Despite its issues, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 on the PlayStation 3 was one of the better musou titles of the last generation, and while its successor doesn’t deviate dramatically from the formula established by its highly successful predecessor, thanks to an array of minor technical, structural and artistic improvements, as case could be made for, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 on the PlayStation 4 being the best musou title ever released.
Heady praise indeed, but much warranted all the same; One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 takes Omega’ Force’s often misunderstood musou template and polishes it to within an inch of its life. Yes, this is still undeniably musou as we know it, but despite its innate familiarity, there is no getting around just how much care and attention that has clearly gone into every element of the games’ design.
Above all else, this is a fantastic One Piece: Pirate Warriors game made by a developer with a clear understanding and obvious love for the source material. Omega Force, for all their faults, certainly do fan service better than most, and here, that fan service has been turned up all the way to 11. With over 40 playable characters and an array of destinations, impressively animated character abilities and a host of finer details for diehard fans of the series, Pirate Warriors 3 goes above and beyond to ensure that the hardcore are catered for.
Saying that, it’s not like the casual crowd (of which I am a member) are hung out to dry. In fact, the games fantastic story mode runs through the entire history of Eiichiro Oda’s anime and manga, a history that rather amazingly goes back over 18 years. Of course, some events are inevitably given more focus than others and all of them essentially boil down to a big fight given the nature of the game, but as someone with only a rudimentary knowledge of the series beforehand, I feel that Pirate Warriors 3 provides as good an introductory experience to the series as you are likely to find in any medium.
Further to the genuinely brilliant story mode is the all new, but equally fantastic, Dream Log Mode. On the surface, this is a much more arcadey mode, what with its grid system and boss battles, but with numerous additional events and tons of unlockables, Dream Log Mode provides just as much content (and maybe even more) than the actual story mode. Of course, the underlying gameplay remains largely unchanged, but for those looking to get the most out of the experience, this all new game mode will prove a very welcome addition indeed.
While there is no online co-op for Dream Log Mode, the ability to take on story missions with a friend is still a fantastically entertaining experience, and while the matchmaking is still a little iffy, it certainly appears to be a step-up in quality from the rather ropey servers of its immediate predecessor.
Still, online or not, Pirate Warriors 3 encourages fun with friends more than ever before thanks to the addition of co-op friendly kizuna attacks. While the majority of the core gameplay is unchanged with the usual selection of aesthetically pleasing character specific standard attacks and an array of pyrotechnic specials all present and accounted for, the kizuna attacks and subsequent (and utterly spectacular) kizuna rush attacks do put an all-new emphasis on working with teammates to make your way through the hordes of enemies between you and your objective.
Speaking of hordes – they have never been bigger or more impressive than they are here. The technical oomph of the PS4 allows for more enemies than ever before and with your own abilities and attacks being afforded that extra layer of polish, One Piece: Pirate Warriors has never looked so good. Some of the environments can be a little dull (more from a design than an aesthetic perspective), but even with the mandatory selection of rudimentary maps, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is a genuinely impressive piece of technical video game development that shines all the brighter thanks to the wonderful art design at the heart of its source material.
It’s at this point in a review of an Omega Force musou title that I would usually tell you that as good as the game might be, it won’t convert those who have already made their mind up about Dynasty Warrior style beat-em-ups, but you know what, this one might just change your mind. If you’re a fan of One Piece, then this is the very definition of a no-brainer, but even if you’re not, even if you’re a fan of anime/manga with little more than a passing knowledge of One Piece, this game will do more than most to convince your of the series’ unique charms. Earlier in the review I said that a case could be made for, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 being the best musou game ever released, but the more I think about, the more I think that there’s no real argument to the contrary.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.