One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is arguably one of the best Musou (also known as the Warriors in West) series games. It’s gotten to the point that I felt that One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 was THE apex of the genre.
Yup, a spin-off game is better than the original Dynasty/ Samurai Warriors games. It’s not hard to really imagine…considering the failed Dynasty Warriors 9 and the stagnating gameplay found in Warriors Orochi 4.
With One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, does the series take a step back or is the game best in the series now?
Read on and find out!
What is One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4?
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is the latest in the One Piece series of Musou titles. Developed by Koei Tecmo and Omega Force and published by Bandai Namco, the game is out now for all platforms.
Pirate Warriors 4, like all other Musou games, pits you against hundreds (if not thousands) of AI soldiers in huge battlefields. Assuming the role of a character from the series, you’ll then fight the masses (unleashing your abilities) and achieve objectives to complete whatever stage you’re in.
The basic gameplay of Pirate Warriors 4 will sound familiar to anybody familiar with any Musou game. Despite that, the game is undoubtedly an evolution, especially from Pirate Warrior 3.
The main way the game’s changed is how special moves are now handled. You no longer fill the Musou meter and then hit O to do a special Musou attack. Now you hit R1 (and a face button) to do a correspondingly mapped move.
In fact, specials are no longer forced to be of the offensive variety! One of Luffy’s for example (Gear 2), changes his gameplay style completely. Instead of hard hitting attacks, activating his Gear 2 special makes him speedier, with all different attacks and combos.
Replacing the specials, O is now a dash button, which also allows you to cancel your moves or chain even more deadlier combos together. It’s an awesome change to be honest, as it makes the game even faster than Pirate Warriors 3 ever was, without compromising on the fun.
One of the other major changes to the game deals with the newly destructible environments. Most structures can be decimated with powerful attacks, which makes the fights even more visually spectacular. The new feature is best seen in the town stages since buildings can be destroyed.
Stages too come in two varieties now; the regular battlefields and boss fights. Sometimes there are even boss fights in the regular stages too! Boos fights handle a bit differently than normal stages since it’s usually a closed off arena with you and the boss going up against each other with no other AI.
It’s the best time to enjoy the tweaked combat system in Pirate Warriors 4. Omega Force’s made it so that EVERY since attack can now be chained into a launcher, which throws your enemy up into the air. You can then follow up with massive air combos (since you can cancel moves into dashes), making the game seem like a Capcom VS title! That’s not a complaint, that’s a testament to how fun the combat is now!
Last time it was all exp based, with characters getting stronger as they leveled up. This time around it’s all based on a shared growth system (along with a character based growth system).
Basically, there are three maps, each with islands on them.
One map, is shared by all characters, two more are character based. Instead of XP, you now get stat increases by buying islands on the maps. It’s easier to get weaker characters up to par with your most used ones now (especially if you focus on the shared map), but the trade off is that you don’t feel as invested in grinding out your characters.
One of the main draws for me for the series used to be grinding up every character to max level. This shortens that grind massively, which is a bit of a downer, though if you don’t have a ton of time, it’s an awesome system.
Pirate Warriors 3 ended with its own take on the Dressrosa arc. I’d thought that Pirate Warriors 4 would pick up from there, but weirdly it starts off by retreading familiar material.
While it does skip on most of the early story arcs, the game does include the Alabasta and a few other arcs that was covered in the previous game.
The picks seem to be questionable; Why was Alabasta chosen instead of the Thriller Bark or Long Ring Long Land arcs for example? After all, the latter two arcs would be more significant, since they feature the joining of new crew members while Alabasta just dealt with Vivi, who doesn’t even join the crew.
Thankfully, at least the game doesn’t ignore those arcs. They’re just shown in truncated cutscenes instead of being playable.
Pirate Warriors 4 does have more playable characters (43 now, with 9 more incoming as DLC, compared to 37) than its predecessor, so that’s something at least. You’ll have to do various things to unlock them (just as getting ‘S’ ranks in stages, or beating a certain stage) but once they’re unlocked you can play with them in most game modes (except the Story mode obviously).
Weirdly, some playable characters present in Pirate Warriors 3 are missing in the sequel. Perona and Moria are gone, as are Monkey D. Garp and Kuma and a few others. There’s no rhyme or reason for the omissions (Garp and Kuma appear multiple times in the story mode) so I’m pretty miffed that they’re not playable.
There are even different variants of certain characters; particularly the Straw Hat Pirates. Luffy alone has two; the East Blue version and another with Gear 2, Gear 3 and Gear 4 moves. The game allows you to choose the variants pretty smartly too, as you just need to change costumes.
Characters can range from the underpowered (Sabo) to the devastatingly overpowered (pretty much any big name) but they all feel different to play. I honestly prefer using the overpowered characters and just decimating everybody with barely any effort. It’s damn fun and mindless, perfect after a day of hard work and when you need to unwind. You just pick a stage and just ravage everything in your way.
Speaking of stages, while I do like the destructible environments, I do wish they were much bigger. Most of the battles feel too cramped, since the stages aren’t as big as in other Musou games. I think they’re about 3/4 (or less) of normal Musou stages and much more linear too.
I wish they were much, much bigger, with more optional objectives too. There are optional missions (shown on the minimap as ‘!’) but they’re only a handful on a stage, with some not even having any at all.
Even the stages in the Treasure Log aren’t elaborate as they could be; a shame since they’re not confined to whatever happened in the anime/manga plot.
The bottom line.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 might be the best Musou game yet. It has its flaws (smaller stages, not even variety in objectives) but the tweaked battle system, the improved visuals, the interactive backgrounds and the cast of playable characters make the issues negligible.
Pirate Warriors 4 is pretty much an improvement over the previous game in every way and that’s not a small feat considering how great Pirate Warriors 3 was.
However, the game’s definitely not for everybody. One Piece and Musou fans will love it to bits, but haters of the genre will only find more of what they hate (though in a much more enticing package) in the game. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is revolutionary, though it falls far short from evolutionary.
If you love One Piece or the Musou series, get it!
- Good cast of playable characters.
- Revamped combat is fun.
- Awesome visuals for a Musou game.
- Small, linear stages.
- Not all arcs playable.