One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
I’m going to do something different for not only this review but two others, and that is simply to purposefully commit the most heinous of writing-based crimes. This literary faux pass is one often seen as pure laziness to the nth degree but, and if you’ll allow me to explain, I can’t think of three reviews more deserving - or rather understanding - to bestow said sin upon. What I’m specifically talking about, then, is one of copying text, like for like, across three separate reviews. It shan’t be the whole review, mind, as that simply wouldn’t make sense. Nay, the first two paragraphs will be, for the most part, identical to the other chosen pieces of work.
Now, allow me to explain myself before your collective pitchforks be elevated too high and before the embers of your village pyre cast a sweat upon your brow. The three titles that share said words are this one, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, and both My Hero One’s Justice 2 and One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, linked appropriately. All three, should the connection not be immediately obvious, are all anime-based games and, importantly, published by Bandai Namco. For anyone that has experienced such a title, a certain cognitive image of the game, both on a quality and appearance-based level, forms within one's psyche; Usually one of middling to high quality, but certainly approachable for all players nonetheless. Having three similar titles all launch within a 29-day timeframe certainly raises questions surrounding the thought behind such releases and, as a result, the quality, but the differences between the titles couldn’t be more night and day if they’d tried.
I’ve compared Musou (Warriors)-styled games to junk food on more than one occasion, both in writing and in general conversation, often to mixed results. Junk food has, as one would expect, negative connotations of a certain cheapness when in reality, it’s often the source of great pleasure - should it be consumed in a sparing way. Omega Force’s tireless efforts to have you obliterate thousands upon thousands of enemies with ease will forever be a welcome one, though, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 delivers yet again on their tried and tested formula. The lack of surprise may not come as a surprise - somewhat-dated graphics? Check. Repetitive-yet-enjoyable gameplay? Check. - but it’s certainly a fun, high-quality romp through the longstanding One Piece series.
Now, I’ll be frank and say that my interest in One Piece comes and goes pretty damn often and, as such, I’m not completely up to date on the latest happenings - I’m sure you’ll forgive me, however, considering there are almost 1000 chapters of the manga at the moment. Naturally, Pirate Warriors 4 doesn’t expect prior knowledge either, with the story taking you from the very humble beginnings of Luffy & Co up until the beginnings of the current arc, specifically Wano Country. This latest arc goes off-canon, however, to give Pirate Warriors 4 a feeling of closure, so don’t expect the moments to marry up perfectly should you watch/read the manga at a later date. Regardless, should you have played any of the previous Pirate Warriors games there will certainly be some retreading of the story, including some of the more significant cutscenes being unashamedly reused from earlier games, albeit with new shaders for good measure to bring it more in line with those found in the current iteration. It’s easy to view this in a cynical light, but when Omega Force’s masterful execution of not only the cutscenes but the general look and feel has been nigh-on perfect, I’m not all that fussed. Watching Luffy smack Crocodile around will always be appreciated, and I’m happy to have seen the in-game take on the iconic moment once again.
Each separate arc, of which there are 6 contained with Pirate Warriors 4, consists of multiple missions which, in turn, can often be experienced with various characters that are relevant to the plot at that particular time. With such an enjoyable yet repetitive gameplay loop, I continue to jump at the opportunity to experience content with anyone other than Luffy, despite the abilities the Gum-Gum fruit - or Gomu Gomu no Mi, depending on the medium and localisation - being a joy to decimate with. Character variation is vast, with no two characters feeling identical, despite the simplicity of the controls at hand. At its simplest, combat is a flurry of quick, strong and special attacks, activated via a combination of the RB and A, B, X or Y (or the respective buttons on your chosen controller). What’s new with Pirate Warriors 4, however, is the ability to effortlessly engage in aerial combat mid-combo by simply pressing the corresponding jump button, and continuing the fight up there. Whilst not all characters have equal footing - looking at you, heavy characters - it prevents the wholly-grounded feel that most Musou games begrudgingly rely on. It’s not to say the execution is flawless, however - With no ability to influence your vertical positioning, you’re often swinging aimlessly should the Y-axis not be synced up with your foe. Having such an apparent drawback come to light immediately - Chapter 1, Mission 1 - is an annoyance, and instead shows that, maybe, taking to the air is best left for the grunt fights.
Outside of the main campaign are smaller, narrative-free combative missions that seem to purely exist to keep you playing. Being able to tackle these with friends via local multiplayer is arguably the best way to play Pirate Warriors 4, each tackling the various positions of the more active scenarios systematically. You could opt to choose characters that cover each others weaknesses but, really, the difficulty found here doesn’t warrant that level of forethought. Go for what you find comfortable, or what pleases you most aesthetically, and you’ll have a blast here.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, then, is not only the best Pirate Warriors game to date - as you would expect - but maybe, just maybe, the best Musou game available at the moment. Despite the reused story assets that may cheapen the experienced for seasoned Pirate Warriors vets, Omega Force once again prove they are the kings of their craft with this glorious, delicious slice into anime mayhem. Sit down, Hyrule Warriors. You aren’t the pinnacle anymore.