- Game: One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4
- Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developer: Omega Force (Koei Tecmo)
A One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 review code was provided by the publisher.
The Musou approach to action games has seemingly turned a corner. What as once seen as nothing more than a mindless button masher with little to no substance has morphed a sub-genre with surprisingly deep battle tactics and enjoyable mayhem. The One Piece: Pirate Warriors titles within the Musuo family of crossover releases has slowly morphed into a worthwhile beat ’em up that even non-fans can get a kick out of. The fourth installment within this franchise manages to make its pirate smashing endeavors even more of an enjoyable time sink. Legacy issues still persist, but One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4’s engrossing gameplay makes those problems easy to ignore.
You obviously know what you’re getting here, folks – you select from a massive roster of One Piece heroes and villains, prep for the climactic battle at hand, then hop onto the battlefield with a dizzying amount of attacks at your disposal. Past Musou games took no time at all to grow into a tiresome endeavor due to simple combat options and repetitive objectives. But with Pirate Warriors 4, those two annoyances are no longer as prevalent as they once were. With over 40 characters of different playstyles to master, access to numerous abilities that can be swapped in and out before a battle and the introduction of air combos, each playthrough stays interesting throughout. While the game may seem like a cakewalk most of the time, the gargantuan bosses you come across do a good job of giving you a worthy challenge that keeps you from sleepwalking through their encounters.
Pirate Warriors 4’s mission structure focuses on relentlessly bashing the opposition, but it freshens things up from time to time. You’ll run into a mission that calls for you to take down a series of obstacles in order to divert the enemies’ attention so you can sneak past them into their base. Then you’ll find yourself hauling two crewmates right up to your new pirate ship in the midst of a massive battle during another mission. Those two instances are examples of how this deceptively simple beat ’em up gives you something else to do besides “kill everything that breathes.” The joy that comes from unlocking new characters and extra moves for the ones you’ve played extensively never fades away.
On the storyline front, Pirate Warriors 4 goes the obvious route and also does something that other anime games should consider doing more. Dramatic Log acts as a sort of a playable greatest hits compilation of the ongoing show. While it skips some truly memorable battles here and there, it still does a fine job of breaking down One Piece’s hundreds of episodes into bite-sized missions. The best portion of that mode arrives during the original story arc, which gives you an entirely new set of powerful foes to contend with. Getting to relive One Piece’s most iconic battles and having a bonus original storyline to comb through is worth the price of admission. Doing it all with an online partner makes Pirate Warriors 4’s three main battle modes even more of a fun time-sink.
The chaotic action looks great in motion, of course. It’s just unfortunate that the camera gets a bit unwieldy during those more insane moments of combat. Having the camera get stuck behind a tree or some other random obstacle while you’re trying to eliminate a powerful commander ruins the fun at times. And while the original Japanese voice dub is awesome for hardcore fans, the lack of an English voice option for the entire cast is a disappointing oversight.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 Takeaways
It’s crazy to fathom that a Musou game is far better than it has any right to be in this day and age of more complex action game experiences. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 makes itself approachable and worth sticking with for the long haul thanks to an incredible use of its source material, a huge cast of characters to master and the type of mission structure that offers tons of fun in small/large doses. The sometimes uncooperative camera, missing playable moments from the story campaign, and lack of an English dub are problems worth mentioning, but they don’t take too much away from what makes this Musou spinoff so much fun.
Our One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 Score: 8.5 out of 10