One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 ReviewPatrick Honeyman
Crossing the currently most popular manga in Japan with the Dynasty Warriors franchise may seem like an odd combination to many. But developer Omega Force must have seen the potential when approaching publishing house Shueisha with the idea of bringing author Eiichiro Oda's pirate manga and its vibrant characters to their well-established 1-vs-100 battle action format, culminating in the spin-off series One Piece: Pirate Warriors. The developer appears to have made a smart choice as we now find ourselves on the third numbered entry in the franchise which could be the series' best to date.
The latest in the PW franchise refines the trusted formula from previous entries, allowing players to pick any of the members from rubberman Monkey D. Luffy's (eater of a devil fruit that provides its host with a specific power or ability) crew as they fight massive groups of marines, pirates and an assortment of foes, capture territories throughout the game's various stages and take on a range of notorious antogonists from the manga's 18-year long lifespan. It is in equal parts familiar and refreshing as players fight the likes of unrelenting marine Captain, Axe-hand Morgan, the ferocious and human-hating fishman Arlong, possessor of the sand-sand fruit and organisation Baroque Works head Sir Crocodile, self-appointed God and electric-wielding monk Enel, Neko-neko fruit and Roku-shiki user of the World Government's secret dark unit CP9, Rob Lucci and the cruel black market dealer and user of the string-string fruit, Doflamingo.
Players can access a variety of attacks and combos using a combination of the square and triangle buttons with the cross button reserved to use as a last minute dodge in the event they find themselves in a sticky situation. Special attacks are activated with the circle button, seeing players exchange one slot of their special gauge built up through pounding multiple enemies to unleash a mighty strike, blowing away waves of opponents in one spectacular moment. These vary from Luffy's trademark flame-fisted strike, Red Hawk, to his blood brother Ace's Entei (a giant ball of flame and a light homage to One Piece's predecessor, Dragonball). They bring a level of excitement to the battle as players work through hordes of enemies, using their trademark moves and defeating the stage's end boss before moving forwards to the next chapter in the game's story that moves from the manga's beginning up to the most recent arc in the series (the Dressrosa arc) but with its own original ending. Although it may polarise fans, developers Omega Force should be commended for including such current material in this entry of Pirate Warriors.
One of the new features players will use frequently in the game's various battles is the Kizuna Attack. Players build the kizuna gauge by attacking waves of enemies. Once filled they can gain assists to various combos with their chosen partner and upon maxing this out players have the option to tap the bottom-right of the PS VITA screen to activate kizuna rush mode. This increasse the player's strength and frequency of combos with their partner. It also allows them to unleash a kizuna strike, seeing the player and their partner unleash an even mightier attack on their unwitting adversaries, celebrated with a massive 'Don' message popping up on screen if a big enough number of the enemy is wiped out. It is a welcome addition to the series and keeps the fighting from becoming stale all too quickly.
Although the game's story is robust and does well to please long-term fans of the franchise, Free Log mode allows players to pick any of the various characters they have unlocked and use them to take on the game's various stages. The variety is welcome as often-requested characters such as captain of the Heart Pirates Trafalgar Law, marine captain Smoker and Fire Fist Ace are available either from the off to play or unlock within the game. Smoker's right-hand lieutenant Tashigi can also be selected as well as one of the series' 'Four Emperors' and original bearer of the strawhat given to Luffy as a child, the great pirate Red-haired Shanks. They are pleasing additions to the PW franchise, each brining their own unique playstyles to the mix and feel right at home with the other already established characters. There is also the option to take the fighting online by teaming up with other players or responding to requests for assistance during battles.
Players eager to fill out the empty slots in the character select screen can dive into Dream Log mode. This allows players to take on a variety of stages, unlocking characters along the way to use in the game's various modes. It is nice to see these are all unlockable in-game, leaving the likes of certain alternate costumes and additional missions available to purchase as DLC instead. It also gives players something to aim for as they work through the different islands, unlocking the likes of Whitebeard, Akainu and other well-known characters from the history of One Piece to use in the game's other modes. There is plenty to unlock in game and thankfully PW3 provides plenty of value for those willing to invest their time playing through the game's various modes.
Those wishing to do any background reading can do so via the game's Gallery Mode. This allows the viewing of character models in their various costumes, the game's soundtrack can be listened to and also provides access to the game's glossary which holds an abundance of information about the One Piece world and its inhabitants.
Pirate Warriors 3 shows developer Omega Force has a great number of ideas left to use yet and thankfully hasn't relied solely on the tried-and -tested formula of the 100-vs-1 format. Although beating a swarm of foes with your character and their allies is always exhilarating, as long as the Pirate Warriors franchise developer can continue to incorporate interesting new ideas and keep the franchise's gameplay fresh, this reviewer at least hopes the series has a long life ahead of it for years to come.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.