It’s been a long wait for fans of the One Piece: Pirate Warriors game series; 5 years after the third entry, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is upon us. Also known in Japan as One Piece: Kaizoku Musou, it is based on the One Piece manga and anime franchise by Eiichiro Oda. Pirate Warriors is incidentally the most successful One Piece video game series. In the fourth entry, you follow Luffy and the Straw Hats from the beginning as they make their journey through different islands and onwards in the hopes of finding the illustrious treasure – the One Piece.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is an action-adventure fighting game which features many similarities to both the Dynasty Warriors video game series and the One Piece series. In One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, you relive momentous parts of the story of the One Piece anime series in large-scaled battles featuring the heroes and villains of the manga. Just like the previous games in the series, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 sees you take on a bunch of little fodder enemies before encountering the bigger, key villains that prove more challenging.
The villains in the original manga series are considerably strong so this gameplay method suits this series well. As you battle through fodder enemies and take on the bigger ‘boss’ enemies, you can upgrade your roster along the way. This comes in the form of unlocking a new skill, upgrading a character’s stat or learning a new super attack.
The appeal of the gameplay in this series is the bad-ass attacks your roster can string together. These range from strong attacks that obliterate enemies in a short distance or ranged attacks to deal with enemies in a wider range. The game features a range of game modes to keep you entertained. First of all, the Dramatic Log is the story mode that follows the story events of the One Piece manga series. Free Log is a mode that lets you replay certain stages with more freedom following completion of Dramatic Log. Lastly, the Treasure Log lets you complete missions with various challenging requirements to add another layer of challenge.
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Level design is a crucial factor to these genre of games. Since it’s an action-adventure fighting game, the mini-arenas in which you take place need to be designed well in order to create a compelling battle. The levels are designed to feel spacious – but not too spacious – to give you a sense of freedom in how you tackle a battle but feeling conscious enough of the limited space to know you have to defeat enemies before getting overwhelmed.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 benefits from being based on the manga and anime series of the same name. At the start of Dramatic Log, the game takes you through two of the old arcs from the previous entry in the Pirate Warriors series. This allows us to catch up with the crew, since it’s been five years since the last entry I actually found this quite welcome. It is even more welcome for those for whom Pirate Warriors 4 is there first foray into this series. The game does naturally condense proceedings but there’s a good chunk of memorable story that is relived in the game.
Dramatic Log takes us through the following story arcs; Alabasta Arc; Enies Lobby Arc; Marineford Arc; Dressrosa Arc; Whole Cake Island Arc; Wano Country Arc. There is a weighty amount of story content on offer with a play-through coming in at around 20 hours.
Graphics / Art Direction
Since it’s based on the anime One Piece series, this video game spin-off features the same distinct stylised visuals. This is a welcome thing since the anime has its own unique look and feel. The game largely looks great on the Nintendo Switch but can sometimes suffer from low-quality textures that let the game down graphically.
One of the biggest improvements in this entry comes with the environments. Each island feels unique and individually crafted with care. This time around, the developers opted for 3D character models which is a substantial improvement over the third entry in this series. This new take really adds to the immersion you feel when watching the characters in cut scenes and the like.
Music / Sound Design
The music matches the battle sequences perfectly, with every battle feeling elevated due to the accompanying music. The music gets you pumped up and hits you in the nostalgia feels. Music can take a battle sequence from good to great and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is often the latter thanks to the music.
When it comes to sound design, the audio engineers have done a great job making you able to ‘feel’ the attacks you make. Every punch and kick has power behind it and the sound design drives that home.
Final Score: 75%
All in all, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 gets a lot of things right that the previous entries didn’t. It feels like a natural evolution and progression of what’s come before. With the switch to 3D character models, the impressive large-scale battles and the familiarity of the visuals make for a game that will please fans of the anime series. There are a few issues with spacing and graphical technical issues but overall it’s a fairly solid package.
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