One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 – PS3
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Genre: Action
Reviewed by Charles Boucher

Review Score: 3 of 5

I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is pretty much the sum of its parts. If you like One Piece, the long-running pirate-themed shonen manga and anime, and you like Dynasty Warriors, you’ll probably find enough in this game to keep you going. If you don’t like either, well, the mix of characters and themes from the comic and typical Dynasty Warriors gameplay will probably wear down your enthusiasm before too long.

You’re Monkey D. Luffy, the young man with rubber limbs and an ambition to become king of the pirates. When a chase with the Marines leads you to an abandoned laboratory on Punk Hazard, an island split between frozen and volcanic halves, your crew is brainwashed by mysterious devices, and you need to team up with the outcast marine leader, Smoker (Who smokes two cigars at once and can become living smoke), to get them back and find a way to come out on top against the Marines hunting you.

The game pretty much follows the standard Warriors-game conventions, killing dozens of identical mooks at a time, fighting bosses and mini-bosses, and conquering territory by doing the same. It can wear out its welcome quickly. That said, a lot of the game’s mechanical charm comes from how it captures the feel of the characters. One Piece’s greatest strength might be the sheer number of bizarre characters and strange powers its creator is capable of putting out there, and with a huge number of playable characters and villains, the game manages to do a good job of capturing what makes each of them cool in a fight.

The flip side of that is, the game takes a long time to get there. Hours in, I had unlocked around ten characters out of the game’s dozens, but even from that relatively small selection, I had found a few I liked. Franky could casually destroy huge crowds with his flailing chain arms, and Nami’s ability to drop lightning clouds on guys and then electrocute enemies that surrounded them was a welcome break from Luffy’s non-stop button mashing.

The game’s graphics pretty much hit it on the nose. The environments are bright and colorful, evoking the comic and cartoon’s over the top tone, and the characters’ designs are just perfect versions of the source material. One Piece has always had a skill at designing characters that stand out, with simple but effective designs creating some of the more striking and memorable figures in manga, and the game manages to bring them across brilliantly. Really, the interpretations of characters might be the high point of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2. Everything just seems spot on.

The sound doesn’t quite manage to meet that high mark, though. The game’s soundtrack gets lost in the sound effects, namely the repetitive voice clips for combos and the sound of enemies being hit and knocked out. And the action is chaotic enough that the subtitles get lost in it, and sometimes I found myself not really sure what was going on, since I had missed a message updating my mission or telling me a crew member was in danger.

The game’s multiplayer is probably best when you’re playing split screen in the same room, but the game also includes the ability to send out an SOS and get online players to respond and help you. Sadly, I was never able to get this to work. The times that I responded to another player’s, they were nowhere to be seen once I got into the level, and the times I set one out, I didn’t get a response in the time I was willing to wait. Besides, the times when I was willing to go back to a level I had already beaten just for a chance at better upgrades were few and far between.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 isn’t a bad game by any means, but I feel that only the hardest-core of One Piece fans will be able to ride it out until the end. While the repetition of the game’s mechanics are staved off a little by the sheer variety of characters and their cool powers, there was only so much comboing my way through hundreds of identical guys in every stage I could take. When I saw that my home base was in danger on Thriller Bark, I was dreading losing and having to play the preceding 40 minutes over. But, for someone who’s kept with One Piece more tightly than I have, who knows and loves the characters and the places they go, it could definitely be worth the time. For myself, I’m giving it three stars, but everyone else can feel free to adjust up or down two, depending on how much you like One Piece and the Warriors games.