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One Piece Odyssey Review

Baby’s first JRPG

The Straw Hat pirates are at the front and centre of Japan’s longest-running and most popular animated action series One Piece. Currently airing consistently for nearly 25 years, the buffoonish, super-powered, and beneficent pirate crew have amassed a fanbase the world over. Yet with over 1000 episodes contributing to an ever-growing continuity, the latest JRPG from ILCA Inc. (developers of the recent Pokémon Diamond/Pearl remakes) makes the tough choice of cramming over 800 episodes of that storied baggage into an epic video game adaption. This is far from the series’ first adaptation, but one of its few JRPGs to be localised. It is a surprisingly refined and modern Japanese role-playing game that is a perfect entry point for long-time series fans wanting to expand their gaming horizons.

Kicking off during a vague, non-canonical detour between eventful island chapters, rubbery pirate captain Monkey D. Luffy and company find themselves marooned on the mysterious island of Waford surrounded by monoliths and severe, artificial storms. After fighting some of the oversized native alligators, bats and monkeys, the crew are sapped of their immense powers by a girl called Lim. Lim is joined by a blue-haired stranger called Aido, both of whom appear to be stranded on the island with no way to leave.

Good boys eat their spinnach

Lim traps the powers of the Straw Hats in a series of magical cubes which are then scattered to the wind, her defence against any of the shipwrecked pirates who might cause them harm. This obviously doubles as a way to both introduce players to the crew’s powers, then strip those abilities back to basics and give players something to progress towards – a hurdle not too dissimilar to PS2 action franchises like the classic God of War games. 

Odyssey uses this wrinkle of lost powers to introduce a dreamscape called Memoria, a world of memories enabled by Lim that relives four major plot arcs from the series. Lim soon befriends the pirates and follows their adventures through these major memories in order to regain their lost powers. 

The treatment of the source material is merely okay, reproducing a slim picking of each of the four arcs’ most defining events from each of their three acts. Unlike the previous two Pirate Warriors Musou games from Omega Force, this often means omitting some of the major fights leading up to these acts’ famous finales while also muddying the storytelling. Characters also recall and forget relived interactions and characters from one moment to the next with no explanation. 

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Daddy Cool

The premise of Memoria’s setting is to adapt famous series events while also altering them with the benefit of hindsight, but the retelling is often poorly paced and glosses over the structure of these stories so as to not quite meet their potential of exciting what-if scenarios for fawning fans.

Without spoilers, none of these opportunities is more sorely undercooked than the series’ most famous arc – the Marine Ford showdown that pits these pirates against the World Government. This merely devolves into a two-hour-long boss rush of repetitive fights devoid of emotion and impact, slapped together without much regard for the beloved source material. 

In a better reproduction, the first of these memories is set in Alabaster – a desert island experiencing drought and oppression under the regime of a warlord supported by the villainous World Government. The location design and its characters are an uncanny representation of what appeared in the anime, bolstered by the ability to walk the mercantile streets interacting with the citizens before a coup and subsequent uprising embroil the setting in a civil war. The side quests and introspective moments between the crew add all the charm and faithful character writing fans have come to expect from the series. While the major plot moments fall short of their lofty source watermarks, the journey through this world is a dazzling piece of creator-supervised fan fiction that long-time viewers won’t want to miss.

The visual design of these worlds often eclipses the anime

Graphically, One Piece Odyssey is one of the best-looking anime game adaptations around, especially so for the JRPG genre. For a team whose work is almost entirely that of a support developer, it is remarkable how detailed and immaculate this game’s visuals are. Not only does ILCA Inc. employ the striking pastels of primary and secondary colours which have made the anime so notable (and deceptively cartoonish), it is on display with such high fidelity as to stand with and even above other high-profile Bandai Namco-published JRPGs such as Tales of Arise. This is far and away the best-looking One Piece video game to date.

Rounding out these wonderfully faithful anime visuals are the voice acting and presentation. An admirable ensemble of notable anime characters appear, from the corrupt warlord Crocodile and cheeky face-changing Bon Clay, to Luffy’s honorary brothers Sabo and Ace. All their outstanding Japanese voice actors return without compromise, accentuating a mostly terrific and faithful character script with all the humour and drama they have previously demonstrated. 

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Menus are a dream to navigate, remaining stylish yet functional. Equipment screens have a bevy of robust auto-equip options, extensive and parseable lore entries, as well as a ridiculous amount of goals that reward every aspect of gameplay with anything from helpful combat items to money. The combat UI is mostly relegated neatly on the far-left of the screen to accentuate the cinematic power moves famous from the anime, but does take a few hours to get comfortable with. For better or worse, the game retains a gentle difficulty curve throughout, allowing players to easily learn the simple rock-paper-scissors combat system and a unique grouping system where close-range attacks place members of your four-person active party in the damage-vicinity of scattered enemy formations around the turn-based battlefield. 

I have no notes on the impeccable creature design. All wins.

While I have high praise for the game’s audiovisual presentation and characters, the depth of its treatment of the JRPG genre leaves much to be desired for genre veterans. There are training wheels built into the core progression systems that don’t begin to allow real player choice in building your party and heroes until the final hours of the game. Abilities and their upgrades can only be unlocked at the end of a chapter, meaning that grinding is largely redundant as stats are trumped by the simple rock-paper-scissors battle system. A ‘power’ hero will always beat a ‘technical’ enemy almost regardless of stats and equipment, and the inversion will fail almost immediately. 

Abilities can symbolically be levelled up one or two levels, but this is also unlocked via chapter progression and the upgrades almost never make a lower level power as viable as your most recently unlocked, stronger abilities. All the standard visual, menu-based elements of JRPG progression are on display but are so neutered as to never let the player experiment – only serving as a paper-thin introductory course for genre initiates.

Final Thoughts

Elegant and refined to a fault, One Piece Odyssey is the perfect entry point for series fans into the JRPG genre. ILCA Inc. has created a contemporary, exquisitely presented turn-based title in an unforgettable world. It is a shame that rusted-on genre regulars will be left unchallenged or bored. This is due to a dearth of meaningful gameplay decisions, with hand-held progression giving a thin illusion of character power-building that falls flat. Luckily, One Piece stans will endure these shortcomings for one of the prettiest fan service offerings sure to grace 2023, even though the treatment of the series’ best moments is underdone.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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One Piece Odyssey Review
Gomu gomu nice
A stunning One Piece game great for fans and JRPG newbies, but one that won't satisfy hardened min-maxers.
The Good
Overall presentation
Japanese voice cast from the anime
Authentic character writing
Great for genre novices
The Bad
On-rails progression
Shallow treatment of defining story arcs
Combat struggles to elicit critical decision-making and rewards
7
Solid
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  • ILCA, Inc
  • Bandai Namco
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • January 13, 2023

One Piece Odyssey Review
Gomu gomu nice
A stunning One Piece game great for fans and JRPG newbies, but one that won’t satisfy hardened min-maxers.
The Good
Overall presentation
Japanese voice cast from the anime
Authentic character writing
Great for genre novices
The Bad
On-rails progression
Shallow treatment of defining story arcs
Combat struggles to elicit critical decision-making and rewards
7
Solid
Written By Nathan Hennessy

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