While other series have grown and become more complex, the Warriors games of today are pretty much identical to the original Dynasty Warriors 2 back on the PlayStation 2. That’s goes for One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 too, as it is identical to One Piece Pirate Warriors on the PlayStation 3 in most major aspects.
As in the original Pirate Warriors, the latest in the series still follows the adventures of Luffy and the Going Merry (and later Thousand Sunny) crew as they traverse the Grand Line and into the New World. One thing that Pirate Warriors 3 does differently from previous games in the series is that it attempts to tell a cohesive plot, one that starts right at the beginning of the anime.
It follows the major arcs (Arlong Park, Enies Lobby and others prior to the Dressrosa arc) of the anime, though in severely truncated form. After all, condensing several episodes of an anime into a single stage requires massive sacrifice on what can be told (and not told). While it’s a bit disappointing that Omega Force took this route, it’s understandable; as an anime accurate version of the game would have been unrealistic.
Despite that, the stages themselves are decently sized. They’re not as huge as those in the other Warriors games but they are filled with enemies and more importantly, have secret Treasure Events that you can trigger by fulfilling certain conditions. These events offer more insight into the stage’s story but are otherwise optional, though you’ll need to unlock them if you’re planning on leveling up your characters.
Gameplay in Pirate Warriors 3 will undoubtedly be familiar to fans of the series. You run around the stage, taking over bases and defeating hundreds of baddies, while taking on characters from the series. Story Log takes you through the events of the anime right up to the current Dressrosa arc, with an alternate ending specific to the game. While playing Story Log, players might receive requests for help. This is a feature you can activate to request help from other players if you need help with a particular stage. If you answer a request (instead of sending out one), you get extra coins and experience for helping out.
Free Log allows you to replay the cleared stages from Story Log, with any characters that you have unlocked. The final mode is Dream Log which is an open-ended game mode that has you island hopping (literally). Each island is a battle and you can usually choose what side of the fight to play on. These aren’t part of any story and are ‘What If’ scenarios. On certain islands, boss characters await. Defeating them will unlock them for play in Free Log or Dream Log.
While you can play Dream Log from the get go, the islands quickly escalate in difficulty, which means you’ll need to either grind the lower level stages or play the Story Log to level up. Luckily, you only need a single high level character. Beli (credits that you earn for stage completion) can be used to ‘buy’ levels, so that you can instantly level up an unused level 1 character to the same level as your highest character. Due to this, it is sorely recommended you focus on one character (we suggest Luffy) from the beginning and take him as high as possible and then use Beli to level up other characters.
Like traditional Warriors games, characters get stronger as they gain experience from battles. While their base stats do increase, Pirate Warriors 3 also has another levelling system in place to complement the normal levelling. This system uses coins, which you get from defeating important enemies in the various modes.
Coins are usually of the defeated character, the character you’re using and sometimes your partner character. So if you want extra Zoro coins for example, use Zoro or play in stages where the Straw Hat Pirates are your opponents. As each character requires different coins, you’ll inevitably need to play all characters to earn their individual coins. On top of that, completing the treasure log of certain stages and character milestones also have special coin rewards. Needless to say, if you are a completionist, it will take you a long while to get it all.
There are a good variety of characters in the game, though some only appear as partner characters. Interestingly, the Straw Hat Pirates count as two different characters, ‘pre-time skip’ and ‘after time skip’. You can switch which version to use simply by changing their costumes to their New World sets. Other characters only have a single move list so don’t go expecting Smoker or Ace to sport different moves.
As befitting the move to beefier hardware on the PlayStation 4, the one area Pirate Warriors 3 ups the ante is the sheer number of characters that can be on screen at the same time. It’s not impossible to kill at least a hundred normal minions with one hit of Luffy’s Special Attack. The frame rate can take a hit at times, but thankfully, those times are rare.
Pirate Warriors 3 is voiced completely in Japanese with no options for an English dub. While that may irk some players, purists will undoubtedly appreciate Bandai Namco for leaving the original voices intact for the English version of the game. Despite being the first Pirate Warriors game on the PS4, the game oddly feels like an amalgamation of the first two games instead of a totally new entry in the series. Oddly, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Chances are gamers who do buy the game are hardcore Warriors fans, which means they certainly know what they’re getting into.