One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 13.04.2020

Review for One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on PlayStation 4

It's been over three years since the last Pirate Warriors had arrived. Pirate Warriors 3 gave players the chance to experience the story up to the close of the Doflamingo-centred arc of Dressrosa. Now, the story is going further, all the way up to the current arc of the manga, giving players the chance to experience the lands of Wano, and face off against the Straw Hats' most terrifying enemy to date, the immortal Kaido. Along with further content from the source material, this instalment is promising to be the biggest yet! With giant enemies for the first time, and the biggest cast to date!

Coming from Koei Tecmo, or more specifically from Omega Force, the series is known as Kaizoku Musou in Japan, and joins many other franchises in receiving the one-vs-countless style gameplay of the Musou. Whether it be the iconic franchises of Dynasty Warriors and Warriors Orochi, or the adaptations of popular series like Berserk and Zelda, not to mention the upcoming Persona Scramble later this year. When the game opens, things really hit the ground running. Placed into the shoes of Luffy on the shores of Onigashima, fighting through hordes of Beast Pirate Warriors and eventually facing off against two of the Four Emperors. Fans of the manga will recognise this as something wholly original.

Luffy has, at time of writing, yet to make it to the shores of Onigashima in the manga, though he's getting close. Adapting the most recent arc to retell an original, non-canon story is a common occurrence in the Pirate Warriors series. After this glimpse, the story starts at the beginning. Quite literally. Jumping all the way back to the moment Luffy received a Straw Hat from a certain Red Haired fellow, though the gameplay doesn't start there. It doesn't begin until Alabaster. Instead, an abridged video replays key events for each arc between these points, using the cut scenes from earlier games in the series, until it reaches the Straw Hats' first battles in Alabaster. It may be retreading well-worn ground, but it's a common issue when it comes to games of legendary anime series. One that Dragon Ball and Naruto have suffered with for years. As has One Piece. Either the game has to have a wholly original story, which is often lacking in the quality of its source material, or it retells the same stories over and over.

To cover the content missing between Pirate Warriors 3 and Pirate Warriors 4, the only content would consist of a truly canon retelling of Dressrosa through to the current act of Wano, and since Wano has not yet reached its conclusion, an alternative, original take to the Wano story. That wouldn't give a whole lot of content to make up the story. Zou and Whole Cake Island could be expanded but simply not enough. So it makes sense to add some previously covered content. Instead, Pirate Warriors 4 picks and chooses what stories it wants to cover. This retelling starts at Alabaster, it then jumps to Water Seven, on to Sabaody Archipelago, then to the Paramount War, then back to Saobaody for the reunion of the Straw Hats, followed by quite the leap to Dressrosa. Some pretty huge omissions. No Skypiea; no Thriller Bark; and no Impel Down. These moments are instead covered in abridged story sequences between chapters.

Screenshot for One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on PlayStation 4

Following this, the story gets to some completely original arcs for the Pirate Warrior series. Right after Dressrosa should be Zou. An island atop the back of an ancient giant Elephant, filled with verdant forests and inhabited by a race of animal people. A superb new environment and story that would fit with the formulae of these games. One that's totally skipped. It would have been better to skip one of the previously covered arcs than skip this! Missed out on playable Inuarashi and Nekomamushi. Fighting against Jack. A missed opportunity. The first real new content is Whole Cake Island… and another missed opportunity here. In the heavy editing and abridging of the story, some key characters and moments are left out. For instance, the entire plot around Katakuri's mouth and the relationship with Flambe (who is one of the many missing).

It's a shame, as many of these characters would have made enjoyable characters to play as or even bosses. Smoothie, Daifuku, Amande, and Cracker. Only Perospero, Brulee, and Katakuri actually arrive. Even Gangsta Gastino is missing. Despite this, the island is the best in the story. Following Whole Cake Island, the crew finally arrive at Wano, and while the first chapter adapts the canon story somewhat, following this it transforms into an original tale, one that sees the Straw Hats receive some rather unlikely allies in their fight against Kaido, and sees the land of Wano turn into a battleground between the two emperors. This is another place that characters are cut en-masse. Other than Kin'emon, not a single Scabbard is in attendance. Neither is King or Queen. Not even Orochi makes an appearance. Jack appears for a fight, but that's about it.

To clear all of the chapters in the Dramatic Log will take 14 hours or so, but there's added replayability thanks to each chapter having a ranking, making it worth returning after levelling up to aim for the coveted 'S' rank. There are also four different difficulty settings, along with the option of replaying missions as different characters. Each chapter has a few to pick from, whether it be Whitebeard of Jinbei while tackling Marineford, or one choosing which Supernova to face off against Kizaru upon Saobaody. There are other gameplay modes other than the Dramatic Log to play through. Free Log is, as its name implies, a way to replay any completed stage in a freeplay mode. But where the meat of this instalment resides, is in the Treasure Log.

Screenshot for One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on PlayStation 4

This will be where players will spend the majority of their time. There are tons of missions here that can be played, as any unlocked character and offer up some real challenging missions. Easily the most fun to be had in here, and the ability to play as any character, combined with the opportunity to try and achieve 'S' ranks again gives even further replayability. There is co-op here, both online and couch. Though getting to it is quite counterintuitive. There's no section on the main menu for 'Online Mode' or 'Multiplayer,' and no lobby. Instead, while in the character select of a stage, an option will appear in the corner to show if there is local or online co-op available, though, for some reason, some chapters just lack the option.

This entry offers up more characters to play as than any other, with a whopping forty-three characters to play as, not to mention the numerous different outfits for the characters. Pre, and post timeskip. Admittedly, the majority of the characters are returning from Pirate Warriors 3, obviously all the Straw Hats, along with the likes of Doflamingo, Ace, Whitebeard, and Sabo. Newcomers include Sanji's siblings, the very best of the Charlotte family in Katakuri, and potential Nakama Carrot. That being said, there are many fan favourites from previous instalments completely MIA, like Perona and Enel. Nine characters have been announced to be joining via DLC, so perhaps they'll reappear, though hopefully for free. To have to pay for removed characters always stings, especially when fans would be much more excited to get hands-on with new Wano characters or movie favourites like Shiki, Zephyr, and Bullet.

For those who haven't played a Pirate Warriors title or even a Warriors title in general, the core gameplay couldn't be simpler. Fight across a sprawling map, smashing countless enemies to pieces, capturing territories, defeating special enemies, rescuing allies, and completing small missions. The core gameplay is repetition at its finest. Mash square and triangle to unload combo attacks, interspersed by the hold of R1 and a face button for one of four different equippable special skills. This is a change to the system from previous titles, and it works well. Making it easy to spot as abilities recharge and become available. These moves also include transformations for some characters. Luffy can use other gears, including the recent Bounce Man and Snake Man form. Carrot can use her Sulong form. There's the added dimension of aerial combat and combos, allowing enemies to be juggled through the sky.

Screenshot for One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on PlayStation 4

Between stages, characters can be improved by purchasing islands on treasure maps - the equivalent of talent trees. These Islands grant permanent stat improvements to attack, defence, HP, and stamina, along with being able to unlock passive skills that are equippable before heading onto a stage, and different special attacks for each character. To purchase these islands, each stage has a chance of dropping cash (Berries), transponder snails, and special coins. Most of the coins come from playing through stages in the Dramatic Log, but the rarer coins require taking on the harder challenges of the Treasure Log. These coins are needed to unlock special abilities and moves on these islands, and can also be collected by unlocking each character, and then completing stages with them as the playable character or the ally, levelling the character up, unlocking new maps for the character along with gaining extra coins.

Pirate Warriors 4 does a great job of capturing the same art and style of the series. During gameplay the characters look distinct and recognisable, they move with fluid and clean animations, and the diverse cast of characters, in general, looks great. Outside of gameplay, the story is told either through static images or in full CG video. The CG for the big moments where the scene has been choreographed and fully planned looks wonderful, but when the game just pans over models stuck in place having a conversation, or with static images in the corners, things look quite cheap.

The issues with the last game in regards to FPS stuttering and pop-ins seem to have been addressed, though apparently, they're wider seen in the Switch port. Sadly, the camera issues have not been addressed - this profoundly annoying element is as bad as ever, making for some hugely frustrating moments. Equally annoying is the lack of control over characters while performing huge moves. The locking on to enemies doesn't work particularly well, and while charging up a big attack, occasionally the enemy will just walk out of the way. Aiming is annoying.

A particularly irritating aspect of the presentation is the musical tracks on offer. The series has some superb themes, and here this has ignored them all, including completely original pieces. Those killer, memorable themes, are instead locked behind a paywall. An 'Anime songs pack' can be purchased in a rather stomach-churning move. In the same vein, there are no ambient sounds here. No splashing of water, or stomping of feet on stone. It's a small detail, but one that makes the production look less professional.

Screenshot for One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

One Piece fans rejoice, there's a ton here to enjoy. The prospect of getting hands-on as Big Mom, Kaido, and Katakuri then smashing through armies of Samurai on Wano is wonderful. The characters play fantastically, each distinct and diverse, with fantastic realisations of their moves and abilities. The cleaned-up combat system makes for a smoother experience, and many issues have been addressed. That being said, there are some little annoyances that hold it back, such as the key absentees of the roster, and the constantly frustrating camera. For all of its flaws, though, this is a solid Musou title, and a significant step forward beyond Pirate Warriors 3. A must buy for Musou fans. A must buy for One Piece fans. For fans of both an absolute joy.

Developer

Koei Tecmo

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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