A colorful cacophony of bizarre anime action. As part of our post-Gamescom coverage, we sent our awesome Alex Atkin to Bandai Namco UK to experience their upcoming lineup of amazing titles. First up: One Piece Pirate Warriors 4.
I’ve never watched an episode of One Piece: I had hoped that One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 would be a good introductory point. It may be the fourth title in a video game adaptation of a beloved show with over 900 episodes, but I was looking forward to being eased into the series’ bonkers world through this new game.
What a fool I’ve been.
As the 20-minute demo that I had time with opened, it was clear that I had just been walked off the plank into the deep end. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Dropped into a weird candy land forest with singing trees and chess piece enemies, only being given a quick tutorial on how best to kill the legions of enemies before me, I was off: no context, no story, just go. My brain had been mutinied by a glorious display of pure anime action. I had no idea what was going on, I loved it.
Being unfamiliar with the One Piece Pirate Warriors series and the series it’s based on made my time with the game weird to say the least. Without any familiarity with the show, or context from the game, I had no idea about what I could do or why I was doing it, but it was no less fun because of it. If anything, it may have been more.
Even with context, I am fairly sure that One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 would have still been weird. I’m not sure of many normal ways to reach a place called Whole Cake Island, let alone any normal ways to fight living chess pieces with spears. Despite this not knowing anything about what was going on made it all the better, as it compounded every over-the-top aspect that One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 already had going for it into a fever dream that was a joy to behold.
Saying that One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 is over the top feels like an understatement. It’s ridiculously over the top. Every attack in your arsenal is devastating, able to cleave through and knock down standard enemies like they were made of sugar paper; the flashy, shockwave-dense animations and slight terrain deformation sells the strength that you’re dishing out. Even the art style seems to have gone over the top on the shading to make everything stand out, with bold outlines defining every edge to make them and their colours pop while giving the game a more handdrawn manga-esque style.
If you’ve played a game in the One Piece Pirate Warriors series before, or any Dynasty Warriors game, you’ll immediately know what you’re getting into. Levels open on an expansive battlefield with an objective on the other side of the map to fight your way towards through hordes of countless enemies and commanders who block the way. It feels very familiar to another Koei Tecmo and Omega Force games, with only a few changes reaching beyond surface level to actually shake up the tired and tested formula.
The biggest addition are the new giant characters, who, as the name might suggest, are far larger and more powerful than other opponents. As the end of the 20-minute demo, we got to see what they could do in a climatic boss fight with Big Mom. (Who’s Big Mom, Hell if I know!) The fight brought a new dimension to combat. With the colossal matriarch’s enormous scale on display, you had to think about how to approach her whilst also being creative with your move set. Her attacks were all beautifully animated; huge areas of effect made fighting her feel like a real spectacle that made her worthy of being giant. She was a real Big Momma.
For the demo, we were made to feel like gods. The difficulty had been locked down to the lowest setting as to not give us any trouble in beating it, but the fun wasn’t removed just because the challenge was. Annihilating grunt enemies was a breeze as they were just fodder for the commanders who also fell without breaking a sweat, despite their bigger health pools, even Big Mom could be defeated without much trouble, as button mashing did the trick. We’ve been told, as with every Dynasty Warriors game, that the true difficulty modes will require require us to think more about our combos and approach, but even on easy it’s unadulterated fun.
Amidst the confusion and easy difficulty, it still felt incredible to play. Rather than being a challenging spectacle fighter that has the odds mounted against you, it was a sheer power fantasy that let you carve your way through an army’s worth of enemies. A challenge could have been welcome at some points, and no doubt will be in the full game’s release, but even without it, ploughing through countless enemies was a mindless joy.
Playing One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 was incredibly fun; however, it was not without flaws. The camera was the biggest offender, as at times it would get stuck behind terrain while locked onto enemies however this was never for longer than a second, as frustrating as it was. The audio also had a few loops that could get grating if your ears picked up on them, though these were hard to notice as the fighting usually keeps hold of your attention. The standard Dynasty Warriors issues still remain.
The demo I played was dumb, stupid fun. It felt purpose designed to not have itself taken seriously and I can’t wait to play more of it. Having never played any of the past Pirate Warriors series or having ever watched the anime I have no idea if what I played was just a blip of madness amongst an otherwise compelling adventure, but I for one cannot wait for more, and I hope the fever dream continues.
For more One Piece goodness, read our review of One Piece World Seeker. As per our usual OP coverage, we also had no idea what One Piece was then.