It’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago, I was one of those people who wrote off the Warriors series as one of repetitive, tiresome button mashers. Then along came Dragon Quest Heroes to completely change my mind, and I’ve gone on to enjoy just about every game since. (Yes, I even loved the widely-criticised Dynasty Warriors 9).
Had my Warriors awakening come a few months earlier, I might not have shuffled past the original 2015 release of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 with nary a glance. Fortunately, the Switch port has put that game back in the spotlight, and given me a chance to visit another corner of the extensive Warriors universe.
Pirate Warriors 3 plays it close to the classic 1-versus-1000 formula: as one of a handful of different heroes, you fight your way through hordes of enemies while vying for control of different strategic points on the map, locking swords with other powerful foes, and searching for treasure. It lacks the experimentation more recent Warriors games have seen around the edges, but that’s no bad thing: the core hack and slash action is as enjoyable as ever.
The majority of enemies you fight pose no threat or challenge. Rather, they’re there to make you feel powerful: taking down a couple dozen enemies at once, with just one or two swings of your weapon, is invigorating. It’s mindless, satisfying, button-mashing fun.
Where that the extent of a Warriors game, I’d understand the “repetitive” criticism; fortunately, it’s not. Each mission involves a handful of different objectives that’ll have you running all over the map and juggling priorities. Most often, you’ll need to take over a particular base or bases (by slaying enough enemies within it, then taking out the boss that appears), protect your own turf, or defeat certain supercharged enemies.
When multiple goals show up at once, each demanding your attention, you have to think about how best to approach the situation. You can only be in one place at once, and while your AI companions will help to some extent, it’s really up to you to cover all the bases—a task that’s often easier said than done. This isn’t some deep, complicated tactics game, but there’s enough of a layer of strategy to keep the game from ever getting tedious.
Boss characters further complicate things. It’s not enough to simply hack away at them; you also need to avoid their attacks and look for openings where you can unleash some big damage. That’s typical action game stuff, but it’s all part of the Warriors tapestry: easily-felled minions for that intrinsic feeling of satisfaction, a layer of strategy, and the reflex and reaction demands of character action games.
In between missions light RPG systems let you strengthen your characters. In addition to a typical levelling system, you can also use special coins collected in battle to raise individual parameters. Completing specific objectives earns you skill scrolls, which in turn unlock helpful passive skills.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 wraps all of that up in the bright, comical world of the One Piece anime. In true shonen anime fashion, One Piece is all about exaggerated action and larger than life characters, so it’s a perfect fit for this sort of game. Between a pirate king wannabe with rubber limbs, a bounty hunter who triple wields swords (yes, with one in his mouth), a pirate clown, and snake-summoning pseudo-Medusa, to name but a few.
If you’re not familiar with One Piece, that’s fine. Pirate Warriors 3 retells the same story as the anime—albeit in a heavily abridged form, as it covers a few hundred (!) episodes’ worth of plot. As edited down as it is, the story still manages a coherent, compelling summary of its source material, and despite never having watched the show, I never felt like I was missing anything. Quite the contrary: I’ve enjoyed Pirate Warriors 3 enough to make me want to watch an anime I otherwise had very little interest in.
As a Deluxe Edition, the Switch version of One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 includes a wealth of content that was released as DLC for the original game, primarily character costumes and optional missions for the Dream Log challenge mode. That’s probably not enough reason to revisit this version if you’ve already had your fill of the original release, but for everyone else, this Deluxe Edition is the way to go.
You always know what you’re going to get with a Warriors game—over the top action with a light sprinkling of strategy and RPG systems. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is no exception, and combined with the eccentric characters and enchanting world of the One Piece anime, it’s a whole lot of fun.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3: Deluxe Edition is developed by Omega Force / Koei Tecmo and published by Bandai Namco. It’s available now for Nintendo Switch (reviewed).
A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for this review.