Games based on anime have never been big hits, especially since their popularity is always predicated on an existing fanbase that might not necessarily overlap with gaming. On most occasions, fans can probably expect to see beloved characters and references thrown into a mixture of genres for good measure and call it a day. Yet, for Bandai Namco and ILCA’s One Piece Odyssey, there is more than meets the eye, as the latest video game take on a popular anime franchise delivers an experience that takes some risks and mostly succeeds, even if there are still familiar undesirable trappings that remain.
As an open-world Japanese roleplaying title, One Piece Odyssey sees the Straw Hats dropped into a brand new adventure that takes place between the distinct arcs of the manga series. After being shipwrecked on Waford, a mysterious island full of curiosities, the crew loses their strength and abilities at the hands of Lim, a girl with a particular aversion towards pirates.
Thus began an adventure of exploring Waford as players guide the Straw Hats to regain their lost powers and identities, taking the opportunity to dive deep into associated memories, which provides the perfect stage for some of the standout moments in the series to be relived once more. Between such fan-service moments and the looming threat of the giant storm surrounding the island, One Piece Odyssey knows exactly how to push players along to the conclusion.
This melding of an original story and characters with that of the established canon can be jarring. On one hand, there is much potential to develop something truly unique, but it is curtailed by the constant throwback to stories fans have likely seen a dozen times before. Instead of being an exhilarating ride sprinkled with nostalgia, it becomes slightly dragged out and, in a sense, more hollow.
Lim, for example, is an excellent addition to the cast, as her growth from being wary of the Straw Hats to becoming a true ally in the fight against the elemental beings causing the storm is one to savour. There is real charm there, and it would have been better if she was given more room to breathe. The same goes for her companion, Adio.
Thankfully, once you get past the narrative setup, the gameplay of One Piece Odyssey will be a nice panacea to the relative slog. The game utilises a turn-based system for its combat, where four crew members can engage enemies in battles throughout the exploration of the open world.
The depth of the combat system is deceptive, where straightforward exchanges of blows give way to more strategic affairs. As players will need to consider the type of damage dealt by allies and enemies, positioning, and capacity for special techniques, One Piece Odyssey becomes a more involved process the deeper you progress into its tale.
Add to the rock-paper-scissors formula of damage other components such as elemental effects, buffs, and debuffs, and the JRPG pillars are more apparent. This enables battles to become more interesting and challenging, and a heavy dependence on just a few of the Straw Hats can make things tougher than they need to be.
Once you are able to master the intricacies of the combat and the groove at which things move, One Piece Odyssey becomes much more enjoyable, allowing its combat to shine while helping you through the narrative at a better pace.
It helps that One Piece Odyssey has a distinct visual style, where characters and the environments are great together, allowing the former to pop and the latter to add to the immersion. This applies not just to our heroes, but also to the many foes that will be in their way. If you have watched the anime or read the manga, then you will feel right at home, and the various locations you’ll visit are all beautiful and alive, making a mark of their own.
As for the sound design, the music found in the game seems to always complement whatever activity you are up to at the moment. Fighting feels suitably energetic and intense, while exploration can elicit a sense of calm. Voice acting feels great as well, especially on the Japanese side of things, so be sure to pick your options wisely before kicking things off.
The elephant in the room, however, is that One Piece Odyssey is an experience that will only be truly appreciated by fans of the long-running series. Starting things off after the Dressrosa arc, which is about 750 episodes into the anime series, means that if you are not already aware of the trials and tribulations of the Straw Hats, it can be hard to understand everything. Newcomers will likely feel lost, but for hardcore fans, there is much to wonder about and enjoy.
Gameplay can feel a little padded out at times too, much like filler episodes, and the reliance on backtracking will start to feel old. Even with the combat offering some tactical opportunities, there are areas where certain spikes can be too sudden, and better balance would have made things much smoother.
That said, One Piece Odyssey is a great way to enjoy the story, world, and characters that many have grown to love over the years. Even with its underlying issues, fans will have much to chew through and take pleasure in, and when the developers can capture the heart and soul of One Piece in an interactive medium like this, it is truly a treasure for everyone.
One Piece Odyssey is available on the Bandai Namco Store for S$79.90.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A good turn-based JRPG experience wrapped in an iconic skin, One Piece Odyssey is a reward for fans and a likely daunting first step for newcomers.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7.5/10
Presentation - 7.5/10
Value - 8/10