One Piece is a Japanese anime franchise that needs no introduction. It’s practically an institution! For the uninitiated, it’s an ongoing manga and anime series set in a fictional world where during his execution, the notorious pirate Gol D. Roger declares all his treasure, the titular One Piece, up for grabs, goading every ambitious pirate out there to claim the treasure and be declared the Pirate King.
One such individual is Monkey D. Luffy and with his crew the Straw Hat Pirates, they set sail to look for One Piece and fulfill each of their individuals goals, along the way getting into epic fights, gaining the respect of some, and incurring the wrath of others.
With a premise like that, it shouldn’t be surprising that a Musou game would be made based on One Piece, and courtesy of the creators of the Musou genre, Koei-Tecmo, no less! Is the 4th game in the series worth your treasured riches? Here’s our review.
Koei’s series of Musou games are basically evolved beat-em-ups. In a wide battlefield you control one hero type character and proceed to beat the living hell out of anything that moves, tens and hundreds at a time. At its core, they’re pretty repetitive and brainless but the appeal of these Musou games is the feeling of being a badass in a war, racking up kill counts, and beating all of your rivals with one fell swoop.
It’s an underrated feeling if we’re being quite honest, because after all of the rough and tumble out there, all you want to do at the end of the day is be the hero and feel like one.
Sounds like something that fits One Piece perfectly, yeah?
The same piece
Like its predecessors, One Piece Warriors 4 (We’ll refer to it as OP4 from now on) is pretty much the same game at its core. You control iconic One Piece characters like Monkey D. Luffy to Zoro and even Chopper, all while navigating this horde of enemies whose only purpose is to be your punching bag.
Stages are divided into sections where a base that spawns endless enemy soldiers will be your target and once you chop enough of the goons down, a leader will appear, standing between you and your goal of capturing the area.
You’d think that being in the same group as the Straw Hats would make the journey a literal walk in the park, but it couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Your AI partners are nothing more than distractions, even distracting you from the main goal since they withdraw so often that you have to continually revive them every single time. It’s a bit frustrating to be quite honest, and paired with a bothersome camera that doesn’t deal with tight spaces very well, it’s literally you against everybody else.
It’s not all doom and gloom, since OP4 has some pretty sweet moves that your character can use. In particular, the game places heavy emphasis on airborne attacks that can deal a great amount of damage to large groups as well as the addition of giant characters like Whitebeard during the Marineford Arc.
Speaking of story arc’s, the game will have you play through the Alabasta Arc all the way to the Wano Arc, meaning you will be controlling Luffy and his crew before and after the 2 year timeskip. Some stories will understandably be relegated to just being narrated like the Thriller Bark and Punk Hazard Arcs for example, unless you want to spend a long while with the game. You do know how long this Anime and Manga series has been going on, right?
Captain’s log #927
The various modes in the game, called “Logs”, bring you on numerous adventures that are varied enough to provide a number of hours with the game. Dramatic Log has you playing through the narrative, with each arc being divided into 5 or 6 chapters. During the Dressrosa Arc for example, Sanji isn’t playable since he wasn’t around during that time. However once you finish a certain chapter, it will be available in Free Log and here you can pick anyone to replay that chapter! Fancy finishing the Wano Arc with Ace? Not so impossible anymore.
There is also the Treasure Log mode, basically non-Canon scenarios that puts One-Piece characters in various situations. It was particularly clever of the game to incorporate the characteristics of One Piece characters into the gameplay, like Sanji having a disadvantage in a particular stage because of female characters, and then finding that attacking female enemies which cause him to flinch. This is Sanji the ladies man we are talking about after all!
The Straw Hat arsenal
OP4 has a pretty easy learning curve, so don’t let all the flashy and wave clearing attacks fool you. You only have Normal and Charge Attack buttons to manage and you can practically button mash your way to victory, we kid you not.
Musou games can look overly simplistic but OP4’s Skill and Special Attack systems do offer a level of strategy. Aside from your Normal and Charge Attacks, you can assign up to four Special Attacks that are powerful moves consisting of either crowd clearing attacks, grabs, or the stat increasing Full-Force Bursts. You start off with just a certain number but progressing through the game’s narrative and Growth Maps will unlock more Special Attacks, giving you a choice of what combinations you would like to bring to battle. Some Full-Force Bursts even lets you change form, which in turn gives you access to new moves.
On the other hand, Skills are buffs that you can equip and the more Skill slots you unlock in the Growth Maps, the more you can have at the same time, examples being skills that increases Berries you earn after a battle or makes it easier to capture areas.
Finishing levels in OP4 will net you not just Crew Points (Experience), but also Berries and Coins, the former being the currency in One Piece. You’ll need to be especially wary of completing the different main and sub mission objectives to gain a higher score in the end, which in turn give you more rewards as you use them for Growth Maps, OP4’s equivalent to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grids.
Each island on these Growth Maps represent a certain stat, be it levelling up Special Attacks, Skills slots, Defense, or Stamina. So the more Berries and Coins you spend on a particular island, the higher the stats bonuses gets. Fear not, as the game is quite generous with rewards but you will still need to be careful as you may have the coins needed but suddenly find yourself short on Berries, and vice versa.
It also goes without saying that the more islands you fill up, the bigger your arsenal gets in the form of more Special Attacks and Skills.
Part of the fun in the game is getting to choose your favorite character and you’ll be pleased to know that you have access to a wide variety of One Piece characters, with their respective fighting styles faithfully recreated.
Power types, like Luffy and Zoro, have very strong and crowd clearing attacks. Speed types are weaker but are faster so some of your favorites like pre-timeskip Sanji and Sabo fall here. There’s also the Technique type characters, who have indirect attacks, requiring a bit of… Well, technique, to use effectively in battle. Examples of Technique types are Usopp, who fights with his trademark slingshot and can plant bombs and Robin, who attacks using her Devil Fruit ability.
And then there’s the Sky type fighters, whose attacks are more effective when they’re airborne like Crocodile and post-timeskip Sanji. Even Luffy can become a Sky type when you activate his Bounceman Full-Force Special Ability. Seeing these different types of fighters was a great motivation to try out each one, and although they control all the same way, the fun is finding which One Piece character suits your style the most.
Silly Monkey (D. Luffy)
Koei-Tecmo have proven themselves in terms of graphics and character models, and Pirate Warriors 4 is no different, though there are some letdowns. While the cinematic cutscenes play nicely, recreating certain iconic One Piece scenes, the in-game cutscenes are a mixed bag. They play fairly well but sometimes the faces just don’t match the situation, with Luffy looking neutral for a very emotional scene, for example.
Some in-game scenes, however, like Sanji and Luffy’s fight in the Whole Cake Island Arc, can be really heartfelt. It feels a little inconsistent that cinematics can show varying levels of emotions but the in-game ones don’t, which clearly shows a certain level of laziness with games like these.
Despite these though, the world of One Piece is faithfully recreated, from the setting to the characters. Progressing through the game even lets you unlock different outfits, especially since some characters have pre and post timeskip looks.
It’s also a nice touch that when you knock enemies into walls they will sometimes crumble, leaving a noticeable mess. This is just a great representation of One Piece given how destructive the fights can be, a Straw Hat trademark to say the least. Speaking of which…
Sound is another one of those mixed bag moments in OP4. On one hand, all the major One-Piece characters are faithfully voiced by their Japanese actors. The random grunts too are well voiced, especially when you hear them cowering and screaming when being blown away. The music too, is also well done, consisting of mostly guitar riffs that are sure to get your blood pumping as you head into battle.
On the other hand, it’s a shame not to hear a lot of familiar One Piece music. It was especially disappointing to not hear any of the opening songs from One Piece when booting up the game, clearly an opportunity missed to cater to fans of the series.
What we liked:
- Mindless fun
- Faithful recreation of the One Piece Universe
What we didn’t like:
- Too repetitive
- Very long unlock grinds
- Of little value to those already familiar with the series
Verdict: Wait for it…
Like most Musou games, OP4’s fun but repetitive gameplay is both its strength and weakness. We understand this is intentional as the appeal of Musou games but it may not appeal to everyone. The game especially feels like a long grind when you do almost the same thing in each Arc, finishing a moderate number of missions even to just unlock other characters.
What could have saved it is the story. Unfortunately, like most anime based games, it’s treading on familiar territory. One Piece fans may not mind retelling the adventures of the Straw Hat’s, but the gameplay really doesn’t do enough to make you want to sit through their escapades.
Then again, sometimes, all you need is a simple button masher game and OP4 serve that purpose for you, especially if you are a fan of the Anime and Manga series. It’s good to have one or two of these games in your library, but it’s really not worth recommending at full price. Wait a bit, you’ll thank us for it.
*One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publishers.