Review: One Piece: Pirate Warriors stays faithful to the series, but suffers from repetition
A game based on Japanese anime can be really weird if you've never watched an episode. A friend of mine played a bit of One Piece: Pirate Warriors and went, "Why does this kid have the ability to go Dhalsim on everyone with his limbs?" I then went on to explain the purpose of gum gum fruit, and he was still confused. Later on, he'd say stuff like "Who's this ninja guy?" and "What's with the clown whose body parts keep coming off?" Sigh. He gave up a little while after that, and, unless you're hardcore into the One Piece series, you might as well.
One Piece games have been making the rounds for a while now, but for its latest release, Namco Bandai opted to make it a digital only game for PlayStation 3. That's not a strange tactic, as Tecmo Koei previously released Warriors Orochi 3 on PSN exclusively as well (followed by a retail release on Xbox 360, though). But there are a few things to ponder here. One, there's no trial game to try first, and two, it takes up a whopping 11GB of hard drive space. Yowza!
But let's look at the game itself before we pass off judgment. For most of this weird pirate adventure, you control Monkey Luffy, an island boy who's developed the ability to stretch his limbs after eating the gum gum fruit I mentioned earlier. He harnesses this new-found power to create some devastating attacks, including a battering ram swing that can knock an enemy out cold, and combos that hit anyone within range. (For good measure, you can also play as some of Luffy's friends along the way, though the adventure mainly focuses on him.)
The game was developed by W-Force, the same team behind the countless Dynasty Warriors games, so you can pretty much assume what kind of gameplay is involved here. And, yes, for the most part, you are pounding groups of pirates and other enemies with combo attacks and specially charged super moves. However, there's a bit more lunacy to One Piece than the usual Dynasty Warriors fare, along with some platforming segments to mix things up. Unfortunately, they require a great deal of precision, as you sometimes have to look around the screen for a contact point to grab – while you're in the midst of the jump.
One Piece does get crazy at times, like with that clown that goes to pieces or other weird gum gum-like enemies, but for the most part, it's built on the foundation of Dynasty Warriors gameplay. Like I said, it works, and some moves are ridiculously fun to watch, but repetition does set in after a few minutes. Whether that's worth $50 investment in the long run is something you'll need to accept or not.
The adventure lasts a few hours, but there's not much to do outside of it except take all the lunacy in again and look through a gallery of character bios and other data. There's a Challenge Mode, but it's mostly made up of repetitive trials, stuff you went through in the main story. You can also hop online and work with a friend to gain new goodies, but things run a bit slow once you log in. Namco should've cleaned this up a little.
At least the presentation is solid, as far as the anime goes. While the level design is pretty bland (hey, a pirate town, followed by another pirate town!), the character animation is rich, especially during the cut scenes. The voicework is also right on target with the show, especially Monkey, who sounds like he's screaming on the same level as Naruto. The other characters sound as cool as the other side of the pillow, though. It's just a shame we couldn't play as them more.
We can't brush off One Piece: Pirate Warriors completely, because it is devoted to its anime brand and has a few novel ideas. However, the gameplay never really expands as much as Monkey does, and the platforming could've been handled better. If you're a fan of the series, it's worth a look, but otherwise, you can easily sail past these waters.