The Strawhat Pirates’ wacky adventures start off with them shooting up into the Sky Islands to escape the Marines. There, they face off with a familiar face, Enel. The confrontation is shockingly short since Enel has apparently not learned any new tricks since his last encounter with Luffy. Oh how you’ve fallen, Enel, degraded to being nothing more than the appetizer here.
Not long after their victory, they happen upon Punk Hazard. Just when I thought the game might take a jab at the original story at Punk Hazard, instead the crew discovers a strange dial (shell-shaped power sources with a wide variety of effects) that turns everyone except Luffy, Nami, and Smoker battle-crazed. With no choice, the last remaining three fighters do the smart thing and run.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 revolves around an original story that crosses through many familiar islands (and possibly time itself—how else would Ace be playable?!). We follow Luffy’s journey as he teams up with a wide roster of pirates, both Strawhat and not, and even Marines as he searches for a way to get his crew back. To me, the story was fairly average; it links the missions together and succeeds in throwing everyone possible into the huge boiling pot that is Pirate Warriors 2, but it isn’t particularly deep.
A total of 37 characters, such as Marco, Perona, Mihawk, and Law, are usable, and the highlight of the game is definitely playing around with all these characters and their fighting styles. For example, Marco has travels a lot when he’s comboing, but his strikes are so powerful that as he sweeps his enemies along, you’ll find him taking out tens of enemies at once. Smoker is much close-range and a tad slower than Luffy, but his Jitte strikes are powerful and his attacks tend to gather the enemies into neat little clumps for further attacks. The only downside to that is I started having trouble transitioning back to Luffy.
As usual, in Pirate Warriors 2, you beat the crap out of swarms of enemies as they try to overwhelm you. If you defeat enough in an area, the leader appears and defeating him would earn you control of that territory. As you level up, you can string together more intricate and powerful combos.
This sounds simple, but Pirate Warriors 2 spices missions up with different objectives. Sometimes you are encouraged to support the AI by not defeating the bosses until they reach them. Other times you need to find and defeat a certain minor enemy first before they can deliver an item. Either way, the missions in Pirate Warriors 2 keep you on your toes. Sometimes it may be difficult to keep track, since you can have multiple objectives going on at the same time, but you can always press Start to check the flow of messages that have appeared over the course of your mission.
However, gone are the QT exploration events in the previous game. This time, we only have missions, though there are a few options around this time around. I feel the game doesn’t lose anything by doing away with the exploration sequences—indeed, I know some who were very glad that these events didn’t break the missions up anymore.
For missions, you can choose Pirate’s Log, which is essentially story mode, or Free Log, which has all the same missions as in Pirate’s Log but with the story scenes stripped. Only missions completed in Pirate’s Log can be played in Free Log. Once you choose either one, you can then select either Main Episode or Crew Episode. Main Episode covers the main story that is described above. These missions are unlocked by completing the previous one.
Crew Episode is unlocked as different characters join you and as you complete other Crew Episodes. These are basically shorter missions with a simple scenario that has you facing off against the crewmember in question. These are nice ways to level up while still completing something new (instead of playing old missions in Free Log over and over again), and my favorite part is that you can unlock many useful goodies.
One such unlockable is a wide variety of support characters. Originally, you can only readily use the Strawhat crew as support crew, but as you play other characters’ Crew Episodes, you’re able to use other playable characters such as Jimbei and Smoker as well. In addition, if you persist with the Crew Episodes long enough, you can also unlock characters you usually can’t use, such as the CP9. Support characters appear during Crew Strikes, which switch your player character out temporarily and you control the support character for a short period of time.
In addition to levels, you also earn coins as you complete missions. These are gathered from the treasure boxes you find onstage. Coins are assigned to each stat, with the number of coins per stat increasing as you gain levels. As you proceed through the game, you will collect Skill Notes, which are 3×3 spread of coins. Filling up any row, column, or diagonal will unlock a skill that you can later equip on the character. Once you own any combination, the skill is unlocked and you can equip these skills on your character.
For those who like a challenge, every level also has 3 Secret Coins that can only be obtained through completing certain objectives (such as achieving S rank). These give incentive for you to return to an old level, which you may have to do since using a variety of characters in Pirate’s Log will likely make you below your recommended level.
You can actually catch up in level easily by forking out the cash. Doing so will allow you to increase your level, with the maximum being the highest level in your party. In other words, you can increase a character from level 1 to any level up to level 15 if the most powerful character in your party is level 15.
My favorite extra to the game is the Gallery. Spending money you earn in missions at the Gallery will buy you many different features. There are the standard music and videos, but in addition, you can buy wanted posters, which let you see the characters showing off their moves; Transponder Snails, which allow to hear in-battle character voices (including the hilarious Love Love voice for certain male characters); and albums, which allow you to view the wide array of expressions of the characters in dialogue scenes. You can purchase these not only for usable characters but also enemy characters, which makes this a fun way to spend an hour or so if you have everyone’s.
Food for thought:
1. The count of 37 usable characters is a little misleading, to tell the truth. 10 of the characters are different forms of existing characters, such as the Strawhat Pirates’ pre-New World selves, so there are in reality 27 unique people to use. That’s still quite a number.
2. The camera is improved, with a simple targeting system for Leaders or Boss enemies. Another aesthetic changed is more dynamic dialogue scenes; instead of a manga-like panel appearing in a corner, 3D models are used as portraits. These portraits can be viewed in the Gallery once you purchase Albums.
3. Challenge episodes are exactly what they sound like. All the DLC scenarios seem to be Challenge episodes.
4. Transferring data from the first Pirate Warriors earns you a whopping amount of money.