Title: One Piece Odyssey
Release Date: January 13, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Bandai Namco
When creating a game adaptation of a series as popular as One Piece, I can only imagine the round table discussions these developers must endure. Given the notoriety, an action-adventure game would likely be the best genre to deliver, given the low barrier of entry for fans who aren’t necessarily gamers. However, developer ILCA has been tasked with creating a One Piece experience as an RPG, and it would seem they accomplished their goal. One Piece Odyssey is a grand adventure from beginning to end, with an emphasis on being accessible to general fans.
One Piece Odyssey has a plot that develops long past the 8-hour mark. The opening sets up a premise of the Straw Hat Pirates crashing on the island of Waford. After coming up with a plan to fix their ship, they set out to the heart of the island, where they encounter a powerful guardian enemy. This is where they meet Lim, who strips them of their powers, which are turned into cubes that stretch across the island. We also meet Adio, an adventurer who helps Lim.
Lim and Adio’s relationship becomes an underlining topic of thought that develops as you uncover a few mysteries surrounding Lim and her connection with the island. Throughout the adventure, Lim monitors the bonds of the Straw Hat Pirates and questions how far someone will go for a friend. Although she hates pirates, Adio does convince her that they are good people.
The Straw Hat crew getting their powers ripped away is a nice touch from a narrative standpoint, as the game opens up with them having a few powerful attacks. Getting their abilities back is the main driving force for the plot, but there’s an additional adventure where they bring down the guardians in the hope of finding treasure. On the other hand, the story drip-feeds the ulterior motives of a handful of other characters following the events in the background.
The narrative expands as we realize that returning their powers will require them to relive adventures in an alternate universe known as Memoria. Here, we get to play through a few more recent Straw Hat adventures with a few twists because, as the story explains, “memories are hazy,” and this world is built on memories.
This portion of gameplay is a lot bigger than I first expected. You’ll be spending most of your time in Memoria, with Waford island acting as an intermission between chapters. That said, the island portions of gameplay serve as the main storyline for this adventure. Memoria is simply playing through a few adventures from the past, but the differences make it not a straightforward retelling. These trips down memory lane can be exceptionally emotional to the Straw Hat crew, which makes this a reunion for them and fans of the series.
Additionally, side quests further highlight the bonds of friendship, but this requires a bit of exploration. From a game design perspective, I will say that One Piece Odyssey leaves little for players to assume. After clearing the first chapter, instead of moving on, you must return to the Memoria that you just left, but upon returning, a myriad of side quests and special bond events are available.
I was happy to get the most out of these expansive worlds, but given that I had just spent 8 hours playing through the story portion in them, returning felt overwhelming. Regardless, you don’t have to do this content, but the systems that it unlocks benefit late-game dungeons, so it’s up to the player. Side quests are often multitiered with rewards or equipable items and experience. Thankfully, they aren’t all fetch quests, but their organization in the menu was a little confusing. Having a button dedicated to pulling up the current and submissions available would have been better than going into the main menu each time.
Aside from returning for Side Quests, bonding events can be initiated where a group of the party finds themselves in an alternate universe called Hystoria where they need to solve an issue. The benefit of this is a powerful bond attack to use during fights. I should add that the story in these portions is entertaining and not something I found myself rushing through.
As mentioned, the levels of Memeria include multiple towns and dungeons to explore. One issue that comes up from time to time is how limited you are to exploration. If the game wants you to go a specific way, it will quickly stop you from exploring at your leisure. This becomes less apparent later, but maybe I have a problem with being told what to do. Still, exploration is a crucial aspect of the gameplay. As you navigate the areas, there are plenty of hidden paths and optional battles.
Each character has a field ability used to get to a new area or find hidden treasure. Switching characters is done using the D-pad, which becomes taxing if you change multiple times in a row. However, you’ll likely be using Luffy a lot because he can zoom up ladders, quickly obtain items from a distance, and get across ledges. Further, the game has an auto-run option, which I recommend because holding the run button gets old fast.
I will say that each dungeon and town has a lot of attention to detail. There are townspeople to talk to and points of interest that give further insight into the world. These areas are represented by a magnifying glass, which triggers a dialogue between the cast and a closer look at the environment. However, there are so many that I found myself passing up most of them.
Sadly, the quirks of dungeons are primarily light puzzles that will never stump you. The adventure never tries to test the player’s puzzle-solving abilities making some dungeons feel repetitive with back-and-forth elements as you unlock doors to proceed. Still, these offer a break from the tunnels or open fields of enemies. Luckily, after clearing a chapter, you unlock all the fast travel points so getting around is a breeze upon returning. Otherwise, you must interact with the fast travel points during the chapter to turn them on.
The battle system is interesting. On the one hand, fighting is a significant portion of this experience, and given that the main reason for this adventure is getting the Straw Hat crew’s powers back, it’s also a substantial part of the story. On the other hand, however, this may be where some players lose interest. For starters, the difficulty is exceptionally low. This makes the inclusion of an Auto-Battle option beneficial, but it also highlights that you aren’t needed for this portion of gameplay. For most of my playthrough, I had the Speed Up and Auto-Battle options on and never encountered any trouble.
That said, special missions occur during battles that require you to defeat an enemy with a certain character or help an ally, which provides an enormous amount of additional experience. Seriously, sometimes you’ll get more than a boss using this method. By taking advantage of these, you’ll easily be at a high enough level for future enemy encounters. However, strangely, there’s no Guard Option to skip a character’s turn if you want a specific character to take down the enemy.
With that in mind, battles are turn-based and occur on various grids across the field. Characters are often scattered around the board to take on smaller groups of enemies, but they can also use long-range attacks to take out enemies from a distance. Of course, their benefits include pushing an enemy into another or grouping them for a large attack, but I never felt the need to do this.
Skills are learned as you collect the skills that Lim initially removed. Their animations are pretty extreme and highlight some of the most incredible abilities these characters have used over the years. I think some of the more interesting parts of battles are the interactions that the characters have. For example, if Zoro heals Sanji, Sanji will comment about not wanting his help. This is also found throughout the dungeons, which makes battles and exploration mainly about character interaction.
The only time I ever had to turn off Auto-Battle was during the end chapter boss fights, which are intense. Outside of some emotional story bits, you’re up against a truly formidable enemy. It’s only here where I had to take advantage of item buffs and character bond attacks to survive, which is when I knew I had to utilize the crafting system.
A few characters in the party can craft items or even upgrade equipment. Using items found on the field and from battle, food and equipment play an integral role in some of the more challenging fights in store during the late-game hours. However, can someone explain to me how the money and equipment found in Memoria are usable on Waford? These inception plotholes are real.
Equipment has a few interesting concepts where players can Tetris blocks onto a character, which expand throughout the game. I found the Auto-Equip option sufficient to build out my party, though. Further, some equipment has additional levels that can be unlocked to synthesize other buffs, giving the opportunity to create some pretty powerful loadouts.
In terms of character voice acting, One Piece Odyssey has a lot of recorded dialogue. I was surprised by how often I could hear the characters, even when exploring the field. The soundtrack is also rather nice as it rests in the background of most scenes until something epic occurs, and it ramps up.
One Piece Odyssey is ultimately a story of friendship, a central theme of the series shown through the eyes of a new character to pass judgment and to understand why the bonds of this crew are so strong. While this adventure might retell past quests, there are enough subtle changes to spark some real emotion. Still, the low difficulty and reliance on auto-battle will leave hardcore JRPG fans disinterested. However, the exploration and numerous ways to dump dozens of hours into this experience make this a One Piece adventure for everyone.
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