and several conditions that are required to be met for the mission to be successful. Other victory goals are advised during the combat phase. This may include holding control of various locations on the map, keeping your allies safe, or destroying a specific enemy.
Not your standard pirate battles
Once you get to the battle locale, you will immediately take note of the over-the-top nature of the fighting. Basic moves will flatten handfuls of foot soldiers at once, whilst special moves will reduce an entire horde to corpses. And just as well, because those hordes just keep coming. Eventually a Leader will appear and taking him down will grant your band control of the area, which, in turn, will prevent the enemy hordes from spawning.
As mentioned previously, each character has differing skills and special abilities. Zoro – my favourite character to play as (apart from Luffy) – puts his two swords to good use, cutting a swathe through the enemy lines, whilst Usopp uses a slingshot-like weapon to clear enemies from his path. Gaining the knowledge of how each performs is advisable, as completing missions with each character builds their experience. Their basic attacks do some damage, especially against the pawn-like enemies, but it is each character’s four special attacks that really pack a punch. Each of the powers have a cooldown attached to them, so you can’t just use them at every opportunity. But these special attacks are particularly required when taking on the massive bosses in the game. Enemies such as Blackbeard take some beating, as you’ll need to stay clear of his attacks and time your attacks accordingly. These boss battles are immensely satisfying when you eventually bring the badass down.
Movement and fighting controls are smooth and responsive, which what you’d want from a fighting game - even one with as much outrageous combos as this. The game can be played using either a mouse and keyboard, or a controller. I found that I was more comfortable using the keyboard/mouse combo. Basic attacks are easy to pull off with a simple click of the mouse, as are the special attacks – assuming that the cooldown bar has been refilled. Moving around the levels is also smooth, and with the help of the mini-map, it is easy enough to work out where you’re needed at various points in the battle.
The visuals feature some stereotypical Japanese anime. The characters have exaggerated features such as large eyes, crazy hair and often strange clothing choices. I’ve never seen so many bad guys who like to get around in just their underpants or without a shirt. Indeed, the pirate characters are often closer to Johnny Depp's rendition of the Mad Hatter rather than his role as Jack Sparrow. But the extravagant dress-sense fits in well with the over-the-top combat that makes One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 a heap of fun.
Unfortunately, I found some of the cutscenes rather lengthy and although they tell the story, they tend to be disjointed and detract from the flow of the game. Some of the cutscenes don’t seem to represent what has transpired on the battlefield. On more than one occasion my character won a battle against one of the bosses only for the following cutscene to show the character captured by the said boss and now requiring saving by the rest of the squad.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 features some wonderful audio. The game has fully voiced dialogue, although the voiceover work is in Japanese. So, if you’re not a speaker of Japanese, you’re going to have to read through it all. The dialogue can be reasonably silly at times, and the voice acting melodramatic, but this is the theme for the whole game. The sound effects are fairly standard, but the wonderful music throughout keeps the tone of the game upbeat.
Although I did enjoy much of the story, the disjointed nature of the cutscenes (in in-battle cutscenes in particular) somewhat diminished my enjoyment. And at times I was tempted to skip through a story cutscene as it was dragging on a bit with some inane dialogue. But the gameplay trumps the occasional disjointed cutscene, as the battles are a heap of fun to partake in. Cutting a swathe through minions to get to the level bosses is a breeze as you use the special attacks to diminish their numbers. And some engaging boss battles keep the somewhat repetitive nature of the pawn-like henchmen from getting too stale. The battles themselves and their varied goals also allow each mission to remain interesting, especially when sub-missions are added throughout the course of the battle. The eccentric enemies match the exaggerated abilities of our heroes, and combined with the vibrant anime style visuals, make One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 a fun experience... even if there is distinct lack of talking parrots, plank walking and shivering of timbers.
Simple controls, and fun combat mechanics
Extended cut-scenes are great but detract from the flow of the game