Title: One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: March 26, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
I appreciate the Pirate Warriors series for giving me a nice summarized version of the events that occur in the Shonen manga, One Piece. Even if you’re caught up, some events deserve to be remembered. In the newest entry, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, players experience some of the strongest arcs in the series to date. While it is still very much a Musou style game, Omega Force delivers a quality experience here.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 begins with a bit of recap. Players will fight there way through two arcs from the previous entry, which might feel like a bit too much, considering it will probably take around 2 hours until you get to the new content. Still, this offers a great way to catch up with the crew as they meet new characters and fight their way through some pretty iconic scenes within the series.
The story campaign quickly picks up after the crew reunites and heads to the new world. This is also when the bulk of the Straw Hat Pirates becomes available. Following these scenes are some of the best moments that I have played in a Pirate Warriors game. Each mission is iconic, and the game wastes very little time on fluff. You are continually racing towards a goal, and each arc leaves you wanting more.
What’s great about One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is how varied the mission structures are. You aren’t asked just to take over areas of a map. Instead, the missions line up a bit closer to whatever your objective is. There are times you have to destroy a specific object, lead a character to safety, avoid getting caught by a character, or simply act as a distraction until your friends are safe. The various mission types kept the action high as there seemed to always be something new happening following each milestone.
Aside from main missions, some sub-missions can be taken on during an arc. Completing these missions sometimes unlocks new cinematics or adds a new character to your team for that mission. Also, there are events that even change the field’s layout or creates hazards that force you to use other paths.
When it comes to fighting, well, it’s a Musou game, so you’re probably going to be doing a lot of it. However, this time around, each character falls into one of four categories, power, sky, technique, and speed. Each style affects how the character plays in a fight, which makes it fun to try out each character. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and can level up over time.
Attacks are tied to two face buttons for weak and strong attacks. A combination of the two will create different attack patterns. Additionally, each character has four skills tied to the shoulder button to extend combos or take out large groups of enemies.
What I enjoyed most about the battle system is how well combos worked during fights. It’s possible to chain together attacks by rushing towards an enemy after launching them across the field. While this exhausts stamina, it can also be used to juggle enemies in the air, effectively making the combat system more technical.
Grunt and commander enemies can typically be taken out relatively quickly. They don’t pose any threat and can sometimes feel like padding on the overall mission. Having to run across the map a third time to take out a group of commanders gets old after the 20th time you do it.
Boss fights, on the other hand, are some of the most challenging encounters in the game. They require you to use all the skills that you have acquired as you match up against a tough opponent. These enemies have increased shields that need to be broken before any real damage can be dealt, as well as some special attacks. I really enjoyed the boss battles in this game, especially some of the more arena-style fights where it’s just you and the enemy.
In the later parts of the game, the characters’ combos and actions significantly improve as they grow up. This makes the time that you put into the game worth it as you pretty much watch the Straw Hat Crew become more and more powerful. This also makes the game feel less repetitive as you enter the later arcs.
A substantial improvement to the series is found in the environments. Each map is unique, with multiple paths and intriguing new elements. During gameplay, there are times that the maps are altered or changed. Similarly, buildings and structures can be destroyed as you slam enemies into them.
Given that the maps are so large in this entry, I think an auto-save or checkpoint feature would have been an excellent option for this game. Going through a 30-minute mission only to fail because your ally got killed is pretty disheartening because you get sent back to the beginning of the stage. With that said, the difficulty can get pretty high, but the developers do provide you with a few ways to get through them.
Following missions, characters level up, and you are rewarded coins and money for the things you did during the mission. These are then used to make characters stronger. Each character has a growth chart that players can upgrade different stats of the character. It’s an effective way to get ahead in fights, but it brings up the fact that you need a lot of materials if you want to improve each character.
Additional modes available are like the Free Log and Treasure Log, which unlocks throughout the story campaign. These allow you to play through various missions and earn more rewards while playing as a specific character. Each character unlocked can be used in these modes, which can help level the up for tougher missions.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has some great character models, which are each well animated during story scenes. The developer chose to use 3D models during each scene and not the manga style panels that were used in Pirate Warriors 3. This makes the story much more immersive and easier to follow as you witness the highs and lows of the Straw Hat Pirates.
The story scenes are also complemented by the game’s stand out voice acting. Voice actors reprise their roles of these characters, and there are plenty of voiced lines during this adventure. I’d also like to point out that the music for the game is perfect, as each track fits the hectic battles.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is a must-play for fans of the series, even if you aren’t caught up. The game shows just how varied a Musou title can get in terms of mission structure and map design. However, given the small number of playable arcs, it’s strange the story would waste two on arcs that were in the previous game. Still, this is one Pirate Warriors adventure that I was happy to go on.
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