Let’s start with a bit of background because, like me, you may be unfamiliar with the One Piece Pirate Warriors universe. One Piece is a manga series that started back in 1997 that follows the adventures of a young boy called Monkey D. Luffy who’s body becomes rubberised after eating a Devil Fruit. Since then he and his group of merry men, known as the Straw Hat Pirates search the oceans in pursuit of the One Piece, a piece of treasure that’ll allow him to become the Pirate King.
The series is hugely popular in Japan and with the games drawing large influence from the Dynasty Warriors franchise, and in fact created by the same developers, it’s easy to understand why the original game became a smash hit in it’s homeland, selling over 650,000 copies in the first week of release. One Piece Warriors 2, which we’re reviewing here, has followed only a year after it’s predecessor and hopes to capitalise on the previous game’s success.
One Piece Warriors 2 keeps in pretty light on the story front but there is a thread of a plot to carry the game along. While investigating a laboratory upon the island of Punk Hazard Luffy accidentally triggers the release of a dark fog from some mysterious shell-shaped dials. Monkey and fellow crew-mate Nami manage to escape the fog, however it infects the other Straw Hat Pirates and they turn on their former captain. Monkey has to enlist the help of Smoker, the Vice Admiral of the Marines, Luffy’s enemies, to defeat his turncoat crew-mates. The plot here is not considered to be canon in terms of the One Piece story, instead it’s been written just for the game and doesn’t really give any background to what’s going on or who the characters are. One Piece Pirate Warriors 2 is almost fanservice, made for those with existing knowledge of the manga/anime.
For anyone who’s not played a Dynasty Warriors game, the gameplay of One Piece Pirates 2 follows the same tried and tested route; Beat up waves of enemy characters. Completing a stage will invariably mean you’ve knocked out over a thousand aggressors. You’ll also need to take control of certain points of each map by taking down a leader or captain character, who are recognisable by being significantly bigger and deal more damage than the standard fodder. Capturing the prerequisite number of strategic points will then lead you on to a boss battle against a character with unique attacks that can deal serious damage, especially on the higher difficulty levels. Each stage is short, around 20 minutes each, and this helps to break up the combat which can feel repetitive.
All of the attack moves are mapped to the square and triangle keys, with dodge being x, so the overwhelming majority of your game is going to be spent hammering various combinations of those two keys to trigger and string together various attacks. While knocking out the enemies a style gauge fills, and upon reaching the top you’re able to launch a special attack to decimate your opponents. During this you’re also able to call in one of the secondary characters and take control over them for a limited time, which adds a nice bit of variation to the fight sequences.
Throughout each stage there’s treasure chests that contain items such as food or temporary armour. There’s also pickups that instantly fill your style gauge, which can come in really handy if you’re in a tough spot. Sometimes you’ll come across a coin, and these have a few different functions. You can add these to your character before launching a stage and they’ll add boosts to your health and attacks. Some coins can also be placed in a 3×3 grid and lining them up can unlock perks for your character. This system is pretty poorly explained in game, in fact the menu system in generally is a bit of a minefield, and it takes a certain amount of trial and error to get your head around.
There’s also a potentially interesting multiplayer component in which if you’re in a bit of a tough spot you can send out an SOS, and another person can jump into your game to help out. I do have to say ‘potentially’ though because in the several hours it’s taken me to play through this title I’ve not seen a single request, and when I’ve sent out an SOS myself no one has joined. A local co-op multiplayer mode is also present.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 2 is a very well presented title. Right from the slightly bizarre opening sequence there’s a level of polish that casts asides any suspicion that this sequel is just a cheap cash in. During gameplay each character is well presented and animated, with your attacks looking completely fluid and not disjointed in anyway. While many of the enemies do look the same it’s not something you really pay attention to when there’s a few hundred of them bearing down on you, plus the larger captains and leaders create a visual counterpoint. Similarly, the stages, while not anything spectacular, are bright, vivid and enjoyable to explore, if occasionally slightly lacking in the texture department.Peppered throughout the game there’s also anime sequences to explain what’s going on. These are wonderfully presented and offer another reason for fans of the series to get excited about this title.
A point worth noting is all the voiceover work is performed in Japanese with no option to switch to an English overdub, and as such all the audio is presented to you as subtitles. While there’s no issue with with the translation, so no confusion or unintentional hilarity, having to distract yourself from the attacking hordes in order to read a piece of text that may or may not be crucial to your progress mid-battle can become a problem.
Ultimately, One Piece Warriors 2 isn’t going to convert a newcomer, it’s resolutely aimed at those with a standing interest in either One Piece itself or fans of Dynasty Warriors, both of which would probably derive huge amounts of enjoyment from this title. For an outsider to both, like myself, it’s an average game with a fair amount of repetition which is expected from a game of this genre.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Format: PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Vita Release Date: 30/08/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of One Piece Pirate Warriors 2 for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 8 days on a PlayStation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.