I will be completely honest. When I started playing One Piece: Pirate Warrior 2, I knew absolutely nothing about the franchise.
I had heard of the characters but didn't watch the show, read the manga or play the first game, so I was a bit scared going in. I started the game and thought, “Oh no, what did I get myself into?” So the first mission starts, I have no idea what to expect and -- oh God, there are literally about 50 dudes running towards me!
I storm the gate and Luffy lets out a rubbery barrage of stylish attacks as I see the plethora of enemies being knocked around. More enemies come at me and I defeat them all with ease. As I progress through the level, I see that my KO count has reached quadruple digits, and then I realize: I am having so much fun.
The story, from what I understand, is an original non-canon storyline in the One Piece universe, but fans need not worry because you can expect to see all of your favorite characters from the show make appearances. Again, I haven’t seen the show or read the manga so I will leave it up to the hardcore fans of One Piece to decide if this story lives up to the legacy that the show and manga has already established. In terms of the story, from what I gather, Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates discover mysterious "dials," and unfortunately most of your crew has been corrupted by the dials and turn against you. Slowly, over the course of the game, you save your allies and they become part of your crew. At least that’s what I gathered. The characters will chatter back and forth between each other during missions as well but since it’s all in spoken Japanese, I had no idea what they were saying. There are English subtitles, but when I am beating up tons of dudes, I’m not paying attention to what’s written in a box in the corner of the screen. It probably make more sense to those who are fans of the series, but to me, it was hard to pay attention to what was going on. But you know what? That’s perfectly fine because even though I didn't really understand the story, I had an absolute blast playing.
The game plays pretty much like any Dynasty Warriors game you have played before. You select a character and a supporting character, then make your way through the level, knocking out thousands of enemies that stand in your way. You have light and heavy attacks which you can combine to discover new attacks for each character. The attacks, of course, all look insane and are a blast to pull off. Throughout each level you will also find treasure chests that may give you more heath, money to buy upgrades and bonus items, or items to build your style meter. Your style meter slowly fills as you take out enemies, and when it is full you can unleash your character's super move. Your attacks are crazy enough as it is, but your style meter move will pretty much wipe out anything that is standing in front of you and can take out tons of enemies in the process. I think I took out 60 enemies in a single style move and it was incredibly satisfying each and every time I did so. You can also bring allies along with you which, during a style move, can pop in and help out. Combine these attacks together and you will pretty much bring the pain to hundreds of enemies at once. The crazy action of the game is accompanied by colorful 3D anime style graphics and a great soundtrack as well. The only downside is that your characters have a tendency to repeat themselves over and over while attacking which does get pretty annoying after a while. The other problem is that the frame rate, while never bad, does fluctuate a lot depending on how many enemies there are on screen.
Everything you do on the battlefield will help you level up characters and make them stronger. There are over 30 playable characters that you can unlock during the course of the game, and while seeing big numbers is nice, 30 may be too big. You can only pick one character to play as, with two supporting characters to help you out. While you can level up by playing a character on a level, you can use in-game money to level up other characters. The problem with this is that with such a large selection of characters, you will run out of money quickly. This means that a large number of those characters will become neglected and will probably go unplayed. For me, I only used about eight or so characters because they were the strongest. Of course you can replay the stages if you want to keep everyone equally leveled, so I guess I can’t complain too much about that. You can also use your currency to unlock things in the gallery such as artwork and music, so if you are the kind of person that likes to collect in-game things, it will give you extra incentive to go back and play the levels to earn more currency.
Of course, with a game like this, you would expect that it can become repetitive after a while. You would be correct, but for me the fun never stopped when it came to destroying enemies on screen. The repetition comes in when you realize that every single level in the game plays out almost the same exact way. You travel to a certain part of the map, take out the enemies to reduce their morale, take over their stronghold, and do so over and over until the boss for each level appears. Beating up enemies never got old, but it was a little disappointing to see that I was doing the same thing for each level over and over again. Not a dealbreaker, but I’m sure some players would want more variety. The later levels do get tough as multiple enemies and bosses will appear during the level. You may be at one side of the map rescuing one of your allies when a new enemy and army appears, forcing you to get to the other end of the map in a hurry to save your other allies. If your allies are defeated, then you fail, and on more than on occasion this happened to me because I just got so overwhelmed with enemies appearing on the map.
If you are having trouble, you can team up with a friend via online play or send out an “SOS.” Sending out an SOS will alert other online players that you need help completing a level. They can then join your game and vice versa. Scrolling through the list of stages you will see SOS warnings pop up, so you can hop into their game and help as well. I did this a few times and the game is even more fun with a friend or online companion. There's just something so satisfying about beating up hundreds of enemies with your buddies.
Aside from the main story the game also comes with a separate game mode where you play as specific characters and you will get more of the story this game. The levels pretty much play out the same as the main story mode but playing as specific character will help you get acquainted with them to see if you want to make them a main during the main story. If there is a certain level you like you can replay it again in the "free log" mode which allows your to play any level over again once its unlocked in the story mode. There is a challenge mode as well which will have you accomplish certain tasks in order to finish a level. Between the story mode, character specific stories, online play and challenge mode, there is plenty of content here to keep you busy for a long time making it well worth the price you'll pay for it. Of course you can always ramp up the difficulty to hard and replay the levels again for a higher ranking. There are very few games released these days that make me want to play them again but I had so much fun with One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 that I would absolutely run through it again on a higher difficulty while trying out characters I didn't use the first time around.
If I had to use one word to describe One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, it would be "fun." Once I started this game I knew I was playing something special as I could not put it down, and I think it that says a lot considering that I knew pretty much nothing about this series before I started playing. If I had to make a list so far of my top 10 games of 2013, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2 would absolutely be on it.