One Piece Odyssey Review: A Good One Piece Game, A Good JRPG, And A Good One Piece JPRG
4/5 of Chopper's adorable little footsteps
When One Piece Odyssey was announced in 2022, you could feel a tentative excitement from fans. “Is this the one?” we whispered among ourselves. “Is this the One Piece game which will actually be unequivocally good?”
One Piece celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Part of this celebration was the release of the series’ (absolutely spectacular) 15th film. It’s had many, many games come out in those 25 years as well. Including mobile games, the Wikipedia page for “One Piece video games” counts no less than 56 titles. FIFTY-SIX. Plenty of these games have been ambitious, but none of them have quite nailed the ideal formula for converting the feel of One Piece into a video game. The most satisfying so far is perhaps Pirate Warriors 4, which I love because I’m one of the 10% of people who enjoy musou games. (In particular, I enjoy embodying one of the many sexy, seemingly “fragile” female playable characters and beating the everliving shit out of thousands of grunts.)
I have not played all 56 One Piece video games, because I am not god (Eneru-adjacent or otherwise). So I can’t compare One Piece Odyssey to 56 legacy games. But I don’t think I need to, either. I feel comfortable saying that One Piece Odyssey truly feels like playing One Piece as a video game, in every sense of that phrase. It takes some time to find its stride, but not only is it a good One Piece game—it’s just a good JRPG. ILCA, the studio behind Pokémon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl, has done us proud.
A Good JPRG
One of the reasons One Piece Odyssey works so well is because of the team’s decision to make it a turn-based RPG. This has never been done before in a One Piece game, and the second you enter your first combat in Odyssey, it feels like the most obvious fit in the world. Odyssey is a “classic” RPG in the best sense, and it uses an easy-to-understand “rock paper scissors” pyramid to understand basic battle type effectiveness. And as in many turn-based JRPGs, you can spend TP to perform special signature attacks. These are the attacks that One Piece fans all know and love: Gum-Gum Bazooka, Oni Giri, Party Table Kick Course, Thunderbolt Tempo, Cloven Roseo, Usopp’s Rubber Band Of Doom, etc.
The best attack is obviously Robin’s Dos Fleurs Grab, in which she sprouts two hands to twist an enemy’s balls. In addition to the rock-paper-scissor structure, certain kinds of enemies can be weak or resistant to certain sub-genres of attacks. There’s the standard elemental weaknesses—lightning, fire, ice, etc.—but one of One Piece Odyssey‘s many genius twists on the RPG formula is in expanding this idea of “weakness” a little further. For example, Usopp’s Rubber Band Of Doom works amazingly against idiots. And Dos Fleurs Grab is absolutely devastating against men. (The same goes for Nami’s Happiness Punch—which is actually tame compared to the series, in which she knocks people out by flashing them in a hot spring. A dangerous attack.)
When I’m playing Robin, I’m like Denji in Chainsaw Man: if I’m attacking a man, I only go for the balls.
This is a great example of why One Piece Odyssey works so well. This humorous expansion of what “weak” can mean is very One Piece, while also making Odyssey a genuinely interesting RPG. Odyssey also has quite a few innovations like this which make it fresh. Another favorite is the inclusion of “areas,” which separate out your Party and squares them off against different enemies. Once one area is cleared, you can use it strategically. You can have Usopp act as a long-distance sniper, or separate out Chopper as a healer. Your Party’s attacks can either be long-range or close-range, targeting one or an area’s worth of enemies. Unlike, say, Persona 5, you can swap out your active Party with characters on standby any time, as long as they haven’t already taken their turn in the current round. This also goes for swapping Party members’ areas. All this swapping doesn’t take a turn, either. While that might seem a little “easy,” it’s also a really engaging extra layer of strategy.
All these options keep combat from getting boring. This is good, because there’s a fair amount of fighting. I actually found myself avoiding enemies in dungeons quite frequently. The good news is that it’s usually easy to run away from enemies or slip by when their back is turned. You’ll also quickly find that enemies will only chase you to a certain threshold before they stop, eye you for a second, and give up. When the enemy in question happened to be a Marine at Enies Lobby, I found this quite funny.
A Good One Piece Game
Slight spoilers for One Piece Odyssey below!
The base story of Odyssey focuses on the Straw Hats’ adventure on the island of Waford. A girl named Lim takes away their strength using her mysterious, non-Devil Fruit-related power. To regain their abilities, the Straw Hats must fight the four Colossi of the island with the help of a friendly adventurer named Adio. (Both Lim and Adio were designed by mangaka Eiichiro Oda.) The Colossus dungeons feel obviously inspired by The Legend of Zelda. As in, I suspect many of the atmospheric puzzles are directly pulled from Zelda games (I remember all those mirrors in Majora’s Mask well). While these puzzles are largely easier than their counterparts, I’m not complaining overall. Solving a Zelda dungeon with One Piece characters is pretty close to my personal pop culture apotheosis.
One you defeat a Colossus, the crew must then travel with Lim to a land created from their own memories, called, Memoria, in order to fully regain their lost strength. These bouts to Memoria mean re-living four of One Piece‘s classic, pre-Whole Cake Island arcs—which sort of explains the absence of our dear Jinbe. However, since this version of events is created by the crew’s memories, the arcs are slightly distorted and unfold a little differently. Some purists might be disappointed they’re not getting a one-to-one recreation, but I felt like the memory excuse was a clever device to keep the spirit of these stories in tact while chopping them down to function as a segment of a video game.
But embodying familiar characters in familiar places doesn’t necessarily make a game truly feel like a living, breathing recreation of One Piece. Accomplishing this atmosphere outside of combat is a difficult task. There’s an X factor that previous games haven’t nailed. I think the key reason Odyssey pulls it off is because the characters are constantly talking to one another. This is true even when you’re not actively triggering a conversation with one of the game’s many “magnifying glass” observation spots.
To some, this “chattiness” might be annoying, but I found it downright charming. The game’s chatty nature made me feel like I was inside One Piece, whether it was Zoro and Sanji constantly bickering, Robin very calmly mentioning the gruesome worst-case scenario, or Luffy fondly remembering a meal. In every single one of these interactions, the game’s script demonstrates a thorough understanding of One Piece‘s tone and character dynamic.
(There are some interactions and situations, notably in the Water Seven section, that have a whiff of casual sexism, though. Without spoilers, there’s a moment where Robin and Luffy are in different stages of the same medical predicament. Luffy is seemingly more dire straights, but Robin is judged to be in more danger and need more rest because “Luffy is strong.” Nothing good will come of you underestimating Nico Robin, friend.)
The fact that Odyssey is acted by he anime’s voice cast pulled me even deeper into its spell. This isn’t unusual for a One Piece video game, but it always helps. In this case, it also draws another fun parallel to Persona 5, because Chopper’s voice actress, Ikue Otani, also played Morgana (and, fun fact for the ages, Pikachu).
The Downsides And The Conclusion
Odyssey is not a perfect game, however. Many have opined, in a viewpoint I fully understand, that Odyssey takes 15 or 20 hours before it finds its full potential. This is because Alabasta drags. A lot. The desert journey to Rain Dinners feels endless, and the Rain Dinners section disappointingly short in comparison. I didn’t see my beloved duck son Karoo (and his companion Vivi) until I was 8 1/2 hours into gameplay. The game is still fun in this time. But Alabasta falls victim to Odyssey‘s biggest flaw: you often have to retrace your steps, and it feels tedious. For example, very soon after you finally finish Alabasta, something happens in Waford which makes you go right back in. Like, five minutes after you finally return to the real world. I think I actually screamed.
Honestly, I wish more of the game took place in Waford. Even though Odyssey is not canonical, it teases enough about Ancient Technology and long-awaited One Piece lore to make you eager to explore it. It’s a huge credit to the strength of Odyssey‘s original story and setting that I want to spend more in Waford—that’s not usually the case in these games! Furthermore, Odyssey lords the Five Elders and Kizaru over your head. Talk about stakes! Although, on the other hand, wandering around gorgeous, well-realized versions of areas I know and love from the series—particularly Water Seven—was a goddamn delight.
There are some other quality of life matters which keep Odyssey from being its best self. Both the most annoying and the most fixable one is that Odyssey desperately needs an “auto-play” option for dialogue outside of cut scenes. It would also be nice if the combat in Odyssey had some difficulty settings. I found the fights to be a bit easy and wouldn’t have minded ticking the difficulty up a notch. That being said, seeing my friends get hurt makes me very sad. There’s something viscerally upsetting to me about watching a goon shoot Tony Tony Chopper with a gun.
I’m honestly not sure I’d recommend this game to a non-One Piece fan, unless they were super into JRPGs. You get enough spoilers for the series that I’d feel guilty not pointing you towards the manga or anime instead. Odyssey‘s retellings are definitely effective. Reliving key moments in One Piece here did, indeed, make me cry. But they made me cry because I had already had the full experience of the series. At the end of the day, the manga or anime are better storytellers than this game.
But, if you are a One Piece fan, I recommend this game wholeheartedly. We did, indeed, finally get a One Piece game that is unequivocally good.
(Featured image: Bandai Namco / ILCA)
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