No matter how much you know about the One Piece franchise, there’s a lot to love about One Piece Odyssey.
This JRPG is packed with adventure and fun, which combined with its colourful world and characters makes it an enticing prospect for any fan of the genre. Presenting a brand new story for Luffy and his band of Straw Hat Pirates, it’s undoubtedly going to appeal more to those with an existing love of One Piece. But even if you’re not so familiar with the long-running anime series, we’d wager you’ll find yourself getting invested in its larger-than-life story all the same.
One could argue that there’s a lot of fan service squeezed into One Piece Odyssey. This is an original story, but it takes you to many familiar locations such as Arabasta and Water 7. It also re-treads existing storylines, pitting players against classic One Piece enemies and having them revisit previous adventures. But there’s a good reason for this, and the way it’s presented means that even if you’re not a huge One Piece fan, or don’t know a great deal about the series’ lore, you’re likely to find the story of One Piece Odyssey compelling from the get-go.
One Piece Odyssey begins with Luffy and his crew’s ship, the Thousand Sunny, getting wrecked just off the coast of a mysterious island. This island, Waford, is surrounded by storms and seems to be something of a hotspot for pirates washing ashore. In order to protect the island from pirates, one of the island’s residents, a girl called Lim, has the power to strip people of their strength and abilities, sealing them into mystical cubes. Not only does this form the basis of One Piece Odyssey‘s entire story, but it’s also a great narrative device that explains why a group of long-established heroes are suddenly weak and powerless.
And so, One Piece Odyssey‘s story revolves around the Straw Hat Pirates recovering their powers. Small cubes dotted around locations within the game can be picked up as you play, but larger cubes, containing memories, form the main narrative of the game. Players will need to access the memories inside these cubes in order to regain the power stored within them – and that means revisiting existing locations and plot points from across the history of One Piece.
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Thankfully, you don’t need to rely on an existing knowledge of the world to enjoy One Piece Odyssey. If every introduced location and character is brand new to you, it doesn’t matter: as long as you enjoy beautiful and creative locations and hilarious, larger-than-life character design, you’ll quickly sink into the world around you. Because there’s one thing you can say about One Piece for sure: you don’t find characters as wacky as this anywhere else.
Even your band of characters themselves are a varied and zany bunch. Pirate leader and main character Luffy is made out of rubber, giving him arms and legs that are stretchier than Stretch Armstrong. That comes in handy for powering up punches and grabbing hard-to-reach items in the environment. He’s accompanied by reindeer doctor Chopper, the inexplicably long-nosed Usopp and floating skull Brook, amongst others. But you’ll delight in coming across new enemies, bosses and NPCs, each and every one of them brilliantly designed and often raising a chuckle.
There’s no English voicework in One Piece Odyssey, but existing fans will be glad to know that much of the original cast are reprising their roles here. The English subtitles have been excellently localised, and the story is worth paying attention to because dialogue is incredibly well-written and riotously funny at times.
However, One Piece Odyssey does commit the sin that many Japanese-speaking RPGs do: it occasionally delivers important story dialogue over the top of the action. It means that you either pay attention to what you’re doing, or you pay attention to the dialogue boxes. Missing the odd bit of flavour text isn’t so much of an issue, but when actual narrative is delivered in this way, it can be irksome. Chances are, you’ll adjust to it after spending a few hours with the game, but early on it feels particularly egregious.
As good as a game’s storytelling and characterisation is, though, it’s always going to fall flat if the gameplay doesn’t deliver. Thankfully, that’s not the case with One Piece Odyssey. There’s an excellent balance of combat and adventure here, with plenty of exploring to do and even some light puzzling to engage with in the game’s numerous dungeon-like areas. Outside of the main story there’s a huge amount of side content to concern yourself with, too. Focusing solely on the main story will see you sink around 30 hours into the game. Mop up everything, and you can perhaps to expect to double that.
Of course, combat plays a large part of the experience. Battling enemies is a turn-based affair, with players typically having four members of the Straw Hat pirates on the battlefield at any one point. On each turn, you can hit enemies with a standard attack, use an item or unleash a more powerful special attack.
The key to succeeding in One Piece Odyssey‘s battles isn’t just flinging hard-hitting attacks at enemies with little thought, however: there’s a rock-paper-scissors in element at play here. There are three types of attack, and each member of your party and each enemy will fall into one type: Power, Technique, Speed. Power beats speed, technique beats power, and speed beats technique. Sure, you can simply fling a hit and hope for the best, but battles will go much smoother when you consider a character’s attack type. At any point, you can switch out one of your characters for another, and so it’s often worth making sure you’re fighting with the best-suited skillset. It adds a layer of strategy to proceedings – and hitting hard always feels good – although frequently jumping into a menu to switch does interrupt the flow of battle somewhat.
For the most part, battles don’t pose too much of a problem – particularly if you’re using your characters effectively. There are a few difficulty spikes along the way, though, and so if you’ve skipped too many optional battles you may find yourself feeling somewhat underpowered. There are no difficulty options to choose from, so keeping on top of your game means battling enough to keep levelling up, and ensuring you have the best gear.
One Piece Odyssey‘s approach to equipment is somewhat unusual. Rather than equipping weapons and pieces of armour, each item is a shape that fits into a square grid. Imagine a simpler Diablo II inventory system. These pieces of equipment can directly affect a character’s stats, like powering up their attack, providing more defence or increasing their HP. They can also give status effects to attacks, or increase resistances. Later in the game you can fuse different pieces of equipment together, combining their effects and making them more powerful. Making sure you keep on top of equipping your party with the most powerful gear will make your time with One Piece Odyssey much more enjoyable.
One Piece Odyssey is going to be most loved by people who are already invested in the One Piece franchise. Its clever approach to storytelling feels like a ‘greatest hits’ of sorts, and revisiting familiar places and faces is sure to be a joy for any fan. That said, this colourful, lively world is such a pleasure to be part of that even if you’re not well acquainted with Luffy and co, you’ll soon warm to their charm. An excellent blend of combat, adventure and storytelling, this is a JRPG not to be missed.