Whilst I mainly enjoy it, Japanese humour can be a little strange at times which is why our esteemed editor will continually send me an endless supply of unfamiliar JRPGs and action games, but as I start to play One Piece: Pirate Warriors even I find myself struggling to get my head around it.
Starting with the basics, One Piece: Pirate Warriors is based on the long running manga series One Piece, set on a world mostly covered by ocean which is currently in a golden age of piracy where we find famous pirate gangs trying to locate One Piece, a legendary treasure that will crown the finder King of the Pirates. We join a young pirate wannabe called Monkey D Luffy and his crew the Straw Hats as they venture the world in search of this mystical treasure. What's strange about all this is that Straw Hat Luffy has eaten a Devil Fruit called a Gum Gum that has empowered him with some very strange abilities, namely the power to stretch his limbs to impossible lengths, the downside, he can never swim again. Unusual main character aside this strange world just keeps on giving with cutscenes involving skeletons with Afro hair and characters using snails as mobile phones, oh yeah this is a wierd one all right. Even during the opening scenes it is not clear what is going on with clown pirates and giant robot sailors with lasers coming out of their hands doing battle, it's only when you see the developers Tecmo Koei that at least you now you are in safe hands.
Not suprisingly this is another game based on a manga and anime that has been given the Dynasty Warriors treatment, not a bad thing considering how good these titles are, with One Piece Pirate Warriors going down the route of other recent releases like Gundam and whilst the story is a litle confusing, the action is full on.
The Main Log is the story mode, taking us through key moments in the One Piece saga via flashback which to a non fan can be very confusing. With each level completed you can then replay these levels through the Another Log mode, playing as other unlocked characters like Zoro and his triple katanas or if you fancy some co-op action you can even jump online for even more slash and hack action.
Fighting is classic Warriors style, with a couple of basic attacks that can be mixed up, creating a huge selection of insane combos like the gatling gun where Luffy jumps and flings his arms out EHonda hundred hand slap style or grabbing the floor and using his arms as a catapult. With every successful hit Luffy will slowly charge up his Mysou attack, pulled off by pressing circle and letting loose a huge and powerful special move.
Aside from a decent opening set of moves Luffy will also learn more moves as he progresses through the levels, unlocking a variety of Unique Actions that will assist in dealing with specific enemies like blowing his stomach up like a balloon and bouncing back cannon balls or launching his arms out for a ranged attack. Levelling up occurs with defeating enemies and completing levels, with each rank unlocking a variety of new combo moves to try out and even space in you pockets for coin powers. Coins are located all over the world, using the more open platform elements of the levels to hunt down these treasures, with each coin boosting specific attributes, allowing you to swap them around to see what best suits your fighting style.
A bane of many gamer, Quick Time Events make an appearance here but they manage to add more to the action then previous attempts with them being well signposted, keeping them simple and allowing for progression of some of the larger fights, adding a little drama to the full on battles with QTE popping up at final punches.
The level structures are very similar to other Warriors games with plenty of areas to defeat enemies, then taking on the sub-bosses before moving on, however there have been some great improvements as well like mid-way save points and even a little platform exploration to locate more coins. With Warriors games at times throwing hundreds of enemies at you it can be hard to focus your attacks, but with One Piece: Pirate Warriors we have a very handy target lock, focusing on the main boss enemy centre screen and allowing you to strafe and duck around their attacks.
Graphicaly this is the best looking version of a Warriors game to date, Tecmo Koei have been improving the cel shaded graphics for some time now and this release has to be seen to be believed, you really are playing in an anime show with characters having an amazing approach to visuals, each characters animation looking like their manga versions.
A game nicely timed to be released around National Pirate Day, One Piece: Pirate Warriors is going to be hard to convince non fans to play, but check out the comics or TV shows and if you enjoy them, then this is well worth your time.
Words by Ash Buchanan
Review Policy (Version tested: PS3)