Will you be king of the pirates?
Namco Bandai bring One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 to the PS3 on UK shores, offering another outing for the Straw Hat Pirates in a Dynasty Warriors style game. Get ready for a bunch of crazy characters and hack ‘n slash gameplay that involves the slaughter of thousands upon thousands of enemies.
For those who have not ventured into the One Piece universe before, a little recap. In a world were Pirates are heroes, a small boy is given a straw hat by a well known pirate and vows that he will grow up to become the pirate king. This becomes more plausible when the small boy, named Monkey D Luffy, eats a Devil fruit which basically turns his body to rubber, allowing him to stretch and expand at will. And so, the popular Anime/Manga revolves around Monkey D Luffy on his journey to become the pirate king and the other strange characters he meets along the way, some of which become his crew members and become known as the Straw Hat Pirates. The One Piece Anime/Manga is hugely popular and has been running now for many years, spawning a delightful selection of quirky characters that add real colour to the One Piece universe.
For those who have never turned their hand to a Dynasty Warriors game, another little recap. Traditionally, the Dynasty Warriors games revolve around a huge cast of ancient Japanese warlords, each with different skills or weapons. The player controls one of these warlords as they fight their way in a hack ‘n slash style through many thousands of enemies, across a tactical map which features objectives and bosses. Recently there have been a number of Dynasty Warriors style games set in different themed worlds, such as Gundam and the One Piece themed Pirate Warriors, but the gameplay remains relatively unchanged and offers adrenaline pumping wholesale slaughter where reaching a thousand kills is only the tip of the iceberg.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 offers plenty for fans of both the One Piece universe and the Dynasty Warriors games to be excited about. But more than that, it offers intense, stress relieving fun that is very easy to get engrossed in that will be the perfect introduction for gamers new to both.
Now, I must admit to not being up to date with the One Piece story. I seem to have drifted away around the time that the Straw Hat pirates traveled up into the clouds. This means that a lot of the characters in the crew are new to me, and many have changed. Nami is now wearing far less clothes than she used to, Usopp has buffed up and I don’t know what is happening with Sanji’s eyebrows. Pirate Warriors 2 brings many characters I recognise, including enemies such as Smoker, Crocodile and even everyone’s favorite clown pirate, Buggy, but knowing the characters, or even what is going on, is just not essential to enjoying the game. The cast of Pirate Warriors 2 is huge and, as the game has a completely unique storyline, prior knowledge is just not needed. The characters are quirky and memorable enough to stand on their own without the need for extended backstories.
The story itself is nicely crafted and fits in with the One Piece universe as a whole. Set in the New World, the Straw Hat pirates find themselves caught between the Marines (the naval police) and an alliance of pirate enemies. Things get confusing very quickly and alliances change, not the least because of some mysterious “dials” that turn both members of the Straw Hat pirates and marines evil. Like I say, it’s confusing. But the story really only serves its purpose in the “Pirates Log” mode as a way to bring outlandish characters into a situation where they have to fight hundreds of enemies, and for that I am grateful.
There really is very little better than taking one of the characters, with a friend if you choose through both online and local co-op, and pounding the clusters of enemies that stand in your way. The objectives do not differ much from one map to the next and generally involve working around a battlefield, which is handily shown as a map in the corner with enemy and friendly forces highlighted, and capturing certain points, or defeating sub-bosses to open gates and allow access to further points of interest or bosses.
It is quite easy to get side tracked from the objectives, or the cries for help from other team members, by simply pounding as many enemies as possible. The standard enemies gather in groups and will try to overwhelm the player with sheer numbers. In amongst them will be captains or sub-bosses that may prove a little tougher than the regular grunts, but none really pose a threat until the bosses are faced, and players will soon find their bodycount in the thousands. It is very satisfying.
But this is a feeling that comes with all of the Dynasty Warriors games. What makes Pirate Warriors 2 stand out even more is the replacement of Japanese warriors sporting different types of weapons with Anime characters and their different abilities which make them seem more like superheroes. Whilst some characters may be more run of the mill in their abilities, such as Zoro who fights with swords or Usopp with projectiles, many of the abilities are just bizarre. Monkey D Luffy can stretch and expand his rubbery body, Smoker uses smoke attacks, and Robin who makes giant limbs appear. While the player begins with only a couple of characters unlocked, playing through the Pirates Log will eventually unlock an impressive roster of some 27 playable characters, all with different abilities that are highly entertaining to discover.
The fighting itself is made up of an increasing number of combos from the two attack buttons, and a handy dodge button to get out of trouble or even link combos together. There are meters to fill for unleashing powerful special attacks, and players can bring in another crew member at times to further increase the carnage. As far as things go, it is pretty simplistic, but the frantic pacing and impressive looking moves are almost as enjoyable to watch as they are to play.
Whilst this is all great fun, I have mentioned that things can get a bit repetitive with little variety to the action. The other main problem I found with the game was that the camera view was not always very well placed, which can make it difficult to work out what is happening amongst all of the chaos and bodies flying everywhere.
Beyond the Pirate Log, which is a hefty experience in itself, players will also be able to go back and play previously completed stages in the Free Log mode. There is also a Challenge mode in which players can face off against much more powerful enemies to test their skills. There is a lot of content here and players wanting to unlock everything and level up all of their characters will be enticed to come time and again.
There is a lot to like about One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, and very little to find fault with. The biggest stumbling block would be the repetitive nature of the gameplay which could lead some gamers to find themselves bored before they have their moneys worth. But fans of either One Piece or the Dynasty Warriors games will feel at home here, and newcomers to both may find the frantic battles with over the top characters a nice change of pace to other, more thoughtful games.