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Review: One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2

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Yo-ho-ho we...did this joke already?

"A fusion of Dynasty Warriors and One Piece? Sign me up!"

That was my reaction to the news that One Piece: Pirate Warriors (reviewed) was in production, sometime near the end of 2011. It was one of the titles topping my "games to import" list for a long time, until Namco Bandai decided to release it outside of Japan. A crazy move if you ask me, but hey, I wasn't complaining! Until I played the game, anyway.

It was one of those titles that had so much promise, yet failed to deliver in so many areas. The coin system was interesting but just wasn't being used to its full potential, and the dialogue was a very boring recap of existing One Piece story arcs. There were also those awful quick time events slapped into the maps themselves. 

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, to my surprise, also made it out of Japan. Please, video game, let me love you.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 (PS3)
Developer: Tecmo Koei/Omega Force
Publisher:
Namco Bandai Games
Release date: March 20, 2013 (JP), August 30, 2013 (EU), September 3, 2013 (US)
Price: $49.99

Instead of opting to create gameplay around key story moments like the first game, PW2 decides to explore a new story in its primary game mode: Pirate Log. The Strawhats run into some trouble on Punk Hazard; every member of the crew besides Luffy and Nami end up breathing in some strange gasses, turning them against their former comrades. Along with Smoker, a marine who has on many occasions attempted to successfully arrest the Strawhats, they temporarily escape from the island in order to formulate a plan.

While the story focuses on finding the missing crew mates, the plot is used as an excuse to bring back some of the old scenery and characters, allowing new alliances to form between evildoers of old. There's a fight against the Whitebeard pirates in an attempt to gauge Luffy's strength, as well as the return of CP9, the assassin-police that put the Strawhats bonds to the test, and early antagonists like Don Krieg and Wapol. It's good to see they haven't been forgotten, and it's made even better when you are using Luffy's newer abilities to take them out.

The story features a few pre-rendered cutscenes, and while they are few and far between in comparison to other forms of dialogue, they look absolutely stunning. They all share the same quality as the intro movie and serve as a great way of adding life to the new characters that show up without having to resort to text boxes and descriptions. Much of the remaining dialogue is done in a typical visual novel way, with characters facing each other while text appears beneath them. This is also dubbed over, so it never feels like a slog to get through. The dreaded walls of text from the first game also return, but this time they really aren't as important so you don't need to feel guilty skipping them.

Most of the Dynasty Warriors-esque gameplay is present, with your typical square-to-triangle combos, a jump for aerial attacks, and a special move tied to the circle button. The aim of the game is to complete a main mission objective, usually the defeat of an important enemy, while dealing with the hoards of minion fighters along the way. There are plenty of options for wailing on these enemies, including Crew Strikes in its new, revamped form. When your style meter is full, you can activate it to enter your Style Action mode. Your attacks hit harder and you're a lot faster, so it's great for making short work of large crowds. While your style meter slowly drains, you can earn the option to use a Crew Strike by attacking multiple enemies.

Calling in a Crew Strike gives you access to two special moves and the ability to use your partner on the battlefield for a short time. Some of the named enemies can also activate a partner-less variation of this mode, and while this is active you will be unable to land regular hits on them. You can counter this by using either your special attack or by using your Style Action, so it's always worth keeping that meter charged up and ready for bosses in case you wind up in trouble. The gauge also refills over time, so you won't have to wait too long if you desperately need it.

As for miscellaneous in-game changes, the quick time events have been removed! It seems that breaking up the gameplay to watch Luffy swing around on conveniently placed posts really wasn't fun, so that's a huge bonus. The camera has also been reworked and feels a lot more sensible. The lock-on feature is very useful against targeting specific bosses and works, for the most part, like you'd want it to. It did seem to get caught up in walls once or twice, but nothing that couldn't be solved by slightly knocking the right analogue stick.

While navigating the many battlefields in this game, you may come across treasure chests. The regular brown chests will contain a consumable item of some kind, like a health recovery item or a temporary stat boost. Gold chests are less common, but contain either some Beli that can be used outside of battle, or one of many different collectible coins. If you complete secret/hidden objectives (which, oddly, aren't all that secret as they appear in the menu before starting a stage), you can also make blue chests appear, which will grant you a special coin exclusive to that mission.

Indeed, the coin system that had so much promise is carried over from the first game, only this time with some much-needed tweaks. As mentioned previously, coins are available in gold chests in levels, but they can also sometimes be earned as drops by named enemies. This means you'll end up swimming in them, with a typical story mission giving you somewhere in the region of 8-10, not counting those from secret missions or assist-character level-ups.

You can set these coins on your characters to increase their health, attack, and defence stats, and you can further increase this boost by picking coins which share some kind of link. For example, placing a Luffy coin next to a Nami coin grants you an extra bonus because they are shipmates. Placing a Nami coin next to a log pose coin will grant you a bonus because of her navigational skills. When equipping a coin, those that gain these link bonuses will flash as an indication, so you don't need to have an expansive knowledge of the show to benefit from this feature.

In another change from the first game, link skills are no longer acquired by having particular coins equipped, but instead are unlocked by obtaining skill notes. Skill notes feature nine coins in a 3x3 grid, and you are rewarded with link skills for all of your characters whenever you get three in a row. You can set these abilities before each mission, and you'll be able to equip stronger/multiple abilities as each character levels up. This means you're not forced to use particular coin combinations in order to take advantage of skills, and all potential unlocks are handled automatically at the end of each mission. No more messing around for ages to hunt for minor bonuses.

PW2 boasts a playable cast of 27 characters, with new additions including Buggy the Clown, Trafalgar Law, Aokiji and Monkey D. Garp. Each character feels noticeably different in how they play, with characters like ghost-girl Perona being able to depress people, Marco flying about with his phoenix power and Jinbe being slow to move around, but incredibly powerful to compensate for it. There are also some interesting twists on gameplay relating to how some of the characters act. Perona can't depress Usopp (because he's always depressed), Boa Hancock can't turn Luffy or Chopper to stone and Sanji doesn't inflict nearly as much damage as he usually would on women. It's arguable whether these alterations are fun from a gameplay perspective, but it's certainly great for flavour's sake. 

There are also 17 characters who are limited to a supporting role in battle as NPCs and via Crew Strikes. It's a bit of a shame that characters like Bon Kurei, Lucci and Magellan did not make it as fully playable characters, but people like Hannybal and Sentomaru get a bit of limelight where they otherwise would not. Interestingly, while the Strawhats sport their post-time skip designs and abilities, none of the enemies they've encountered since the jump are featured, which is especially strange when the story kicks off in the post-time skip locale, Punk Hazard. 

One of my favourite additions to this game is the ability to spend accumulated Beli on levelling up your characters. There are limitations to this, as you can't buy your way to a level greater than your current highest level. This means that if my best character is level 10, I could spend Beli to immediately bump another character to level 10. You get so much Beli through regular gameplay anyway, and the concept art and miscellaneous unlockables in the in-game shop aren't all that appealing, so this is a great way to try out new characters without having to worry that you're not strong enough to do so. If you want to level them up the hard way, you're free to spend your Beli in the shop instead, so we're getting the best of both worlds.

Besides the Pirate Log mode, there is also Free Log, your run-of-the-mill free mode to collect more items and boost your stats, and Challenges, which are pretty self explanatory. There's a surprising amount of content tucked away in this game, and so long as you can get behind the basic premise and gameplay, you'll be clocking the hours in this game without a second thought. 

The famous Dynasty Warriors guitar tunes are back, layering high-energy riffs over the top of the gameplay. It doesn't take any cues from the anime, but then again, can it? It's the right move, adding to the atmosphere and keeping you pumped up while you are smashing into hordes of enemies. Regarding audio, you'll only find a Japanese dub in this game. Good news for most One Piece fans, but rather unfortunate for those who are getting into the series for the first time after hearing the FUNimation dub

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is exactly what you would want from a hack-and-slash game based on the famed franchise. It effectively brushes away the clunky mechanics from the first game while reshaping the good ideas into features to be proud of. Sure, this might not change your mind if you dislike Dynasty Warriors games, but it'll be this game, if any, that will make you reconsider your opinion on the genre. This is definitely setting the bar for future One Piece titles.

8.0 -- Great (A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.)


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One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 reviewed by Chris Walden

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Chris Walden
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Some say that he can breathe Some say that he can jump over a All we know is that he's Brittanian, and that we are all He's on Twitter though: more + disclosures


 



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