Last week Tokyo Game Show took place in Chiba, Tokyo, being a big convention for video games from all over the world and for publishers to show their latest products to the public of Japan. A new trailer for the game was released, showcasing gameplay in Wano among a few new things:
Being in Tokyo, I thought I might as well drop by and while the lines were painfully long and the overall organization of the show an absolute mess (I’m looking at you, Sony, fuck you and your awful ticket system), I had the chance to get quite a bit of playtime with Pirate Warriors 4 (and also the FFVII Remake, which is fantastic!). So I’d like to just very briefly share my impressions of playing Pirate Warriors 4, what to expect from it and also my meeting with Oda’s editor at the end??
The showcase was subdivided into two demos: the first was a demo of Luffy running away from Whole Cake Island while in pursuit of Big Mom, with a boss battle against the Yonko at the end. The second demo was focused in the Wano Country, where you could choose up to three playable Straw Hats, Luffy, Zoro and Carrot, as well as two other characters: Kuzan and Ichiji (which actually revealed Kuzan as a playable character!)
First, the demo on Whole Cake Island. This seems to be more of a story-focused demo, with only Luffy being playable and without the mechanics of Warriors being too predominant. Put simply, I had to make my way through a bunch of chess troops and guide myself through the seducing woods, which would continuously shift from side to side, making me defeat certain enemies in order to open up new paths. After running through the woods, at the end there’s a mega battle against Big Mom, who stands as this gigantic enemy with a lot of health. Halfway through the fight Gear Fourth is triggered (not certain if this was automatic from the demo, as I assume in the game you have to activate it yourself), allowing you to deal more damage to her and take her down. Defeating her opens the path to the Sunny, allowing me to escape as a “To be Continued” title appears on screen and the demo ends.
The Wano demo instead put me cooperating with Luffy and Zoro to take down several members of the Beasts Pirates, including some high-ranking commanders which were samurai working for Orochi. This level was more in the style of traditional musou gameplay, where I had to conquer certain spots to turn the tides of battle in my favor. Certainly less emphasized than in other musou games, but it still was about conquering the map than making my way through a level like with the Whole Cake demo. You cross through a group of villages and a river close to the Flower Capital in a pretty stunning recreation of Wano, with gorgeous torii gates and nicely modeled houses lifted straight from the manga. A cool detail was the fact that the polluted river waters caused a poison effect on anyone that stepped on them. After a while, X Drake shows up on the map in allosaurus form and you have to take him down to finish the demo.
Generally speaking, in the first demo Luffy controlled pretty well throughout. The controls didn’t feel perfectly right, but I’m certain that might be due to this being an early build as well as this being my first time playing the game. That said, I didn’t have trouble keeping up with the enemies (though I assume the demo was made easier on purpose to not force attendees to quit) and destroying large troops was incredibly satisfying. With how strong certain characters can be in this series, there’s something truly satisfying about blowing a lot of enemies away with your attacks and PW4 is incredibly good at this aspect. Like previous Warriors games, Luffy has a decent array of attacks, though they felt sort of limited compared to previous games (then again, that’s likely due to this being a demo as it seemed to be locking away some of your abilities). On the other hand, some of the other characters, while still having limited moves, were a lot more fun to take for a spin, though that might be from the sheer fun factor of playing as these other characters from the series. Carrot was a lot of fun as she felt nimble, athletic and powerful, just like she does in the manga. A detail I really enjoyed was her sulong attack, doing the same smile that she does in chapter 888 as she finishes off her enemis (also she does the Naruto run when she dashes and I love that). Kuzan was likely the most fun of them all, with his attacks utterly demolishing enemy troops. Finally, Ichiji felt a bit more limited in attacks, but still was a blast to play as, especially with him soaring in the sky everytime you run.
I will say though, in terms of Big Mom’s fight, I found it a bit awkward to fight Big Mom at points, as her enormous model could sometimes obscure the camera. The camera movement didn’t feel as fluent as in other games like World Seeker, though once again perhaps this is just part of the early build.
Gear Fourth also felt a bit uncomfortable to use and not quite as impactful as G4 should be. I’m struggling to think which one is worse, this one or World Seeker’s, which also felt like it lacked a bit, one of the game’s few gripes for me. Unfortunately it seems Namco still hasn’t perfected a true Gear Fourth mode in a One Piece game, so I hope closer to release and playing more of the game it can grow on me.
Visually speaking the game really is a bit of a mixed bag, as is tradition with Pirate Warriors at this point. On one hand, the game can look really stunning and faithful to the original source material, with some landscapes looking particularly stunning. The fact that, unlike World Seeker, this game focuses on locations from the actual series, is such a nice treat, allowing us to relive some of the locations from the series with beautiful detail. That said, on the other hand, at times it can really look like a bad PS2 remaster and certain textures and models just look downright awful. The enemies are also the exact same model spammed over and over, which isn’t a problem with the chess soldiers since they all look identical in the manga as well, but it certainly was with the Beasts Pirates, which took me a bit out of the experience when all of Kaido’s troops were the same black man. Considering the golden standard World Seeker left for One Piece games in terms of visuals, it’s a bit of a step back moving onto Pirate Warriors 4, even if it looks heaps better than Warriors 3.
The massive amount of enemies also brings a bit of lag at times. It’s certainly nothing horrible that drags down the experience, as it mostly feels like an effect of slow-mo applied when you knock out a large group of people and doesn’t actually freeze the game, but it certainly is noticeable, even if it doesn’t disrupt the gameplay much. Some of the way the characters connected hits could also feel a bit janky at times, but I felt that was more due to it being a demo than anything.
Ultimately Pirate Warriors 4 feels like it’s shaping up to be a decent successor to the Pirate Warriors series, with a clear upgrade in terms of visual and combat. That said, it still feels mildly unpolished in some points like previous Warriors games, which is even more jarring given how polished the visuals and combat of this year’s World Seeker were by comparison. That said though, again, this is still an early build, so I hope the game is more mechanically robust by launch. The level of fanservice and detail put is certainly admirable and it seems like this game aims to give us more Warriors goodness based on the most recent events of the manga, which is always so satisfying to see.
But with that aside, I’m certain you’re more intrigued by what I mentioned in that title. So yeah, basically, as I was preparing to leave TGS, I saw a panel on a stage being held by a few members of Namco. Alongside the presenters were a staff member from Pirate Warriors 4, a staff member of that mobile game no one cares about, One Piece: Bounty Rush, and Oda’s editor, Naito. Wait… WHAT??? Yes, Oda’s very editor was present on stage helping present both games. For those out of the loop, Takuma Naito is Oda’s former manga editor, who helped shape a good chunk of the Whole Cake arc, as well as the Reverie and Wano’s first act. He now works as Oda’s media editor, which explains his presence here.
But while seeing Naito in person was a pretty cool experience, I wasn’t prepared for what would happen afterwards. As the stage ended and I was prepared to leave, making my way out I coincidentally bumped by pure coincidence into Naito once again! While I was taken by a rush of adrenaline, I decided to speak up to him. I decided to say something very brief as I didn’t want to hold him up or make him feel bothered or harassed, so I simply thanked him for his continued hard work on the series. He replied with a quick and gentle thanks and we parted ways. It might’ve been something little, but it definitely meant a lot to me!
Anyway, Pirate Warriors 4 is due next year, but given how complete the demo already felt, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a release early in the year during the first half, somewhere around the same time as World Seeker or mildly after. As long as it isn’t right after the FFVII Remake!
If there’s any additional questions you have about the game, feel free to ask them and I’ll try to answer!