One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 returns for another pirate adventure on the high seas. The fantastical charm of One Piece collides with the addictive gameplay action of the long-running Dynasty Warriors series to create an all-new video game concept fans have been dreaming about. Riding the wave of success from the original 2012 One Piece: Pirate Warriors, it’s only natural a sequel would eventually be produced. With only a year in-between releases, is there enough to make Pirate Warriors 2 a game worth plundering?
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed)
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Release: (EU) August 30th 2013, (JP) March 20th 2013, (NA) September 3rd 2013
If you’re not familiar with One Piece, here’s a brief history lesson. The One Piece series began as a manga comic back in 1997, and since then has developed into one of the longest running (and still running) anime series of our time, producing plenty of anime and video games along the way. With the anime now stretching well beyond 600 episodes, there’s an abundance of source material for developers Omega Force to work with, maybe even a little too much. Whereas Pirate Warriors was based on the manga’s canon (original) story line, Pirate Warriors 2 features an original story, plus the story arcs previously missing in its predecessor.
Pirate Warriors 2 follows the adventures of Pirate King wannabe Monkey D. Luffy, who; as a young boy accidentally consumes the Gum-Gum Fruit, bestowing the ability to turn his body into rubber. Now all grown up, Luffy and his crewmates (known as the Straw Hats) set out in pursuit of the ultimate pirate booty, One Piece. While sailing the seas one fine day, a mysterious purple fog appears, transforming those consumed by the shroud into zombified versions of themselves. Luffy now must battle against the affected, to free them of the fog’s hold. Due to these bizarre turn of events, Luffy will team up with sworn enemies, even the Marines (the One Piece authorities) in order to set things right.
If you were to say that Pirate Warriors 2 is just another Dynasty Warriors title with One Piece characters, you’d be partially right, but is that really a bad thing? The gameplay centers on controlling a single character on a battlefield, advancing their way through wave upon wave of lesser enemies; and the odd general-type, before taking on a boss fight as the stage concludes. It’s mash-button heavy and chaotic, regularly taking on tens, to hundreds of AI-controlled adversaries all at once, while on your way to completing your level objectives. The formula has worked for over a decade and even in its barest form would still be plenty of fun to play.
Where things differ from Dynasty Warriors are the mechanics, with the inclusion of supporting character roles, topped off with character move sets ripped straight out of the anime. Fans of the series will get a real thrill out of characters launching into their signature moves, but even players that know next to nothing about One Piece will still find loads of satisfaction executing combos and special attacks. The gameplay is blisteringly fast pace and stylish, with special effects lighting up your screen every few seconds.
Being a one player and co-op experience, most of your time will be spent in the Pirate’s Log portion of the game, playing through episodes of both the main campaign and Crewmate mode. The campaign comprises 12 story missions playable as a selection of pirates and crew, in both single and split-screen co-op mode. Split-screen is acceptable, but still feels limited due to the unavoidable viewing size for each player. When connected online, players can utilize an SOS option to call for help in a story mission, with online players able to jump in and provide assistance if things get a little hairy. At the end of each level, you’ll receive a grade based on damage inflicted, special attacks used, and coins collected. The story mode will run you approximately 10 hours of gameplay, if you don’t factor in all the other things to collect and do.
An interesting mechanic is the coin customisations. Found in treasure chests and dropped off defeated enemy bosses, coins help to improve your character’s stats. By finding more of the same coin, a coin can be levelled up and used to purchase skill notes and coin sets. Coin sets are used to customise your character, with slots to improve their attack, defense, health, etc. The more levels you earn, the more slots that will become available to you. Some adjacent coins have modifier bonuses adding another degree of thought. Skill Notes are found throughout the game, unlocking more skills to use with your characters. These skills tend to add boosts when low on health, increasing attack and defense as a last ditch salvation.
Taking a page out of more recent Dynasty Warrior titles, Pirate Warriors 2 allows one main character, a supporting crewmate and additional skills and coins to be chosen before each story mission. Characters come in two varieties: Attacker and Technical. Attackers do more damage while Technical offers precision and time altering effects. Each character has two main attacks, both of which can be levelled up to unlock further combos and moves.
While in the heat of battle, defeating enemies fill a special attack gauge and once full can be unleashed to devastate multiple on-screen enemies at once. A Style Action Mode can also be harnessed, resulting in your character glowing and doing increased damage. Cause enough damage and a crew member can be called out and taken control off for a limited time, before reverting back to your original chosen character.
Asides from story missions, there are also crew episodes where defeating a crew member will unlock them for use in the game. Episodes vary in difficulty, with some tougher bosses best tackled after completing most of the story components. Crew episodes play in the same vein as story missions where you’ll need to beat-up henchment, complete side objectives and take down a designated crew member. There’s also Challenge Mode to test your talents on downing bosses under certain restrictions.
Completionists will have plenty to spend their hard won Beli (in-game currency) on. Fun extras such as music, gallery images, movies, new actions, voices, facial expressions, items and more can be unlocked and admired. They don’t go beyond the cosmetic side of things and won’t affect the gameplay much, moreso there as additional content to explore once you’re finished the bulk of the game.
Graphically, Pirate Warriors 2 is a beautiful canvas of vibrant eye-popping colours on the coastal seas. The palette is bright and full of complimentary colours that really bounce off each other to produce wonderful immersive scenery, every bit as pretty as the anime. The cutscenes play like an episode straight out of the anime, utilising Pirate Warriors 2 unique style of animation. There are the odd slow-downs as you’d expect given the heavy demand on the PlayStation 3 with so many things happening at once.
Audio is an explosion of high tempo, rock inpsired tunes you’d usually expect to find in a Dynasty Warriors title, except with a subtle One Piece hint incorporated to each of the melodies. Voices are completely in Japanese with English subtitles. Voice dubbing is absent here, but most fans probably won’t mind as the high pitched Japanese voice of Luffy hasn’t been lost.
There’s not much to complain about with One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2. Omega Force have managed to keep the lustre of the first Pirate Warriors, and tweak it just enough to improve the series for both One Piece fans and hack-n-slash gamers. Even if you’re not all that familiar with One Piece, it’s easy enough to get stuck into Luffy’s high seas adventure, particularly with an easy to follow story, likable characters, and a gameplay style harnessed over a generation of Dynasty Warriors hack-n-slash titles.
8.0 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.