The Straw Hat Pirates set sail once again, bringing all the goodness of the legendary anime series to your PS3. Can they save the day yet again?
If you have never played Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors or the wonderfully bad Fist of the North Star games, you might not be familiar with what Omega Force do. Thankfully, it is pretty simple: they throw hundreds of enemies at one hugely powerful unit controlled by the player. You then proceed to decimate everything that moves, working your way up from the cannon fodder to the slightly more impressive men and women who command the cannon fodder. Once you’ve beaten them black and blue, you get to move onto the next mission, with the next batch of enemies to take down.
The combat itself is generally conducted through light and heavy attacks, which can be strung together to perform progressively flashier combos. In the case of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, it is the square and triangle buttons that will get the most abuse, but the circle button will get its fair share as well, as it triggers a devastating special attack unique to each fighter.
Since this a game about pirates it would hardly do to ignore your crewmates, right? String together enough damage and you have the opportunity to go into style mode, where your attacks are strengthened and you have the ability to ignore most enemy strikes. Dish out a ton of damage in style mode and you’ll be able to call in a crew member to take over briefly. It’s a nice change of pace and rounds out the combat system by ensuring it doesn’t become monotonous too quickly.
Unsurprisingly, One Piece’s huge cast of characters and fighting styles lends itself wonderfully to the formula. Pirate Warriors 2 takes advantage of this by choosing not to follow the events of the manga or anime, but instead create its own “Dream Story” to play through. Essentially, this gives Omega Force free reign to include a plethora of characters that would be otherwise unavailable for a variety of reasons. The result is a varied cast that becomes progressively larger as missions are accomplished.
Be my Nakama!
Simply unlocking a character doesn’t make them a part of your crew – and thus eligible to be taken on missions – however. In order to do so you must complete each individual’s Crew Log, a mission that is unique to them. They are generally pretty brief missions, in contrast to some of the main Captain’s Log missions, providing a welcome change of pace, along with rewards unique to that mission.
With your crew sorted out, the vast majority of your time will likely be spent in the Captain’s Log, the main story mode of Pirate Warriors 2. Just because they have not followed the canon storyline of One Piece, doesn’t mean that there is not a perfectly presentable story to follow. There was even a tear jerking moment or two. It requires almost no experience of One Piece either, so even if you know nothing of the story there is plenty of enjoyment to be had. It also does an good job of introducing characters for newcomers, while throwing in plenty of familiar traits and expressions for fans.
The story is presented in a combination of beautifully animated cutscenes and slightly bizarre scenes where characters line up slightly darkened and essentially become full colour and animated for their bit of speech. I’ve done a terrible job of explaining it, but it’s pretty odd and I’m not entirely sure how else to do so. The constant between the two is the compulsory subtitles, which are pretty useful considering that all dialogue is in Japanese.
The game’s visuals are not completely in line with the One Piece style, but it is still recognisably One Piece. Though, occasionally, characters do look a tad like they are made out of plastic, everything comes together when the action begins. When two powerful characters clash and there are people flying across the screen, moves flowing back and forth and other enemies brawling all around the two it is almost awe-inspiring.
Let’s be honest, most tie in games are absolutely awful, and in many ways One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is an exhibition of what can be done with some respect for the source material. The variety that One Piece’s cast comes naturally equipped with makes it a perfect for this type of game and Pirate Warriors 2 takes complete advantage of that. It never lets things get boring, despite the fact that the genre naturally leans toward near endless repetition. Over nearly twenty hours of playing there were only one or two moments where I began to feel like I’d done this all before.
It’s still a tough recommendation to those who don’t like the genre, or perhaps those who don’t know much about One Piece. At the same time though, anyone with an interest in either are in for a treat. There is plenty of fan service for the One Piece fans out there and this is a damn good example of a Musou game.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, by Namco Bandai Games and Omega Force, is available now for PS3.