Game Reviewby Grant Jones,
One Piece Odyssey – Review In Progress
PlayStation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Microsoft Windows
One Piece Odyssey is a roleplaying game featuring the Straw Hat pirates going on an adventure to a brand new island: Waford. Marooned by a storm, the Straw Hats must come together and discover the mysteries of the island while battling the strange creatures and powerful new enemies that abound.
One Piece Odyssey is developed by ILCA and published by Bandai Namco.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this game for the purposes of the review with the pre-order bonus DLC. Additionally, though I am a good ways into the main story, I still have not completed it at the time of this writing. This is therefore a review-in-progress until I have completed it. This review will also contain minor spoilers for the first two chapters of the game.
One Piece RPG.
If those three words excite you, go buy Odyssey and I think you'll be more than happy. If they don't, well… maybe read on to find out more.
One Piece Odyssey is very much what it says on the tin: a traditional RPG set in the world of One Piece with involvement from Eiichiro Oda himself. For many One Piece fans such as myself, this premise alone makes it a must-play title, and I'm happy to say that it delivers in all the ways that count.
Story-wise, these sorts of games present a challenge, especially when dealing with such a long-standing property as One Piece. Traditional RPGs usually have the cast going from zero to hero, leveling up and gaining new abilities as they travel. But covering 25+ years of One Piece manga content in a single game would be daunting, to say the least, yet starting a game with the modern Straw Hat crew makes progress something of a challenge – they already are legendary warriors with an incredible array of abilities at their disposal. And if you start in a later era, you also skip a lot of the critical history that makes these characters so rich, which would be perplexing to those who have no background with the story.
Odyssey solves this problem in a way similar to games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. During the opening tutorial section, the crew is at full power (level 40 or so by this game's system) and with all their abilities unlocked. Not long after, though, their powers are taken away (with a bit of memory loss thrown in for good measure) and the crew is reset to level 1, having you spend time gathering up these memories and the associated powers.
The story follows a similar setup, having the crew revisit prior arcs through the lens of memory. Some things are the same, some slightly altered, and obviously there are direct changes such as the roster not being what it was during those historical fights (Robin being in the crew during the initial fighting of the Alabasta arc for example). It's an excuse to do the usual anime video game tie-in approach of revisiting the major arcs of the story, while also giving it an interesting twist in having the current cast react to these events since they are reliving them along with the players. It's a fun wrinkle to a tried-and-true formula.
The game's systems are a good mix of recognizable elements from other RPG titles in the modern era. It's in this space where developer ILCA's fingerprints are quite evident, as they had a hand in titles like Dragon Quest XI and Tales of Arise. Having just finished Arise and currently playing through DQXI at this very moment, it's interesting how much of both games' DNA is present here in Odyssey.
Combat is turn-based with some expected elements and some minor twists. You have the usual menu options of standard attacks, special techniques, choosing targets, status effects, etc. The extra wrinkle here is the use of a rock-paper-scissors weapon wheel for character types. Each character has a defined type between Power, Technique, and Speed, being strong against one type and weak against another (power beats speed beats technique beats power in a loop). Luffy, for example, is a Power character, so his basic attacks (and most of his abilities which default to this type) are strong against Speed enemies but weak against Technique enemies. These type bonuses might change based on the ability used, but largely is set by default for the character. Types affect both the damage dealt and damage received, which means that simply mashing the attack button without thinking about the target is often not the best approach.
There are also techniques that act similar to spells in most traditional RPGs. You spend points to activate them, usually for heightened damage, area attacks, or bonus status effects. The interesting bit here is that the technique points or TP are not like the mana of more traditional titles. Typically, mana point systems drain after use but are only recharged by resting at an inn or campsite, or by consuming (usually expensive) items like Ethers or Magic Water. In Odyssey however, characters can replenish TP through making regular attacks, allowing you to stay out in the field longer and giving an extra benefit to using normal attacks even with characters who have lower attack power.
The other big element here is the grouping system. The standard battle layout is pretty similar to most traditional games like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy – your team lined up on one side, the enemies lined up on the other. However, the game randomly groups some enemies near your characters at the start of a battle. Your characters can only attack those enemies right next to them in the same zone unless they have a ranged attack or ability that lets them attack further away. This near/far system adds a semblance of range/movement to the action without getting too caught up in the actual minutia of range increments or fixed distances.
Lastly, there are powerful team-up attacks that the crew can use through a Bond system. Your Bond rating goes up for taking certain actions, from the simple ones like knocking out an enemy to more specific ones like aiding allies or attacking enemies that are in their zones. Once the Bond meter fills you can deliver big team attacks with all the accompanying explosive cutscenes you would expect, usually doling out heavy damage for your trouble. There are also lots of other fun sub-systems at place, such as the equipment grid and skill allocation, that make character management engaging without being overwhelming.
Exploration is interesting as well. The world is highly detailed but does feel somewhat constrained at times. It's sort of like a theme park, where there is a great deal of decoration and verticality to what is on display but you are being subtly channeled through a very limited set of paths to your destination (which gave me deja vu from my recent completion of Tales of Arise). However, much like a Tales title, there are tons of optional dialogues and side discussions that you can have with the party members. Every few steps it feels like there's an observation being made by someone, or a chance to activate a cutscene, or a side character to talk to, etc. There's also a high degree of interactivity within the limited environments, such as breakable walls, vantage points to stretch to, or objects that can be shot down by Usopp for collection. So while there isn't a high degree of freedom in places to go, the paths you traverse are littered with things to gather, objects to interact with, and dialogue options to partake in.
The dungeons really go all in on these aspects. Dungeon exploration is highly interactive and very vertical, with lots of opportunities to sling up to high places and search for hidden goodies. Add in the use of Observation Haki – a vision similar to the detective mode in the Arkham games – to find even more hidden objects, and dungeons become very fun playgrounds. In most traditional RPGs I find myself enjoying the exploration and dreading the tedious grind of dungeons, but here in Odyssey, there was a sense of excitement every time I entered a dungeon because the game does such a great job of making them worth exploring.
The presentation is top-notch the entire way through. There are plenty of gorgeous action sequences during combat, voice acting for a large majority of the game's dialogue, and a rich and beautiful world that is easy on the eyes. While at times the character models look just a tad stiff during the slower scenes, they look tremendous in motion and the excitement during combat is palpable. Having the special attacks utilize similar camera angles to the manga and anime is a particularly nice touch, an extra bit of fan service for longtime fans.
There's also a good sense of appreciation for what these events mean to the characters. Revisiting old environs could be seen as a cynical way to avoid doing anything new, but I think the writing has done a great job of conveying what all this means for the cast. Going back to Alabasta means seeing the Merry again, and seeing the crew's faces light up with a mix of joy and profound sadness got me a little choked up too. This is a chance for the audience to revisit these places, but the crew feels like they're reliving it too. Add in the ample amounts of side conversations that are littered throughout the game, solid comedy beats, and a terrific soundtrack from Motoi Sakuraba and it's a real winning package.
At this point, my only major complaint (other than the limited overworld exploration) has to do with the user interface in combat. A static over-the-shoulder camera is used when you are selecting characters and attack options. The character models seem to take up a bit too much screen real estate for my liking, which would not be a deal-breaker in and of itself if not for the wild amount of space taken up by the UI. Because of the near/far range system at play, the left side of the screen also has a big ribbon with the faces of each of your current party plus the icons of the enemies they are across from. Add in the additional dimensions of filling rings around the enemies to indicate who is going to attack next, icons for the different character types as well as buffs and debuffs, plus the way the camera jumps for targeting… and yeah it's kind of a mess. It took me numerous fights to get a handle on how much information was being conveyed, while also struggling to make sense of everyone's locations because the camera was fixed in the over-the-shoulder setting. I think being able to switch to a bird's eye view – or perhaps zooming farther back – might have alleviated some of the information overload. Overall, it is a minor complaint, and one that fades with time.
The question of whether this will appeal if you do not like One Piece or RPGs is another matter. If you do not like One Piece, I doubt this will make a convert out of you, though if you like traditional RPGs I think there are enough fun mechanical bits to make it worth trying out. You will get a lot of exciting-looking combat maneuvers and a gorgeous-looking world to walk through (if not necessarily explore). If you can't stand RPGs but love One Piece, I think this title still holds a lot of fun for you. Seeing and hearing the crew interact is a joy and the bigger attacks look amazing on-screen. Though given the nature of traditional RPGs. Odyssey might have you tapping out before long. If you don't like One Piece AND don't care for RPGs, then steer well clear of this one – Odyssey is firmly both of those things.
On the whole, One Piece Odyssey is likely a top contender for my favorite game of 2023 despite knowing what's coming down the pike later this year, and I think it's one of my favorite One Piece titles yet. I think I'll be exploring every nook and cranny for the next few weeks, spending time with my favorite goofball pirates, and I definitely recommend you join the cruise yourself.
Overall : A
Graphics : B
Sound/Music : A
Gameplay : B
Presentation : A
+ Gorgeous presentation, solid mechanics, copious love for One Piece
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