I'm a plural trans woman who's been gaming since she was little. I grew up on Mario, Sonic, and Mega Man X, and I still love to play all sorts of games to this day. I'm also learning to make my own sprites and figurines! I'm the whole nerd package!
Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch
March 27, 2020
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Ahoy, small fries! One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 be here for our perusin’, and it be high time we take a look inside fer treasure! Did these lubbers hit the spot on the X, or should they have left it buried fer a bit longer? Climb aboard and see fer yerself!
Ay, fer the record I ain’t seen no One Piece since the ol’ days o’ 4Kids.
Okay, enough pirate speak, let’s get this going. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is what’s known as a Musou game, which means it’s all about busting up thousands of foes in a wide battlefield, capturing territory, and unleashing mighty combos! The One Piece franchise has branched out a fair bit in its time, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a lad who can stretch so far, right?
Musou, aka Warriors games, are known for having the kinds of on-screen conflicts that dwarf even the Dead Rising series. It’s also a rather precarious situation to have all of that action going on without making your console want to hop into your shower to escape from the heat. Unfortunately, that delicate balance feels a bit like walking the plank, at least on the Switch version of the game.
Let’s start with the visuals, which are a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the textures, both on characters and the environment, are fairly dithered, with even the loading screen having noticeable artifacts on its imagery.
The models themselves look quite good mind you, but you can definitely see textures here and there that are almost PS2 quality.
That being said, these visual shortcomings do serve a purpose, so it’s far from all bad.
See, the reason for these poor textures is because the game is adamant about staying fast and fluid, both with the gameplay and framerate. The game really follows the adage that a game should be fun foremost and being pretty shouldn’t get in the way of that.
It actually does an admirable job of keeping a steady framerate no matter how much is going on, though if you’re a stickler for graphical parity, then I’d seek out a different platform.
On Switch, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 has blurry buildings and enemies that pop in before your very eyes. It really comes down to what’s most important to you. If you’re simply enjoying the gameplay for what it is, then you’re going to have a ball. An ugly ball, but it still bounces just fine.
Visual problems aside, the presentation is still on-point. The character models are very true to the source material, which can be somewhat jarring in 3D, but they still look fantastic during story moments.
In-game cutscenes are mostly standard, but the facial expressions and great voice-acting do a good job of keeping you engaged. Having the pre-rendered cutscenes look as if they’ve been etched on parchment is also a lovely touch.
Have a look at the footage I recorded below and see if you agree. Does it matter how many polygons something has when you’re too busy smashing it to notice?
When it comes to the gameplay, it’s mostly what you’d expect from the Musou genre, which is always fun and easy enough to get into.
Combos are done with straight-forward mashing followed by a finisher, and each is designed to plow through dozens of mooks at once, making you feel like a shoe in a fight against ants. You have the power to control the tide of battle, which requires you to wear down the enemy’s numbers, take out important personnel to capture territory, and support your fellow captains when they’re struggling. A very hands-on style of military planning.
Each character has their own way of dealing with the fodder surrounding them, and through the use of a skill tree, players can unlock new combos and stat boosts to become even stronger. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is a game where you start off strong and only get more powerful as you go.
One gripe I do have is that I wish you could switch characters mid-mission like in Hyrule Warriors, but thankfully each character is fun enough to play on their own and the maps are reasonable enough in size so as to not require it.
Mode-wise, you’ve got a healthy selection of battles to jump into. Of course you have the story mode, called Dramatic Log, which essentially allows you to play through various parts of the original story, unlocking new allies and arcs as you go. It’s very much a for-the-fans endeavour here, so if you haven’t really watched the show, like me, don’t expect everything to make much sense beyond the basic premise. There is an in-game encyclopedia though, so if you want to know more beyond “pirates want treasure, eat weird fruit” it’s definitely a good place to start.
Free Log is similar but adds to the replay value by allowing you to redo completed chapters with other characters. This can help with grinding for the materials you need for levelling up and expanding the skill tree, so if you feel like revisiting some areas for funsies then it’s a great resource. You can even play with different costumes, some of which are free on the eShop.
“Does it matter how many polygons something has when you’re too busy smashing it to notice?”
For those looking for some more original story there’s Treasure Log, which are a series of missions that break from the traditional plot for some fresh new fights. These also help with collecting exp/resources, and can be instrumental in unlocking new playable characters. Definitely lives up to the name.
Each of these modes can be played both online and in split-screen with a second player too. The 2 player mode holds up surprisingly well with minimal lag. As for the online matchmaking, I couldn’t get a match going so I can’t comment.
All in all, if you’re looking for a ground-breaking title then you’re in for a disappointment. But if all you want is something fun and easy to get into, then this game is definitely for you. What’s not to like about getting to run around as a pirate who gets to beat people up? Consider it practice for the revolution!
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 knows what it wants to be, and doesn’t let the lower power of the Switch get in the way of a good time. You’ll likely be too busy kicking butt to notice every visual discrepancy, and at the end of the day it’s most important that a game is fun, not pretty.
And hey, if you want the best of both worlds there’s always the other platforms! Who says you can’t have it all, provided you have the booty to cover it?