To be honest we’re already pretty big fans of the Musou formula in the Rice Digital office. The core gameplay is pretty unique, satisfying, challenging, and perhaps most importantly incredibly fun in that more-ish way. And the spin-offs for other franchises can be incredibly fun, and just as satisfying. I still dip in and out of Hyrule Warriors to this day. But One Piece Pirate Warriors 3? Well, it could be the best Musou to date.
For starters the game looks stunning. I already waxed lyrical about Bandai Namco’s “toon shading” in my Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 preview, and it’s no different here with One Piece Pirate Warriors 3. This is particularly notable as, while the gameplay in Musou games is consistently very strong, they’re quite often a bit lacking on the visual front. With OPPW3 there’s very much a visual style, one that mimics the unique feel of the One Piece anime and manga, with its combination of smooth lines and rough, impactful detail.
I only played a small portion of the game at Bandai Namco’s press event. Perhaps somewhat unusually the build was actually Japanese, and I had to skip through the dialogue and story to just get down to the gameplay. This also meant I didn’t fully understand the victory conditions, which I later learnt involved some sort of timer, when I was alerted that I had 60 seconds left to win. I gave it my all, and really tried to defeat the commander in that small amount of remaining time. But I did not win. I did, however, have an awful lot of fun.
The controls just feel really good. Very fluid and responsive. Dashing around the battlefield as Luffy, launching into the standard Musou combos was a breeze. The battlefield was the same sort of Musou colour-in affair as you’d expect, and the goals seemed to be the same as usual. But that’s not to say nothing has changed between Pirate Warriors 2 and Pirate Warriors 3.
The Kizuna Rush & Kizuna Special Attack are perhaps the most notable addition to the series, “Kizuna” literally meaning “bond”. When the meter is full you can activate it, bringing your friends (NPCs) into the battle with you. While it’s depleting your special attacks finish with one of your pals jumping in to do their own special move. Before it depletes completely you can use it all up on the Kizuna Special Attack, a large attack which uses all of your friends. The cutscene for it is subsequently a little on the long side, which is a bit disappointing as OPPW shines when its gameplay is allowed to be as uninterrupted as possible. There’s also a Dream Log mode that allows you to play outside the story using and unlocking extra characters and that sort of thing, but I didn’t get to see that.
Ultimately whether you’ll enjoy this comes down to how you already feel about Musou games or One Piece. This game looks like it will be set to please fans of either series, and also provide an excellent point to jump in if you’re wondering what all the Musou fuss is about. My main concern comes down to how people who devoured One Piece Pirate Warriors and Pirate Warriors 2 will find the game. There are some excellent additions to the series, sure, but ultimately the formula has stayed the same (as Musou to some extent must). Does One Piece have the legs to keep going as a Musou series?
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