At Namco Bandai’s Global Game Day event, I got to play One Piece: Pirate Warriors was actually playable. Granted, it was a Japanese build, but I got to try two episodes from Omega Force’s game.
I decided to start with Episode 0, which took place after the timeskip in the anime series. Sanji and Zoro made brief appearances in an event setting the scene on an island. Luffy starts under siege by waves of generic Marines. A Pacifista lead the charge and Luffy flew around the island, stretching his arms to evade attacks. At first I thought this might be a movie, but it was a setup for a QTE segment. To keep Luffy safe, I had to tap the square, X and finally move the right analog stick to make Luffy escape.
But, escape was impossible against these numbers. Minor enemies kept respawning and it was then that I realized Episode 0 is a tutorial. Unlike Tecmo Koei’s other Warriors games, One Piece: Pirate Warriors encourages players to input specific combos to unleash special attacks. Before I could advance the story, I had to prove to the game I learned the moves by repeating certain combo attacks against enemies. These attacks made Luffy unleash a flurry of punches or a series of super fast kicks. Another combo made Luffy use one enemy as a weapon against the countless mass. It was more rewarding since I didn’t have to rely on button mashing to win.
Tutorial completed, it was time for a serious fight against Pacifista. Instead of a typical Warriors boss battle, this felt more like a duel. In addition to Luffy’s combos, that the game was insistent on me learning,I’d occasionally see QTE segments integrated into the fight. I hit one which made Luffy hop onto the Pacifista’s arm as it attacked, then spin onto its back to pin its arms and force it to the ground.
Luffy emerged from the fight victorious, but it was too early to celebrate. Another Pacifista showed up, but this time Zoro and Sanji stepped in to assist. Once everything was clear, Luffy turned to see Silvers Rayleigh as well. The Straw Hat Pirates can do anything when they stand together!
Episode 1 in the demo was a blast from the past. And when I say past, I mean it took me all the way back to the Buggy the Clown arc of One Piece. Luffy is in Orange Town and runs into Nami… and the pirates who were chasing after her. Another tutorial explains combo moves again (I guess in case someone didn’t play Episode 0?) and then it gets right into the story.
This demo was structured like a standard Warriors mission. Luffy gets objectives as he proceeds through Orange Town with Nami as a companion. I also gained the ability to blow Luffy up like a balloon to repel projectiles back at enemies when I pressed the R1 button. As soon as he reaches the goal area, Nami double crosses Luffy! She captures Luffy and hands him to her former boss Buggy to make amends and rejoin his crew. Buggy changes the deal and tells Nami to kill Luffy. She can’t do it, but doesn’t have to because Zoro shows up to save the day.
Luffy, Zoro, and Nami chase after Buggy again, which gave Tecmo Koei a chance to show off the map. In traditional Warriors games, I would usually hunt down people with names over their heads, since that was usually how to win. Episode 1 of the demo seemed to suggest this isn’t the case with One Piece: Pirate Warriors. Exploration was encouraged and I found an area that only Luffy could access. Pressing R1 made Luffy propel himself over a gap to a new area and then climb up onto a platform to launch up there. It was interesting to see some mild platforming elements added to Omega Force’s hack and slash formula.
If you’re familiar with One Piece, I think you know what happened next. Luffy, Zoro, and Nami catch up to Buggy and clobber him. Nami joins the Straw Hat Pirates and the three head to the Grand Line. I’m proud to say I earned an "A" rank battle result for Episode 0 and a "S" rank for Episode 1 on my first play.
We’ll be able to relive the Straw Hat Pirates saga when One Piece: Pirate Warriors shows up for PlayStation 3 later this year. While other One Piece titles were only released in Europe, Namco Bandai games will bring One Piece: Pirate Warriors to North America too.