One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: 09/03/2013
Last year, I reviewed the first OPPW game. While it was a pure Dynasty Warriors clone, it did offer some variation in the single player that helped it stand out. The formula was far from perfect. The controls were sketchy at points, there weren’t enough playable characters, and there was a general lack of content. However, the game clearly did well enough for Namco-Bandai to bring over the sequel, albeit once again as an exclusive to PlayStation Network.
So, is the game the fans are hoping for, or did they simply make a lateral move?
Unlike the first game, OPPW 2 doesn’t really follow canon. It does take place where the last one last off though. The Straw Hat Pirates have just gotten back together after two years apart. Fresh with new powers and determined spirits, their goal is to scour the New World to find a great treasure that will make their dreams come true. Unfortunately, they stumble upon a new weapon that will put the whole of the world at war, with various factions vying for control. Along the way, Luffy will have to gather his crew back together, make alliances with old enemies, and seemingly go to every location under the sun at least twice.
While the general outline sort of follows the events of the latter half of the anime, things definitely aren’t how you might remember them. For starters, two dead characters are back as if nothing had ever happened. I quite clearly remember them dying in a mission from the first game, but now all of the sudden they’re meeting Luffy and company for the very first time. Then one of them dies again in a drawn out sequence that is supposed to have a big impact. Maybe it would, except this is the second time I’ve had to sit through one of those. It’d be like if Square put out a direct sequel to FF7 that had Aerith alive again as if nothing had happened. Then, they’d kill her off again. Instead of creating the emotional moment that scared many of us on the PSX, it would result in a lot of “Really? Again?” moments.
The plot on the whole is silly really. It doesn’t even try to introduce new characters. You’ll have to scour the gallery to get even the vaguest idea of who they are. At least the previous game introduced new crew members. Also, the entire plot is just an never ending series of team swapping. Most of the game is spent trying to convince enemies to join your side. The best way to do this, of course, is to punch them in the face. The game also takes the idea of a recurring villain to new extremes. I think I fought Moria a good dozen times in my play through, often multiple times in a single level. Even after he had a big dramatic scene where Luffy knocked his lights out, he returned as if nothing had happened in the next level.
Let’s just say I was sorely disappointed by the story elements.
For modes, you have pretty much the same assortment as last year, with a couple of twists. There’s the main campaign, a free play mode, and online multiplayer. Each of these will take you through the same series of levels, but you’ll be able to play as any unlocked character. Unlike the last game, this one doesn’t have and Luffy-specific levels. In fact, you don’t have to use him ever again after the first level. As you unlock new characters, you’ll also unlock special crew missions. Beat these, and the character becomes available as a crew member, which I’ll explain in the gameplay section. You can also ask for a “rescue” on any mission. This basically invites the world to join you in an online game on a specific mission. You’ll also receive rescue requests pretty much every time you go to the menu. While a nifty idea, the result is a series of frustrations. It’s very rare for you to actually connect with someone asking for help. Either someone else will beat you to it, or the connection will drop out. I’ve never been able to finish a mission, and I’ve only connected less than ten percent of the time. I did try hosting. That did get me into a game, but the other guy dropped out halfway through. For some reason, this backed me back to the main menu as well, which is stupid. You have the option of playing the mission until someone joins up, but this will start you back at the beginning when someone does finally show up. It’s just poorly designed.
Also included in a challenge mode that tasks you with taking out a series of bosses with limited restorative items. There aren’t many of these, but beating them is good for bragging rights and a trophy. It also gives you something to do with your high level characters. Beyond that, there’s also a shop to buy videos, images, and the like, as well as a gallery to view them.
Presentation-wise, things haven’t changed a bit. The characters are still plastic looking, but decent analogs of their anime counterparts. I’m still not a fan of the female characters, as the fan service is just too much. The opening cut scene spends as much time as seemingly possible zooming in on Nami’s breasts. It was uncomfortable. The animations, at least for the main characters, are pretty smooth. Enemies, however, are basically palette swaps at best. Typically, it’s just wave after wave of the same exact character model. This would be done to make the game playable I imagine, but the frame rate still drops constantly. The good news is that the various locations at least look distinguishable from each other, and offer a surprising amount of personality.
Like before, only the Japanese voices are all that are available. The actors are full of vigor, even if the script is plain boring. The music is generic rock tunes. I’d say more, but it’s almost impossible to hear any of this over the never ending assault of the sound effects. See, there will hardly be a moment when you’re not pounding the attack button and laying into a sea of enemies. As such, pretty much all you’ll hear is the repetitive combat noises and voice clips that accompany special moves. It’s a mindless cacophony. I’d suggest you go into the options and pretty much mute the effects. However, even if you can hear the voices, they’re in Japanese. You’re still somehow supposed to read English text on the bottom of the screen without missing a beat in the combat. At least you can read a log in the pause menu when you inevitably miss something.
If you’ve ever played Dynasty Warriors, you know very well what to expect here. The battlefield is rife with enemy armies. Your goal is to take over territories, protect your home base, take down bosses, and keep your fellows alive. Every single battle plays out this way, and all of them pick from small pool of special actions. For example, you might have to take down a specific guard to open a gate, take down an enemy that’s launching an aerial strike on your bases, or escort an ally to a specific location.
Combat is incredibly simple. You have two attack buttons that can be strung together into various combos. New combos are unlocked as the character levels up. Each character has a sweeping attack and a focused attack. You’ll invariably find one or two combos that you’ll spam continuously to deal with the never-ending swarm of enemies. You’ll mix things up out of sheer boredom.
The crux of the game is managing your three meters. The first one is the health meter, which I’m sure I don’t have to explain. The next is the special meter. When this is full, you can use a character’s signature attack, which is good for a lot of damage. As you level, additional meters are gained, allowing you to store multiple specials. New this time, however, is the special action meter. This fills up over time, and allows you to enter special action mode when its full. In this mode, you become vastly more powerful and gain a better move set. As you defeat enemies, you’ll build up a fourth meter, which is the crew gauge. If you fill this before your special action meter drains, you can call forth your selected crew member. You’ll control that character in their special action mode for a time, which allows you to really lay the hurt on enemies. Doing this on a boss will help you lower their life bar dramatically. You select one crew member at the beginning of each level, and you can only use some of the characters in this way.
Compared to the first game, things here are better or worse depending on what you’re looking for. The maps are bigger, there are more enemies, and there are a lot more selectable characters. Coins, which can be equipped to buff stats, are even easier to assign, and skills are earned without much hassle. However, there’s a lack of variety. There are no boss fights that test your reflexes or mental acumen. It’s all about running in and bashing them into oblivion. So while there is more to work with, there’s less to actually do. Each level feels the same, and you’re going to average more than one thousand kills each battle. It gets monotonous. If you didn’t like the single player campaign from the first game, this one offers more of what you want. It’s a interesting trade off.
On the normal difficulty setting, the game is painfully easy. Most enemies are mindless drones that wait for you to attack them. Then there are a few mid boss types that come in only a few flavors. While actual characters use unique attacks, you can treat them all the same. Spam special action and special attacks until they’re done. There’s usually restorative items within sight to allow you to build your meters, and they simply don’t have enough life to deal with it. The one monkey wrench that can ruin your day is the fact that boss characters and go into special action mode. When in this mode, they can’t be hurt by normal attacks. If you don’t have your meters filled, you’ll need to wait until the boss reverts to normal before you can resume the hurt. Oh, and you might have some trouble if you are ten or so levels below the recommendation.
If you really get into the game, it does offer a decent amount of content. There are more than enough missions and character to keep you busy for a few dozen hours. Granted, it’s all pretty much the same thing. It’s not really a bad game, but it is simple and repetitive. That’s not a recipe for a rewarding gameplay experience. Prepare for the grind.
Short Attention Span Summary
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 is both more of the same and a major departure. It eschews the unique single player experience that focused on Luffy, and offers a whole lot more Dynasty Warriors style gameplay. There are three times as many characters, the levels are bigger, and more options for online play. Depending on which aspect of the first game you liked, you’ll either love the changes or hate them entirely. Still, the game is certainly recommendable to fans of the genre and the series. It’s not like there are lot of options out there for One Piece fans.