After the “Dream Log” scenario of Pirate Warriors 2, Koei did what it usually does, as it basically starts from scratch in order to have a more faithful and complete recreation of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate world, in the name of canon… and so you wouldn’t need to have played the two previous Pirate Warriors titles, because this was released on all Playstation platforms at the time, and Steam as well.
There’s also a Deluxe Edition for Switch that came later with all DLC already on the cart, and it’s not bad performance wise, worth considering.
About the plot, yeah, it’s a more comprehensive retelling of One Piece’s story from the beginning at Fosha Town until Dressrosa’s arc, but in this specific case the game has an original story that pretty much compresses most events of the actual narrative arc, but still doesn’t feature important characters like Rebecca, the dwarves or most of the Donquixote Family villains. My guess is because by that time (march 2015 in japan, august elsewhere) the anime adaptation was still halfway through the Dressrosa arc, so not provide accidental spoilers, they did this instead.
Once again, some narrative arcs are sponged, but in a more reasonable manner, as some minor arcs really don’t translate well into a musou map (due to size or not much action happening at all, like Reverse Mountain, the mini-arc about Lavoon), and i guess people really hate Foxxy, because that arc isn’t here either. But i’m nitpicking, the story isn’t made to ease people unfamiliar with One Piece into its world, but it’s a fairly reasonable digest, once again the presentation is great, and it gives you enough context to actually understand why you’re doing this and that without having to read all 969 chapters.
Gameplay-wise, Pirate Warriors 3 keeps it traditional, but streamlines systems from older games together, as the new Kizuna system lets you choose what ally character (from the available) equip, and as you beat enemies, their crew level will rise, trigger assist attacks exactly like in the first PW, and when it’s full you can activate Kizuna Rush, which will give you stronger attacks, slightly modify or expand the moveset, let you rack up “bond points” by just killing enemies even without assists, and can be ended at any time by unleashing a special finish combination musou attack. One that makes the difficulty kinda drop down, Pirate Warriors 2 was more challenging, all in all, but it’s a “non-issue”, it’s a musou game.
Also, if an ally has a crown symbol, you can charge their Kizuna level even further, activating a specific ability, like summoning thunderstorms all over the map, healing, buff and debuffs, and this goes as well for named generals/enemies, who gain greater or total defense (especially if they have a Logia type fruit) from normal attacks when they enter a powered up state, like they did in Pirate Warriors 2.
There’s a new system for unlocking abilities that is tied to the bond system and the coins, used to power up characters (and later uncap the level limit), unlock advanced musou attacks or special abilities when the character activate the Kizuna Rush, and this time in the form of wanted posters for playable and assist only character, made to encourage using and powering all characters, as some abilities can’t be unlocked if you don’t satisfy the conditions for another character wanted poster/ability list.
Great, especially for completionist minded players.
As far as characters goes, there are 10 new entries, bringing the roster to 37, and you can finally play as Gekko Moria and Rob Lucci, which have been in the series from the beginning but could have been made playable in the last title, it’s not that easy to make boss or enemy character full featured playable, but i feel not that hard when you operate as Koei does and reuse assets and stuff to cut costs, and it’s kinda odd how long standing fan favorites like Arlong (who also has been featured as a boss enemy since the first PW) still aren’t. That said,the new characters are mostly quite fun, some surpringly so (didn’t expect Tashigi to be that good), some could have been better, like Emporio Ivankov, but quite welcome additions with interesting playstiles none the less.
Maps are thankfully not just copy and pasted from previous entries, as Omega Force redid them from scratch, adding new features and objectives to make the maps from alrady covered arcs more faithful to the events of the manga/anime, and of course there are new maps for the narrative arcs not seen/depicted before, with some events requiring specific conditions (listed and mostly self-explanatory) to be triggered. My only gripe with the map design is that it forgoes all together the Empires-style elements found in Pirate Warriors 2, for some reasons i don’t get.
Aside from the sizeable 12 hours long Story Mode and Free Mode, the main attraction for the post-game is the Dream Log, where you unlock some characters like Shanks by moving through islands, each offering a fight of some kind (maps are mostly fully opened for this mode), and it’s basically “grind mode”. It’s not bad, but it’s no Adventure Mode from Hyrule Warriors, sadly the comparison is kinda inevitable, but there’s nowhere the variety of challenges or rewards found even in the base version of the Zelda X Dynasty Warriors crossover.
It’s a better offering compared to previous Challenge modes in the PW series, for sure, it gives a lot of replaybility, some fights do offer some variety and original objectives, and even without the DLC fights (bundled with costumes in the Season Pass) it’s fairly big, it gels perfectly with the completitionist approach you may have, and you can unlock an even harder version of it, the aptly titled Nightmare Log.
Of course, there is still local and online co-op, but it’s also cross-save and cross-buy for PS3, PS4 and PS Vita, which is nice if you’re as obsessed as i am and got later the PS3 and Vita version for cheap, but i recommend getting the PS4 version, as the other are clearly downgraded (especially the PS3 version) from this one, and i think the PC version isn’t much better, Koei is famous for lackluster PC ports of their titles, musou games in particular, and i don’t think this is any exception.
Pirate Warriors 3 is so far the best title of this Warriors sub-series, as it basically unites elements and system from previous titles, revamps and improves them, and offers a more complete and faithful recreation of One Piece’s story, doing away with any “dream scenario” or non-canon original story to cover pretty much all important narrative arcs from the beginning until the Dressrosa arc, which oddly has an original – but not that original – scenario to avoid spoilers back in 2015, as that arc was still halfway for the anime adaptation.
This makes for a more sizeable story mode, more playable characters (for the respectable total of 37), a sizeable challenge mode to encourage/support grinding in the post-game in order to unlock and collect abilities, coins and improve the characters, with scenarios already featured in previous games having the maps and objectives redone from scratch (sadly throwing away the tactical nuances taken from the Empires spin-offs), and the technical improvements you’d expect for the jump to PS4. If you haven’t played the previous titles in the series, this is still the perfect place to start, and was intended as such because Koei wanted to release this one on more platforms outside the Playstation family.
A pretty damn good musou title, but since many assets are still reused (even thought not as many as other, more recent Warriors titles), you’d wish they had made even more characters fully playable, didn’t decrease the challenge by introducing even more powerful combo musou attacks, and that Omega Force did put the extra effort with the challenge mode, which gives a lot of longevity to the title (and it’s well engineered to encourage completionist), but could have been easily far better, almost as good as the superb Adventure Mode in Hyrule Warriors (even without involving the many expansion packs maps), it really could.
We’ll see if Pirate Warriors 4 can top his precedessor when it launches in the next days, bye for now!