Somewhat of a reboot in the series, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 goes back to the beginning of the 18 year old anime – making it a welcome entry point for newcomers to the series. Starting with a recap of how Gold Roger the Pirate King’s death ignited the search for the great One Piece treasure (kick-starting the Great Age of Pirates), we see Luffy grow from a youngster to an adolescent gathering his crew in order to set sail and join the race to find the aforementioned treasure.
As a newcomer to the series myself, I was pleasantly surprised that this title does go back to the beginning – as I initially feared that I would not be able to pick up the story as easily in this title, having never watched the anime or playing any of the previous games. So after a few cutscenes, I got stuck into the game’s main campaign.
You know what type of game you are in for when you see the Omega Force logo flash up on the screen as game boots up, and One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 will be extremely familiar to anyone who has played any of the developer’s previous musou titles such as the Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors series. Not having not played a musou title since Dynasty Warriors 2 released on the PlayStation 2 back in the year 2000 due to the fact that they bored me senseless, I was both a little intrigued and cautious when starting my journey with One Piece.
If you haven’t played a musou game before, what you can expect is a fighting game that takes place on a battlefield with a few allies and many opponents. When you start the game you will play as Luffy (unlocking many more characters as you progress) and will take on a seemingly endless swarm of basic enemies – ranging from other Pirate clans to Marines and Zombies – that look more threatening than they actually are. These enemies take a few attacks and will then go down, with tougher enemies coming in the form of Captain and Commander types that act as mini-bosses if you like. You will also encounter enemies from the One Piece series on the field that are central to the anime’s story – and then do battle with them in order to progress through the stage.
Starting a stage is a simple as selecting which crew member you want to play as and then diving into the action. You will normally start at one corner of a map and be tasked with making your way through the battlefield to defeat a boss/find a comrade – usually located in the opposite corner of the stage. Whilst doing this you will have many mini-quests thrown at you that usually require for you to capture an area of the map and claim it as Straw Hat Pirate (Luffy’s crew) territory, or to defeat a Captain/Commander/Enemy Character in order to open up a route to your final destination.
There are 20 or so stages in the game, split into chapters that depict different periods of time during the anime’s lifecycle. When playing these stages you will find that the action will be interrupted by character dialogue and cutscenes that help to fill in the game’s story for those that are new to the series. These cutscenes are quite enjoyable, but some do feel like they are there just to prolong the length of a stage.
Likewise, when you start a stage you are given criteria that you need to achieve/ensure does not happen. If an ally takes a certain amount of damage then they will retreat from the battlefield and some missions will task you with ensuring that certain allies do not retreat. You can bet your bottom dollar that when you are one side of the battlefield that one of the allies whom you are tasked with protecting will cry for help from the other side – forcing you to race across the map to heal your comrade. As mentioned, I feel that these are thrown in to add extra seconds to stages that take roughly fifteen minutes or so to complete. This length fits in with the notion of a portable title as (at times) you want something that you can drop in and out of, but they can get a little repetitive after a while due to the fact that each map feels similar to the last with just a different skin and a slight change in layout.
When it comes to combat, those that have played any of Omega Force’s previous titles will instantly recognise the battle mechanics that are available in One Piece Pirate Warriors 3. You have both light and heavy attacks at your disposal, which can be chained into combos alongside a new feature in the form of the Kizuna system. This system fits in perfectly with One Piece Pirate Warriors 3’s insanely over the top style, where you can select a team mate to join forces with you at the end of a combo – with a gigantic super available once you have maxed out a bar in the top left of the screen that causes incredible destruction. You can switch between the comrades that are paired to you while completing a mission by using the d-pad, and I would encourage you to do this as it will lead to your Kizuna attacks; featuring multiple characters, all using their powers alongside you to perform both a powerful and visually stunning attack – able to KO most of the enemies that are unfortunate to be on the screen at the time.
The many characters that are available to play as all have a number of combos that they can use. These combos are particularly useful when you are playing through the missions in hard mode, but on normal difficulty you will find that you can just spam Square in order to progress. This button mashing does take some fun out of the game, so mastering these combos is a good way to increase your enjoyment of OPPW3.
The great thing about One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 is that with all of the enemies that are on screen at once the game still manages to run smoothly and look fantastic on the PlayStation Vita. The game is colourful and the main characters look great – transitioning from anime to a 3D world without any compromises. I only encountered a bit of slow down during one boss battle, although the game does suffer from enemies and characters popping into view when there are a lot of enemies already on screen. These are only minor niggles, but they are worth a mention nevertheless.
The soundtrack for the game is also of a good quality with music familiar to the series and a guitar-heavy theme present throughout the many stages. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3’s language track is only available in Japanese with English subtitles – which may be a turn-off for some, but personally I prefer games that stick to the original language rather than having a butchered attempt at localisation that some games feature.
Aside from the main story, there is a free play mode and a ‘Dream Mode’ that adds much more to the game. Dream Mode is a remixed version of the story that sees you island hopping, fighting off various enemies in unique situations whilst unlocking more characters to add to the ever expanding roster. There is also an online mode that allows for you to play through the game’s story mode with a co-op partner either via ad-hoc or online – allowing for you and a friend (or stranger) to fight your way through the enemy hordes together.
It will take you around 15 hours or so to see most of what One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 has to offer, but for the completionist you can add another 30-40 hours to that time – especially if you want to fully max out each of the characters that are available to utilise. You can also upgrade characters stats by collecting rare coins from fallen bosses, although the game itself dictates what bosses you need to defeat in order to upgrade certain stats (meaning it can take a little longer to reach a character’s full potential).
In all, I found that One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 was an enjoyable game to play through, even if at times the action did become a little repetitive; I think the name One Button Pirate Warriors would suit it better for all the time that I just pressed Square. I feel that if this was an entry in the Samurai Warriors or Dynasty Warriors series then I would not have enjoyed it as much, so I think it is safe to say that the One Piece license combined with the gameplay help to make this game a success.
Although One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 does nothing new or out of the ordinary, fans of the series will love this title. For those that are not fans of the series then it is a good game if you want something you can just sit back, relax and play without thinking too much – but don’t expect to be blown away by Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates PlayStation Vita outing!