Last week, One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 launched across major platforms and the action-adventure video game, developed by Omega Force and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, has been exactly what those stuck in self-isolation need.
While I'm not a die-hard One Piece fan, I can certainly appreciate the great things this game does from the perspective of a newbie.
If you're not familiar with the Japanese manga series, One Piece is one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, estimated to have generated more than $21 billion in total franchise revenue across its manga, anime, films, games and merchandise.
Here's our review of its latest video game adventure.
What Is One Piece Pirate Warriors 4?
To understand the game, you need to understand what One Piece is.
First created in 1997, the One Piece story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body gained the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a Devil Fruit.
Alongside his Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy explores the Grand Line in search of the world's ultimate treasure known as "One Piece" in order to become the next King of the Pirates.
The game itself doesn't veer far from that objective either, it aims to summarise almost 900 episodes of the show into one campaign; which sounds overwhelming, but the campaign runs just over 15 hours.
Pirate Warriors 4 covers six main arcs - Alabasta, Enies Lobby, the Paramount War, Dressrosa, Whole Cake Island, and an original version of the Wano arc.
Fortunately, if you're not a massive fan of the show, that's not a big deal - the game is tons of fun. While you can criticise it for being a typical button masher, dominating hundreds of enemies while you rack 1000+ combos is always a great way to pass your time.
You can tell that the developers have worked hard to make the recaps as informative as they can to please newcomers and mega-fans alike.
While there are plenty of features (and arcs) reused from the older games, there is enough identity and much more detail here to make you think of this game as a standalone rather than a needless expansion.
This fourth instalment includes over 40 characters to play as, with very similar gameplay features to its predecessors, but introduces a new game mode called "Titan mode" and four new multiplayer player modes.
This is one of the few instances I've encountered with the One Piece universe, so my opinion on the story isn't necessarily going to give it a true reflection on how great it is.
One Piece does what any anime/manga does well, it captures the audience with an imaginative and high energy story with plenty of colourful characters.
I know I've missed out on many stories and moments by not watching the shows or reading the comics, but I do feel like I have an insight into this vibrant world and the many species that inhabit it.
Where the game may fall short for the more immersed fans, who maybe want a quick catch up on the recent adventures, it does appear to cut a few corners.
Right from the get-go, the game plops you into the centre of the chaotic action, as you destroy wave after wave of enemies.
The game progressively introduces you to new moves, combinations and techniques as the first level progresses; I'm a big fan of learning on the go in video games.
Actions are simple to execute, but reward you with dramatic and intense outcomes. If you're looking for a challenge, you may be let down by this lack of scaling technical ability. However, as a newcomer, in the mood for a learn-as-you-go approach when tackling a new franchise and story, I was very happy with it.
The varying difficulty allows you to take your skills to the next level and test your metal, so this "simple" game requires you to think a bit more about your actions.
The cutscenes, although beautiful to look at, are a strange change of pace compared to the adrenaline-pumping action you find yourself in throughout the gameplay.
One of my few issues with the gameplay was the camera, I found to be a bit slow and awkward to turn. In a 3D game such as this, you need to be able to see where you're going and where your opponent is. In some of the boss fights, I found myself getting lost in the chaos and losing my main target.
It's also worth mentioning that you can't adjust your height, so trying to execute aerial combos on enemies can prove to be difficult.
Each character has their own skill tree, which adds a nice progression and something to grind out, but some are only used for 1 level; making it a bit redundant at times. This is even more so when you consider how many characters there actually are.
The graphics, although not the standout feature, were subtly very appealing in-game. Again, it's hard not to gush about the beautiful cutscenes the game sports.
I was particularly impressed by how the game managed to generate so many enemies on the screen without suffering any frame rate issues.
Is It Worth It?
If you're a massive One Piece fan, this is a game you NEED to buy and if you're an anime fiend, potentially smashing through the series in this self-isolation period, it will no doubt help you to pass the time.
Not to mention that this is a really easy way to get into the story and the franchise by smashing your way through a ton of enemies, broken up by some great cinematics.
While it's hard to do this game justice as I don't necessarily fit into these categories, it was a great experience gameplay-wise and I'm a little more fond of the One Piece world.
Final Score: 7.5/10