Usually, I’m rather skeptical when it comes to anime-to-game transitions. It almost feels like a disaster waiting to happen, no matter how perfect the formula seems to be on the TV screen. However, perhaps what makes One Piece: Pirate Warriors work isn’t that it tries to be the anime and retell all the events that happen up to the long-awaited reunion on Sabody Archapelago. Rather, the game seems to prioritize re-enacting the most memorable scenes in One Piece.
In One Piece: Pirate Warriors, Story events in the Main Log (the main story) are split into two portions—conversation and event scenes.
Conversation scenes aren’t anything special (mostly summary in a manga-style format), but a lot of effort has clearly been put into making the event scenes look beautiful. Just the textures are detailed enough that I could tell what material the clothes were made of. Denim, leather, cotton, different types of fur, the woven straw on Luffy’s hat—everything looks incredibly convincing. To complement this, the shading is done so that it looked like inking done by a pen, like in a manga.
Another real pleasure is being able to watch everyone in the crew dance through their unique fighting styles in ways we’ll never see in either the anime or manga. Despite the potential mess this could’ve made, Pirate Warriors does a good job in making everyone balanced and different. Luffy, being the main character and the one you play during the main game, is all-purpose. Sanji’s combos tend to travel over the field, while Zoro emphasizes close quarters fighting. Nami’s attacks require some set up to pull off correctly but are extremely powerful once you do so. Usopp is long range, while Robin has long, wide range attacks (that are harder to aim). Franky specializes in midrange, while most attacks skip over Chopper. Finally (for the Straw Hat crew), Brook can cause status effects with his music.
On top of the Straw Hat crew, there are four more characters that you can control—Boa Hancock, Jinbei, Whitebeard, and Ace. While these characters’ regular attacks aren’t unique, their special abilities heavily play into their fighting styles.
As its name suggests, Pirate Warriors’ gameplay takes a leaf out of Dynasty Warriors’ book. As I’ve personally never played a game in the latter series, I was a little lost at first, regarding what to do and how to work the map. The manual and in-game tutorial aren’t very helpful, so it was only with some experimentation that I was able to understand how to use the map and what the goal was.
Basically, in the Musou portions, you beat up enemies in a territory until the enemy gauge reaches zero, at which point a Leader appears. Beat the Leader and the area is under your control. You then travel through the newly open gates and do the same thing again. To spice things up a bit, the story will prompt you to complete certain missions. Sometimes you will have to help a crew member defeat an enemy that’s appeared on the map. Other times you will have to hunt down and defeat specific marked enemies all over the map before a certain time limit. Once you reach the end of all the missions (some missions you don’t have to complete successfully, but you do get coins and satisfaction for doing so), a final boss will appear. Defeat him and, in general, the chapter is done.
Not everything is free-for-all button-mashing fighting, though. In both the Musou (especially in the final boss battle) and the Action parts of the Main Log (the main story), Pirate Warriors uses “platforming”. In a pseudo-action game manner, you control Luffy through mazes of enemies and obstacles trying to reach one destination or another. The obstacles are rather ingenious, too, with Luffy using his rubber elasticity in all sorts of manners to fling, cling, and swing from one platform to the next. These are fun and serve to let you see more of the One Piece islands that were never really explored in the manga such as Water 7, and they do break up the tedium of Musou battle after battle nicely. They also fit snugly into the established plot, which is nice.
(The faithfulness of the game in the scenes it does depict is wonderful. About the only complaint I have in this regard is that the costumes aren’t consistent with their costumes in that arc, but of all the problems they could have had, that’s one of the better ones.)
Unfortunately, the same attention can’t be said for the generic lackeys, whose designs get reused and reused ad nauseam over different islands. Some of the Leaders even seem to be less dangerous copies of previous final bosses. However, extra care was put into the final bosses such as Arlong and Kizaru, who are just as intimidating and appropriately difficult as they would be in the original series. Platforming, too, makes an appearance in the boss battles in the main game. For example, in order to put a stop to Warden Magellan’s poisonous attacks, you’ll have to pick up a log and throw it at him to halt him (since Luffy can’t actually touch him). To damage Crocodile, you’ll have to pick up some water from nearby spouts, which will make him both tangible and temporarily stunned.
This part, admittedly, was annoying. While it was more interactive, it also meant that I died at the harder battles solely because I didn’t know which gimmicks to use when the first time around. However, this problem doesn’t appear in Another Log. Another Log is basically where you can use any of the controllable characters in the game on any map in a Musou battle. This levels the characters up (since only Luffy levels up in the Main Log), which in turn makes them stronger in Main Log. Leveling also unlocks new combos for you to use.
For each character you can choose, the maps are unlocked in a vague semblance of a story, but there’s no meat to the pseudo-plot. In fact, the summaries are directly from Main Log and you can even play another character’s route if you wish. I heard that Another Log actually contains alternate routes for the other characters, so perhaps I just haven’t played far enough to see them?
For the Online portion of the game, you’re basically playing Another Log with a friend. In fact, if you set up the session, you can even complete a route by playing Online. Otherwise there’s no real advantage to playing online other than having a partner better than the pretty bad AI and getting better rewards for each battle.
Overall, as a fan, I can’t describe the joy of seeing the best scenes from an anime I love rendered in 3D with the original voices and astounding visuals. At the same time, though, I’m also vaguely sad that this game isn’t designed with people unfamiliar with the series in mind, and doesn’t do much to cater to them.
If you’re someone that likes reading spoilers before watching an anime series, you might like this game. If not, the summary provided in the game is hardly enough for the events that happen between the featured scenes. While the ones shown are amazing—just as touching as they are in the original series if you let the voice run on auto—the summaries that condense what happens in that particular arc before the battles are sorely lacking and do it no justice. In addition, to simplify things, many arcs are simply omitted and some details are changed.
Ultimately, though, One Piece: Pirate Warriors was a fun, memorable experience for me, especially because I haven’t seen some of the series’ standout scenes in anime form. I very much enjoyed watching all the fights in action and revisiting some of the most poignant scenes in the series complete with original voices intact and the gorgeous visuals.
Food for thought:
1. The game can get a bit hand-holding with its prompts and swinging camera angles going “do this here!” during platforming stages. Sometimes the prompts get a bit too zealous and I’m stuck going, “Um, the camera went to fast… Where was it pointing?!”
2. All of the playable characters are well-balanced. Usopp and Nami are far stronger than I thought they’d be, although I did rely on the Crew Strike function (basically summoning another crew member to add a few strikes into the combo) quite a bit with them.
3. The game allows some equipment in the form of Coins. These are dropped after every battle depending on how well you do. Coins can increase stats or three Coins together can unlock a special ability.
4. The auto-camera in this game is absolutely horrid. Better than nothing, but half the time you’ll find yourself manually controlling the camera anyways because it’s moving too slow for the enemy. Also, getting it to lock on is a pain.
5. I absolutely loved the boss battles, despite my complaining about the gimmicky parts in Main Log. Seeing all of the enemies use their attacks was a real treat. I think my favorite was Aokiji, while I had the hardest time with Magellan (for gimmicky and non-gimmicky reasons) and Kizaru. My most despised was Warpool.
6. Scenes and arcs not included in the game include Usopp’s meeting (which is weird if you think about it from a story point of view), Whiskey Peak, Little Garden, Sky Islands, Davy Back Fight, and Thriller Bark. The game essentially ends after Ace’s rescue. Some events in the game are changed to accommodate for final boss fights (I’m pretty sure Luffy never actually fights Akainu) and platforming events, but nothing damaging. The end of the game did add a nice touch to the original series’ events, though.