Just like how the Straw Hat Pirates have sailed to different parts of the world, the One Piece games are no stranger to changing genres. Where One Piece: World Seeker presented an open-world structure, Pirate Warriors 4 delivered the thrill of hack-and-slash action, and now, One Piece Odyssey is set to tread into new waters.
Bandai Namco’s upcoming title will be the first full-fledged JRPG in the series, swapping out the traditional real-time action combat for turn-based mechanics. It’s a change that may not sit well with some, but a 20-minute hands-on session at Thailand Game Show 2022 seems to harbour the optimism that it’ll be a gem for fans of the genre.
While revealed during the event, the Kingdom of Alabasta wasn’t the place of focus in the demo build. Instead, players find themselves in King Kong Garden in what seems to be the tutorial portion of the game, where they’ll have to traverse the uneven terrain. The job falls to Luffy, who can stretch and grab onto branches and ledges to reach higher handholds, or thrust through wild shrubbery to find some items.
The route is pretty straightforward here, leaving no room for free-roaming. As the linear map only offers one way forward, veering off the intended path is virtually impossible, which can be a little restrictive for those used to a bigger setting. For newcomers, though, that makes it easier to pick up the controls, and hopefully the world will open up past the tutorial and prologue sections.
Grappling and swinging through the air, meanwhile, feels smooth and enjoyable. One Piece Odyssey is no Marvel’s Spider-Man for sure, but there’s a certain sense of appeal that comes with traversing without having your feet touch the ground every time – even if the lack of continuous movement from one branch to another does shatter the immersion.
In combat, the mechanics are just what one would expect out of a JRPG. Players will be able to assume control of four party members as they take turns attacking, with each tied to a corresponding combat type: Power, Speed, and Technique. This system works like rock-paper-scissors, where one attribute is strong against another and weak to the remaining one. Power, for instance, counters Speed, but loses out to Technique.
To cast special abilities, a party member has to first consume TP, which is gained by using standard attacks. Every party member will have a different skill loadout that spans damage-dealing, healing, and/or status inflict and buffs. Use of items like potions is also allowed mid-battle.
The core elements are pretty standard fare for JRPG titles, but One Piece Odyssey does have a unique feature – the Scramble Area Battle system. Instead of putting everyone on a huge battleground, the game divides it into different areas, so players will have to switch their party members around to ensure that they are effective against the enemy types on the field.
It’s unclear just how much of a difference that will offer, however, as the demo build took the challenge out of combat. With an overpowered crew, it was extremely easy to get through the battles even with a weak match-up, and hardly any strategic thinking came into play. Some may also find the addition to be unnecessarily complicated, but the effort to bring in something fresh is commendable nonetheless.
Perhaps the greatest appeal for One Piece fans would be the various character interactions that accurately showcase their dynamics in the series. These moments incorporate a nice touch of personality into the gameplay experience, and do a good job of introducing the Straw Hat Pirates to newcomers.
One Piece Odyssey, with its sails set for JRPG seas, might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it seems to have a lot of charm for fans of the genre. The latest installment offers sufficient complexity and freshness without compromising the JRPG integrity, and hopefully this will be case for the rest of the game as well.
One Piece Odyssey is slated for release on 12 January 2023 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One. It will arrive on PC a day later on 13 January.