When not releasing bi-monthly Dragon Ball games, Bandai Namco also handles other Manga/Anime-related titles such as the fantastic JoJo’s All-Star Battle and Digimon Survive. Another one of these is based on this little-known anime called One Piece. Joking aside, One Piece is back with One Piece Odyssey. This time around, the Straw Hat Pirates are taking another crack at the JRPG genre. Will it be a diamond in the rough, or is this a case of another man’s trash actually being trash?
A New Age Of Pirates
One Piece Odyssey sees the Straw Hat Pirates led by their master of rubber and consumer of meat Monkey D Luffy, shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Waford. Naturally, nothing’s quite what it seems here. The island is inhabited by Colossi and other mysterious creatures alongside two original characters for the game. Here we meet the gun-wielding Adio and the jug-carrying, pirate-hating world of mystery Lim, who promptly steals the Straw Hat’s abilities and spreads them around the island in the form of cubes.
It’s down to Luffy and the Straw Hats to solve the mystery of Waford, win over the mysterious Lim, and get off the island while the Marines are slowly catching up to them. This is all while a mysterious character is overseeing events.
For the most part, One Piece Odyssey is an original adventure in terms of story. The issue with this is that there is only so far the developers will go with the narrative. A result is that some of the time characters appear and just feel like they’re there for fleeting fan service. I guess it is what you’d expect from an anime tie-in title though. Overall while the original aspect of the story is fun, it feels inconsequential and just stinks of being non-canon. Take it like the movies; It’s just a fun adventure within the series, rather than being an integral piece of lore.
As this title is based on a popular anime/manga franchise, there are always questions. How much of the series are you expected to know? Is it canon? Where does it sit within the timeline? I would say that you are fine with this title if you have at least seen or read to the end of the Dressrosa story arc and I’ll explain why.
Several times within the story, Luffy and Co are expected to go into giant “memory cubes”. These see the cast experiencing a soft re-telling of 4 main arcs in the One Piece series: Alabastre, Water 7, Marineford, and Dressrosa. These sections aren’t direct retellings but do cover some of the main events within the story. It’s not the most ideal way to experience any of them if you have no prior knowledge. The gimmick here is the cast goes through these tales with the knowledge of what happened, so try to circumvent events for the cleanest victories.
Something Borrowed, Something New
What One Piece Odyssey presents is a mix of an original story with story recaps of main events. The latter veers into the world of “What If” and sadly it doesn’t quite stick the landing in the cleanest way. The pacing is all over the place, you spend much more time in the retellings than you do in the original story. It’s to the point that Waford feels like an afterthought, especially in the earlier hours of the game.
The retelling of the arcs is also presented in a strange way. While you can unlock a brief write-up of each story as you play it, the presentation of them is all over the place as you quickly jump from key event to key event. For example, Alabastre sees you spending a lot of time just playing catch up to Vivi, and then within 40 minutes you see Crocodile for the first time and that’s the final fight of that saga. It doesn’t really do Crocodile justice as an antagonist. You only see him around three times before it’s over!
Overall the narrative in this title is fine if you’re already a fan of the franchise. It has all the banter between the characters you would expect with Zoro and Sanji clashing heads non-stop, Nami being obsessed with wealth, Usopp just being the absolute legend that he is, and Brook just being Brook. There just isn’t enough introduction to the world and characters for absolute newcomers and with it seemingly placed around the end of Dressrosa arc, I would highly recommend you at least take on this title with that level of familiarity.
From Shaky Beginnings
One Piece Odyssey has taken the route of the JRPG but has thankfully learned from every mistake the series made with the 3DS release One Piece: Romance Dawn. The earlier title was an interesting idea but was so bare-bones that it made Brook look like he had plenty of meat on him.
In terms of actual mechanics, there is a lot going on with this title. It’s to the point that the first couple of hours is a mix of tutorials and the feeling of being overwhelmed. This is especially the case in the first hour where very little is actually explained and you’re somewhat thrown to the wolves before you get your powers wiped and have to start from fresh.
I’ll tackle the exploration side of things first. The world is littered with magnifying glass icons; while not essential, these provide insights into the world around you, from throw-away comments from Luffy about being hungry to explaining just how strange the island of Waford is. As said, they’re not essential though. Don’t feel you have to read every single one as that would seriously extend your playtime!
You have many, many items to collect too which tie into the obligatory crafting systems. Sanji can cook you meals, Usopp can make you bombs and Robin can combine accessories to make even stronger accessories with additional stats and bonuses. There are also plenty of more traditional single-use items. These range from healing food to “Cubes” which allow you to power up each of the Straw Hat’s moves.
Everyone Has A Job
Each of the Straw Hats’ has a unique ability that either aids navigation or item collection. Luffy can swing across gaps with his Gomu Gomu power, Zoro can cut down giant gates, Usopp can knock down birds’ nests, and Chopper can fit into small caves. If you’re familiar with the cast (and again, I recommend you are to play this) I’m sure you can imagine that every character has their use. It’s done well for the most part here. The only issue that stems from this is the brief loading that is done whenever you switch characters. While you can do this at your leisure, it does start to wear thin after a while of staring at a brief screen of darkness just to pick up some bird seeds before repeating as you have to go back through the small cave with Chopper.
The worlds are quite big. I especially wasn’t expecting the memory sections to be as large as they are. They are absolutely filled with side content; you’ve got fetch quests, kill X amount of enemy quests, and even bounties that you can chase for some of that filthy lucre. Getting around the world could be a little easier if it wasn’t riddled with strange invisible walls that stop you jumping over small fences though! There is also a rather inconsistent fast travel system which takes a good while to unlock. While in the memories fast travel points are fairly placed, around Waford they’re less so. On top of that, they require you to do this game’s favorite pastime: backtracking.
One Piece Odyssey isn’t the most thoughtful when it comes to valuing your playtime. Main quests usually involve you walking from point to point and back again to talk to an NPC or pick up an item before you can walk a little bit further only to send you back to a previous area. It takes an absolute ice age to open up to a level where you feel you can explore freely without Usopp giving Zoro grief about getting lost again. It does a real number on the game’s pacing and just feels like a metric tonne of padding to just keep that game timer going while adding very little substance. It’s a shame because when the game fires on all cylinders it presents a fantastic JRPG adventure where you can tell the pedigree of the developer shines through.
Whoever Heard Of A Peaceful Pirate?
Mentioning the developer ILCA is a fantastic segue into the combat of the game. This is because the developer has the prestige of having worked on titles such as Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, Voice of Cards, and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. The experience they’ve gained here shines through, not only in the presentation and level of content but also in the addictive and fun combat loop.
Combat here is a turn-based affair here. Enemies walk around freely on the exploration field and you run into them to instigate combat. If they run into you, then you start at a disadvantage, and vice versa. You know the score by now when it comes to this aspect if you’ve played any RPG in the last decade or so.
When thrust into combat, you’re presented with a rather stylish user interface; It shows you all the stuff you need to know. Which enemy will attack next is represented by a bar around their picture and combat is split across fields. Your characters inhabit these fields and unless they have a ranged attack they can only attack foes in their own field. That said, certain attacks can move enemies to other fields and this ties in massively to the Rock, Paper, Scissor weakness system the game has, which is referred to as Speed, Technique, and Power here.
The combat is a balancing act of hitting the weakness of enemies by switching your cast of pirates in and out in the handy “tactics” menu. While you can’t freely just move one character to another field, it’s always worth seeing if you can switch out your weak link to a strength, especially when the game triggers one of the special objectives. These can either spell doom for your party or provide you with a sweet EXP bonus on completion. Special objectives range from clearing out a field within a certain amount of turns or beating a boss character with a certain character.
Naturally, you have a plethora of status effects that you can inflict such as Bleed where you lose HP every turn, and other juicy stuff like faint which stops actions for the next few turns. These tie in brilliantly with the Power, Speed, Technique system and have you thinking for most battles the best way to maximize damage in the quickest time.
Abilities act as your “magic” attacks here. Instead of MP, each ability uses up TP. Fortunately, you can restore it quite easily by simply attacking an enemy with a standard attack or via a consumable item. You also have Bond Attacks which are unlocked through side quests. These grant you a team attack between 3 of the Straw Hats. You gradually unlock these through the game and they can often help tip battles in your favor.
A Delicate Balancing Act
Combat difficulty has some real balancing issues here. In my playthrough, mobs could either be swept away quite easily and then all of sudden the game ramps things up. I was then wavering to get the win. This is especially the case as the title has a habit of taking away party members at a whim, and then throwing a ton of foes your way with their particular weakness. On the flip side, the game is very generous with EXP and accessories to help bolster your party and keep you well leveled. It’s to the point that after the first memory, my party was already into their level 30s’ only 15 hours in at that point.
There is genuinely a lot of thought and heft gone into the gameplay of One Piece Odyssey which helps it stand head and shoulders above most anime adaptations. It feels like it is a great JRPG alongside being a fantastic representation of the product rather than just a cheap cash-in. Padding aside, the gameplay is addictive with the combat as a highlight. While the crafting once again feels like it was put in just for the sake of crafting, certainly it doesn’t commit any sins that any of its more prestigious JRPG kin don’t also commit. The gameplay here easily stands toe to toe with many of the genre’s recently released gems.
From Page To The Player
The presentation in One Piece Odyssey is top shelf as you would expect from Bandai Namco. You can say a lot about some of their titles, but the presentation of the anime ones are always done with a certain degree of care. It’s no different here.
Visuals are stunning here. From the boot screen which is an original drawing by the Mangaka Eiichiro Oda down to the character models and the mysterious island of Waford, they’re amazing. The visuals all have hints of paintbrush strokes to them, giving it a little more than just cel-shading. The designs here are in line with the visuals of the manga, while the animation of the game looks much like the animation of the anime series.
The scenery of Waford is fantastic. Panning the camera around to see this mysterious plateau took me by surprise with just how good this game looks not only graphically but artistically. While it’s a completely original area designed just for the game, it genuinely looks like somewhere the Straw Hats would end up on their adventure to find the One Piece along the Grand Line.
The memory sections also see similar sections of love, but especially early in the game, there are a few rather empty generic areas. This is mostly where they have padded out the adventure and tried to explain how the cast got from one section of the story to another without it changing the full narrative of the retelling. Again, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the genre, but having rather basic and empty areas after the sprawling jungles of Waford does feel slightly jarring.
The original characters and enemies do feel like they could have leaped straight from the pages of the manga, but I will say some of the enemies do feel like they could have come from a certain RPG series that involves questing with Dragons. This is what initially spurred me into looking into the developer, and it seems they may have picked up a little artistic flourish from another famous Mangaka.
We Are! We Are On A Cruse!
The original Japanese voice cast all return to voice the cast ranging from Luffy all the way to a certain cigar-smoking marine and beyond. No, the game doesn’t come with an English dub, but this didn’t bother me in the slightest. Personally, I have only ever heard the English dub for the film One Piece: Stampede, which while it wasn’t terrible, it just didn’t match the level of familiarity I have with this iconic Japanese voice cast.
The music on hand is fantastic. While I couldn’t pick out any licensed music, that’s a blessing in disguise here as the music was composed by one Motoi Sakuraba. He’s famous for such ‘little-known’ franchises including Tales of, Dark Souls, and Golden Sun. The man has an illustrious career dating back as far as 1989. I’d particularly point out the main theme for the game, as it’s an absolute masterclass managing to fuse a grandiose adventure feel with the theme of piracy.
One Piece Odyssey manages to not only be the finest One Piece title released, but it also stands on its legs alone as a damn fine JRPG adventure. It’s riddled with all kinds of franchise fan service, but that only carries a game so far and I don’t think I would have enjoyed playing through the game’s 40-hour+ story if that was all it had.
The game managed to smash every expectation I had. While it had some wonky pacing and played it a little safe at times with the genre tropes, I felt fully invested in the game from start to finish. It’s to such a point that this game has rekindled my love of the franchise which had been ebbing to the point I was happy to just play the Musou titles for a story recap.
It won’t convince anyone who actively dislikes or shows no interest in One Piece to get invested, but if you have a slight curiosity and a love for JRPGs, the game offers enough to entice and entrap players. If you’re a fan of Luffy and Co, then this is the easiest game recommendation I can make. This is the game I wanted from One Piece: World Seeker and has cemented itself as the absolute gold standard of Anime tie-in titles: no more cheap arena fighting games, please!
ONE PIECE ODYSSEY IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Bandai Namco for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk