Dynasty Warriors games are well known for following a strict gameplay formula. However, in recent tie-in titles like Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes, more and more innovation has been brought in to augment the core gameplay in interesting ways. This is not so for One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, however.
Pirate Warriors 3 is a Dynasty Warriors game in the most classic sense. You control a character who fights through thousands of enemies using a combination of strong and weak attacks. As you move across the map, you capture various points, allowing you to bring in additional soldiers of your own and, as you work your way to completing each level's main objective, usually defeat a boss.
There are no adventure stages — like in the original Pirate Warriors game — to mix up the game play, nor are there any of the other major additions to the Dynasty Warriors formula like the tower defence-style monster summoning system of Dragon Quest Heroes. As far as the general gameplay goes, Pirate Warriors 3 might as well have been made in 2001.
That's not to say there is nothing new in the gameplay, however. In Pirate Warriors 3, you are now able to select another member of your army to pop in and add an extra attack to many of your combos. As you repeatedly use this other character, a special attack bar grows and, when full, allows you to summon that character to fight by your side for a limited period of time.
During this time, every enemy defeated drops bonus cash (which can be used to level up characters), and you can end the summoning at any time by performing a devastating team-up super attack. Moreover, if you summon a different partner each chance you get to summon, all previously summoned characters will also be summoned — as well as lend their own special attacks to the team-up special attack.
While Pirate Warriors 2 had its own original plot, Pirate Warriors 3, like the first game, follows the plot of the manga — starting at Luffy's first adventure and moving all the way up to the current Dressrosa arc. The game is chock-full of per-rendered and animated manga cutscenes with fully-voiced character conversations to flesh out the story of each level. There are also several extra optional objectives in each level that reward you for following the source material's story in your Pirate Warriors battle.
Because of the game's adherence to the manga's plot, you are limited in who you are able to play as in each level — i.e., you are only able to play as the members of Luffy's crew who were present during any given point of the story. This means that you may be unable to play as your favourite characters in the game's story mode — especially if your favourites are not part of Luffy's crew.
However, once you beat the mission in story mode, you are able to play with any character you have unlocked in the game's "Free Mode." Of course, to unlock most of the characters, you need to play the game's "Dream Mode" — a mode that contains no plot and is little more than a series of battles. It's a bit of busywork, in all honesty.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 is an incredibly run-of-the-mill Dynasty Warriors game with little in the way of innovation. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The combat itself plays well and, if you're looking to experience yet another retelling of the One Piece story, this game may be for you. Just don't expect anything more than that.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 was released in Japan on March 26, 2015, for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. It is scheduled for a Western release in August 2015.