One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is the latest entry in the Musuo series based on the most popular anime and manga of all time. The game definitely isn’t for people who are unfamiliar with the franchise, but the developers have improved upon almost every aspect of the formula of the series with One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, leading to the best entry in the series yet.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 uses the same gameplay as the Dynasty Warriors series, but transplanted into the world of One Piece. The story of One Piece is filled with frantic battles and heated chases, as Luffy and his crew battle against armies of marines or enemy pirates, so the franchise is a perfect fit for this style of gameplay. The general goal of each level is to take control over areas of the map by wading through weaker foes and taking down elite units & bosses.
The story of One Piece follows Monkey D. Luffy on his journey to becoming the Pirate King. We won’t go into depth regarding the story of One Piece, because the game certainly doesn’t. Unlike One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 which went through the story of One Piece from the beginning of the series until the Dressrosa arc, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 only gives snapshots of the story. The game starts during the Alabasta arc and skips over large parts of the story (except in short cut-scenes). In this regard, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is definitely meant for longtime fans of the series who are caught up with the story.
The abbreviated storytelling does pay off in terms of the level design. In One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, many of the stages were identical in terms of what the player needed to do in order to finish them. In One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, the map design is more dynamic and open, while the stage mechanics and objectives are varied enough to keep the story mode interesting throughout the playthrough. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 might not cover all of the stories of One Piece, but it does let players experience the most exciting parts of it.
The only major issue with the story mode is the lack of co-op play. There are separate co-op stages in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, but these usually involve regular boss battles & map control levels. There is only a handful of levels that only require a single player, so there is no reason why co-op couldn’t have been included in the story mode.
Sailing Into The Grand Line
The levels in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 are much better designed than in its predecessor, but it wouldn’t matter if the gameplay hadn’t been altered to match. Fortunately, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has added new elements to the combat & exploration that have vastly improved the experience. It’s now possible to smash buildings with special attacks, and while this doesn’t significantly alter the gameplay (there are plot-relevant barriers that can’t be broken) it does make the levels feel more dynamic and combat more exciting when you punch enemies through stone walls.
The biggest new addition to One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is jumping and aerial combat. All of the player characters can now leap in huge bounds and perform attacks and special moves in the air. Some of the characters even tailor their moveset around fighting in the air, such as Sanji’s skywalk form. The ability to jump adds a level of verticality to the stages that makes them a lot more fun to explore and it’s now easier to traverse stages when the player is in a hurry. The ability to juggle enemies or escape from combat in the air adds a lot to the fluidity of combat and makes it easier to evade attacks. The only issue with the jumping mechanic is that the camera sometimes has trouble keeping up when the player is zipping around the stage.
The combat mechanics have also been improved in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4. The characteristics and movesets of each character have been altered in order to make them feel more diverse, with everyone falling into a power/speed/technique type that determines their combat style and abilities. All characters now have skill boards with abilities that are unlocked by spending cash, so players can choose to specialize in certain areas or just focus on one character to the detriment of others if they have a favorite.
Two other changes to the game include the addition of giant characters and the armor gauge. The world of One Piece has its share of massive humans and giant monsters, some of which are now playable in the game. These giant foes pack a punch and players will have to switch up their tactics in order to avoid damage and take these behemoths down, as a full-on aggressive approach is a recipe for disaster. The armor gauge is a separate mechanic that protects enemies from damage until it’s depleted. Once the player breaks down the armor gauge, the enemy will be stunned and susceptible to damage, so the player needs to save their special moves for these moments of weakness. These giant battles are a perfect fit for the One Piece world and their addition is one of the best parts of the game.
War In The New World
When the player enters battle in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, the game maintains its frame rate and only a few of the special moves caused any kind of slowdown, but even these were brief. The same cannot be said of the main menu. We played One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on the PlayStation 4, and there were significant load times on the menus outside of battle, to the point where they became a distraction. Fortunately, the player won’t spend too long on these menus in comparison to the rest of the gameplay, but it’s still frustrating.
A lot of games based on anime/manga properties are slapdash affairs that rely on the strength of their license to sell copies. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is not that kind of game. This is a title that is intended for One Piece fans and it offers one of the most fun trips to the world of pirates so far. There are a few design and technical niggles that stop the game from being a must-have experience and those not familiar with the franchise should play One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 first (or, you know, read the manga/watch the anime) in order to catch up, but the One Piece fans of the world can’t go wrong with One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4.
A PlayStation 4 copy of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 was provided to TheGamer for this review. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
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