Platform: Nintendo Switch | Release Date: May 11, 2018 | Hours Played: 12

With One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 being released recently, it meant that it was a good time to set sail… and play its prequel.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is the third instalment to the Pirate Warriors series. As a Musou spin-off, the game largely consists of the classic hacking and slashing through thousands of enemies, but set within the One Piece universe. With 37 playable characters, a campaign mode and different content to unlock, there is more than enough to keep you invested. The game does not alienate those new to the series. As every PW game is updated with the latest storyline, the third game’s main campaign covers around 700 episodes of the anime and brings you up to date pretty quick.

Musou spin-offs with popular franchises nowadays have become commonplace with titles such as Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors. Of course, PW is essentially fanservice to those who love the anime. However, the two do complement one another as the nature of the game coincides with what Luffy and co. commonly do in the anime – which is blasting through hundreds of enemies. In addition to that, the game does have flair and influence from the franchise that brings it into its own.

The characters in One Piece have a wide variety of powers, all of which have been replicated well within the gameplay. Every move and combo feels weighted, clearly showing all of the characters strengths and weaknesses. This allows players to approach varying playstyles, as it not only considers how you use them but also your strategies in different missions. They also added personality quirks unique to each character, such as Sanji’s reaction with female characters, which I appreciated.

Along with the traditional musou mechanics, the game has also included a unique one called Kizuna Rush. This allows your allies on the field to assist you with your attacks and combos. This feature is quite essential in the game, especially if you are trying to achieve an S rank. This is effective as it not only creates a challenge with how you learn each character’s fighting style chemistry, but is very on-brand with the anime itself as it emphasises the themes of friendship.

The graphics provides a nice polish on the existing art style, as it creates more 3D effects on the lines and details, while retaining a more stylised anime/manga look. What I did find annoying however was how the mini-bosses would be carbon copies of each other, which made it difficult to distinguish who I was supposed to defeat to complete the objective.

As previously mentioned, the main campaign covers the original storyline that are broken into different chapters. These mainly cover key events, such as the backstories of each Straw Hat member. The main story, however, is compressed into a short introduction before the main stage begins with the main boss.

These cover the anime in a way that would serve as a light summary for fans of the franchise. However, players new to the series may find this fast-paced and as many integral moments are left out, the story can come off as simple and shallow.

Rather than the standard level-up, characters instead improve their stats through special coins that are earned in different ways. This can be through completing missions or battling with or against specific characters. There are also skills that playable characters, as well as NPCs, can in the same way. However for NPCs, the only way you can unlock their skills would be through playing a stage with them in your team.

While this is a good concept that replaces mindless EXP farming with intricacy, it also means you have to either memorise the stages and grind for coins. In the case of NPC’s, you need to play through randomly generated stages and hope you have the characters you need to complete the requirements.

As such, it contributes to the gameplay fatigue that often plague Musou games. Aside from the main campaign, there is also a mode called “Dream Log” in which you battle in different islands and missions to unlock characters and coins you wouldn’t get in the story mode. Unfortunately, after playing through a few stages, it does become a tedious grind-fest.

In general, all the new mechanics introduced in the PW series provides a unique playstyle and does provide more planning past the objective mission in stages, but even as a (self-proclaimed) Musou veteran, I did find myself overwhelmed and a bit confused. However, it just shows the work they’ve put into this game to make it something more than just another coat of spin-off painted on.

Rating: 8/10

As a first foray into the Pirate Warriors series, I think PW3 is a great game for any One Piece fan to play. Despite it lacking the freedom and customisation that I would have hoped for, that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of mindless beating thousands of enemies as your favourite characters. As long as the One Piece franchise continues, so will the Pirate Warriors series but unless you’re a huge fan or need another Musou-fix, then I’d say pick up the game when you feel is right for you.

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