I’m not sure what it is about January, but this gateway to a brand new year seems to be the prime place to release highly anticipated video games based on anime. I’ll never forget getting the opportunity to review Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot at the start of my first full year here at GodisaGeek, and now another year is beginning and One Piece Odyssey is here to usher it in. If you’ve always dreamt of an epic (and incredibly long) JRPG featuring all your favourite members of the Straw Hat Pirates, then this just might be the game for you.
Luffy and the gang are off on one of their usual adventures at sea, which ends rather abruptly when they get beached on a mysterious island harbouring a dark secret. It doesn’t take long for the crew to realise they aren’t alone on this tropical paradise, and a run in with new characters Adio and Lim ends with them losing all of their powers. The new duo thankfully know how to get them back, but it will be a long and arduous adventure through time and space packed full of anime characters you know and love.
To get your powers back, Lim explains that the Straw Hat crew will need to dive back into their memories and replay key events in their adventures to absorb some weird cubes. This means you’ll be playing through all your favourite arcs of the anime, but with a twist. You see memory is a fickle thing that can’t be trusted, and because of that the events that take place in somewhere like Alabasta or Marineford might not be entirely the same as you remember from the anime. This means even series veterans will have plenty of new story content to enjoy in One Piece Odyssey, while new fans can experience the gist of the story without watching a billion hours of anime. It’s a really clever way to include both audiences.
Now if you’re clueless when it comes to One Piece, you likely want to know more about the fighting in this hefty JRPG before jumping in. Well I’m pleased to report that the turn-based combat is rather enjoyable. Each battle sees your party of four chosen pirates taking turns to use a variety of special attacks to take out opponents. There are all sorts of healing powers, status effects, and team attacks to master, as well as a rock paper scissors style system of different combat styles. It’s absolutely essential to make sure you use your Power characters against Ranged enemies, and your Technique characters against Power foes, because you’ll barely deal any damage otherwise.
The other big twist in combat is that it takes place of multiple areas. Each member of your team starts spread across four of these locations, and can only move to another to help out a buddy once it’s empty of enemies. Some characters have special long-ranged moves that can attack other areas or moves that shove enemies too, which means tougher battles often require you to focus on clearing out certain baddies first so your team can regroup and help each other out. The game struggles to explain the nuances of this battle system, but once you figure out how it all works when coupled with the different character types for yourself, it makes battles really engaging.
Outside of scrapping with aggressive squirrels and rival pirates, you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring the environments that your adventure takes you to. There are collectibles, side quests, and treasures hidden in every corner of every area you wander through, and you’ll need to use everyone’s unique talents to find them all. Jumping, climbing, and Luffy’s stretchy grappling hook arms can be used to get up and over all sorts of obstacles, while Chopper fits into small spaces, and Zoro slices through metal doors with ease.
Initially I really enjoyed exploring the world of One Piece Odyssey, but it got overwhelming pretty quickly. It doesn’t take long to start unlocking abilities that allow different characters to locate different types of loot, and before you know it you have to juggle between the lot of them to find everything. Swapping characters means going into a menu to select them, and when you’re doing this every thirty seconds it gets old fast. Eventually I just gave up on gathering all the materials and started ignoring bird’s nests or metal crates that would require a character switch altogether, and I suffered in battle because of it.
There are a whole heap of different crafting mechanics and equipment synthesis systems to get stuck into with the doodads you collect out and about. You can cook meals that you can take into battle for much greater healing than shop bought items give you. There are also trick balls, which are craftable bombs that lower enemy stats or inflict status effects on them. Fusing together your equipment is a mechanic that comes much later in the game, and can be used to power-up your party members massively.
It’s easy to neglect all of these opportunities to make battles easier early on, because the opening ten hours of One Piece Odyssey are pretty much devoid of challenge. It certainly gives you a good amount of time to experiment with the combat and get used to the mechanics, but I was certainly in for a shock when enemies suddenly started taking out party members left and right.
There’s one major issue One Piece Odyssey has that truly hampered my enjoyment, however, and that’s the pace of the game. You spend so much time being sent back and forth to get items for NPCs or to otherwise complete quests, and it gets tedious quickly. Combined with the lengthy cutscenes, it slows your progress down to a crawl and made each session I played feel like a real slog.
You also just spend too long in each themed environment. One of your first memory diving adventures takes you to Alabasta, and that chapter sees you exploring four different open stretches of desert in a row, each with the same scorpion and Venus fly trap enemies. It gets old fast.
Although it can feel a bit repetitive, there’s no denying that the environments are a visual treat. I can’t pretend I ever got used to the characters, although that’s no fault of the game. Female characters with ridiculously small waists and embarrassingly large chests are the bread and butter of One Piece, and you’ll just have to get used to that if you want to enjoy the rest of the game.
One Piece Odyssey is an RPG that fans of the anime may appreciate, but it isn’t without its issues. The combat is a blast with plenty of nuances to master, but the pacing of the game is painful, and exploration gets old fast. If you’re really into the subject matter it might be worth playing, but otherwise there are plenty of other JRPGs I’d recommend first.
Combat is entertaining with some unique mechanics
A great way to tell a One Piece story for fans and newcomers
Environments look lovely
Huge pacing issues
Exploration is frustrating
Too easy for too long