Typically, I err a bit more on video games adapting movie licenses or even anime. While there have been some that have truly shone and become unforgettable experiences, either immediately or in retrospect, most feel unrealised or don’t push the boundaries the popular franchise deserves. Serving as the publisher of many video games based on popular anime franchises, Bandai Namco Entertainment is one such publisher I can expect at least decent quality from – from average experiences such as the Sword Art Online games, to their long-running success around the likes of Dragon Ball Z. Their latest offering is One Piece Odyssey, coming through a collaboration between themselves and developer ILCA, whose previous works include Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and supporting roles on a range of other titles. While its value as a game primarily comes down to whether you are a fan of One Piece or not, it could it argued that it sets the golden standard for what a video game adaptation of an anime should be.
Rather than falling into the trap of assuming that nobody knows the story of the original anime and needing to rush through the narrative of the 1000+ episode TV anime, One Piece Odyssey wastes no time in diving straight into its game-exclusive story, although their adventures will see them relive their adventures in Alabasta, Water Seven, Marineford and Dressrosa, with a few twists here and there given the non-canonical nature of the game. It is a double-edged sword, albeit with more positives than negatives. If you are not already a fan of the series, then it can take quite some time to feel comfortable following the events of the game, especially with you being thrown immediately into the middle of the action. Thankfully, the narrative by Eiichiro Oda does somewhat mitigate it. On the more positive side, not having events regurgitated to you en masse is welcome, and allows you to appreciate the unique story for what it is.
The story itself is a unique tale, albeit with a range of flashbacks to previous adventures and arcs, and does a pretty good job of balancing and merging the new with the former. Its appeal will depend on how much you enjoy the series’ typical approach to storytelling. The adventure gets off to a relatively slow and unremarkable start, although gets better as time goes on. However, I would argue that the pacing is still quite slow, but makes up for it with a splendid cast of characters.
Being based on a Japanese anime, it should come as no surprise that One Piece Odyssey features Japanese voice acting with the original voice cast, and they nailed the roles some of them have been honing for decades now. As this feels like a game Bandai Namco Entertainment had a lot of prospects for, I was a tad bit surprised they didn’t retain the anime’s English voice cast for this project as well. Sure it would have been no small extra cost for the studios, but I feel with the mainstream appeal of One Piece, having dual-language support would have made it much more accessible to the sizable western fanbase. Plus, as someone who primarily watched One Piece with the English dub, it hampered my ability to immediately become immersed in the game.
In terms of visual quality, One Piece Odyssey is a treat for the eyes, with the One Piece visual style and 3D open world combining to give somewhat of a Dragon Quest appearance. The character designs remain faithful to the original anime aesthetics and come into the game world with much charm, including animations as if they were lifted straight out of the manga or anime. The world design on the other hand is solid, and while probably nowhere near the best we have seen on the current generation of hardware, does match some of the recent Tales of games in terms of diversity and quality. It was nice to see that both performance and graphical options were available on new-gen consoles, as the world looks mighty pretty in 4K.
Combat in One Piece Odyssey primarily takes the form of ‘Command Battles’, where four members of the Straw Hat Crew and pitted against enemies in a sort of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ battle system, albeit this time balancing strengths and resistances against Strength, Speed and Technique abilities. Battles progress one at a time through a turn-based battle system and are complemented by a range of status effects and other attack attributes. In addition to normal attacks, each character has a range of skills they can use, items they can use to heal/buff/debuff enemies and ‘Bond Arts’ which are coordinated attacks unlocked through the completion of in-game ‘Hysteria’ quests.
At its core, the battle system of One Piece Odyssey is comparable to many other JRPGs on the market and offers an experience that is a smidgeon on the easy side but still satisfying to play through. One more unique element of the battle system is its ‘Scramble Battle Arena’ mechanic, where the arena is split up into four areas, which you can move each character between, switching between ranged and close-up attacks and being in the range of foes at different ranges as well. While I wouldn’t say it revolutionises the experience, with other strategic-oriented RPGs doing many different styles of this in the past – but with the range of characters it makes sense to not have them all bundled up in a straight line.
From discovering beautiful vistas to obtaining new equipment, players are given much freedom to explore Waford Island, with each character having their own special ability to uncover or unlock new areas to explore. There is also a crafting system available, allowing you to craft items known as ‘Trick Balls’ to use against foes, cook to buff allies, or enhance your equipment through different systems. For any game with an exploration system, these are must-haves and have all been solidly implemented to feel like they have a purpose, justify going out of your way to explore new enemies/defeat uncommonly found foes, and to use different characters.
At its core, One Piece Odyssey is a competently designed open-world JRPG, with ample challenge, a familiar cast of characters with slightly different abilities, and an overall satisfying gameplay experience. With the nature of One Piece as a media franchise, they could have easily gone with a hack’n’slash action style of combat, which would surely have been a feast for the eyes but not so much the mind. Instead, we get an experience that harmonises the action-oriented and eccentric nature of the source material, with some good, well-thought-out gameplay. A perfect experience? There are still some improvements around narrative and voice acting which could be made. But that aside, it is a competent, fun experience for fans of the franchise.
This review was conducted on a PlayStation 5 pre-release copy of One Piece Odyssey, provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment Australia for the purpose of this review.
One Piece Odyssey is now available to purchase for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC.