Bandai Namco is back with another port onto the Nintendo Switch. This time it’s One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3, the apex of Omega Force’s series based on one of the most beloved manga series of all time. Previously released on the Vita, PS3, PS4, and PC, Pirate Warriors 3 has been made to run on all kinds of platforms, but the results have varied wildly. So, Musou and One Piece fans may be wondering how the Switch, still somewhat of an unproven commodity in terms of power, handles a Musou that wasn’t built for the system. While the definitive platform will still inevitably be the PS4, I was glad to discover the Switch version is quite capable.
On the Switch, Pirate Warriors 3 is also a real bang for your buck. It’s the full game, feature perfect, plus all the DLC comes with, for less than the usual full retail price. This is already a big game, but the extra missions and costumes make it even more stuffed with One Piece fanfare. Speaking of fanfare, Pirate Warriors 3 really is an Omega Force-style love letter to the source material, in a similar vein to all the other IP-driven Musou joints. The game starts all the way at the beginning of the story, then goes all the way to the most recent completed arc at the time of release, Dressrosa. It goes into as much detail as a Musou game can, so just going through the story is quite an endeavor.
In terms of gameplay, we are going back in time a bit on the Musou timeline, to 2015. So don’t expect any fancy open world stuff ala Dragon Quest Heroes II. However, do expect some interesting control choices, such as the removal of jumping entirely, and some striking inconsistencies to the usual combo strings. This is especially true due to all the wacky powers inherent to the world of One Piece, and seeing how the various Devil Fruit and Haki powers manifest is a huge part of the appeal here. Also notable is that while you have to stick to one character in a stage, you can cycle between supports that can be summoned at the end of combo strings for bonus damage, and used in a new “Kizuna Rush” ability that provides this game’s version of the two-character Musou Attack.
One arena Musou games struggle in the most is in character progression, namely finding a system that works and doesn’t feel like grinding on top of grinding. Or maybe Omega Force does something different every time on purpose, to keep fans doing something new each game. Either way, Pirate Warriors 3 does it in an almost mobile game-like fashion; stat growth is tied to character coin drops you earn from playing levels and meeting certain conditions. This would be pretty benign if it weren’t for the oddly punishing scoring systems. You have to balance the time you take, the number of kills, and a special “!” stat. It’s easy enough to get A grades on the normal difficulty, but getting all S is oddly difficult, and gunning for them really interrupts the normal, fun flow of the gameplay.
The big question mark with Pirate Warriors 3 on Switch is the performance. It runs pretty well for the most part! It also looks pretty great, which is more than I can say for the Vita version. It’s about on par with the PS3 version (which is also incidentally what the PC version is based on), and rarely dips under a steady 30 frames per second. A lot of the time it even goes over, which is great! The only major problem is that sometimes the number of enemies onscreen isn’t enough somehow, and I found myself sometimes waiting for bases to fill back in so I could continue fighting to capture them. In a Musou game that’s an issue.
Overall, Pirate Warriors 3 is neither the definitive Musou for the Nintendo Switch, nor is it the best version of Pirate Warriors 3. However, it’s a resoundingly solid package, which is good news for the cross-section of Musou and One Piece fans with a penchant for handheld gaming (like, this game speaks to me on a primal level and I’m not ashamed to admit that publicly). It’s a great deal that is only really beaten by random PlayStation Network flash sales, and for a handheld conversion of a slightly older console Musou it runs like a charm. There are hours of content to just get through the story, and then there’s free play and the dream mode, that lets you really dive into the supporting cast. Plus, all the bonus DLC missions and challenge-based unlockables. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is a whole lot of game, and now it’s on the go in a form that isn’t kinda sad. I love my Vita, but them’s the breaks.
If you're interested in this game, check out the One Piece manga!
by Lucas White
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