One Piece as a multi-media anime/manga franchise has become a juggernaut and the latest is One Piece Odyssey. It has a worldwide reach that is comparable to the likes of Dragon Ball. It has been running since the mid to late 90s and has not slowed down since. It has become an empire and has spawned an endless supply of merchandise and course- video games.
This is a franchise that has gone on for so long, that it has become an immensely deep and dark hole. There are a ton of characters and story arcs to get wrapped up in and adapting all of it into an epic JRPG is still unfeasible. The show is currently past 1,000 episodes and there is no way it can all be fit into a game genre that is traditionally very long, right?
One Piece Odyssey aspires to deliver the ultimate One Piece narrative experience. Can it be done? Will newcomers be able to enjoy it? Is there any substance for long-time fans to discover? Find out in this One Piece Odyssey review!
One Piece Odyssey
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed)
Release Date: January 13, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
If the One Piece franchise was about anything, it would probably be about fulfillment being the journey and not the destination. The manga and anime are seemingly endless stories about the Straw Hat pirates and their adventures. There is no sign of any characters settling down, only growing and becoming more of a legend.
When One Piece Odyssey begins Luffy and his merry band of ragtag misfit pirates with weird powers and abilities are already seasoned explorers who have had countless adventures. There is no exposition for any of the characters or any of their special powers. If you are going into One Piece Odyssey without prior knowledge of the source, expect to ask many questions that won’t be answered.
Traditionally, One Piece characters get special powers from consuming “Devil Fruit”. It is revealed that Lim never ate Devil Fruit and how she has her abilities is not explained. This is especially confusing because there is another new character in One Piece Odyssey named Adio and he is given super abilities by Devil Fruit.
Luffy’s rubber body and fantastic stretchiness for example- not only are they not explained but understanding the difference between how he got his abilities and Lim’s (a new character) ability to seal other characters’ powers is a big deal. This matters because One Piece Odyssey has no problem making things up out of thin air.
Without the proper setup or context, One Piece Odyssey becomes very difficult to get invested in. There are a lot of weird and goofy cartoony elements that you just have to accept and at the same time also go along with the drama between the characters.
Worse yet, the story does have the chance to give backstories and depict character-defining moments, but it is all wasted for cheap and lazy memberberries. The story revolves around the Straw Hats getting stranded on Waford, a mysterious island, sometime between the anime’s 780th and the 795th episodes.
The gang meets Lim and because she hates pirates so much and assumed they are evil, she seals all their powers into cubes, thus further marooning them on Waford. It is not hopeless, the Straw Hats discover they can recover their abilities by collecting the cubes and by physically visiting their memories.
The memories in One Piece Odyssey can be created with the excuse of having story events without shaking up the One Piece canon. The problem with this story mechanic is that there are no real stakes or introspection. The cast has to remake fan-favorite events from past episodes. When you fight Crocodile or visit Water 7, they aren’t real and it makes them less interesting because they don’t matter.
The tone in One Piece Odyssey is kept very light throughout. Even the big bad of the story is kind of a nice guy and everything has the round and bouncy qualities of Eiichiro Oda’s art. Every monster is playfully realized and even some party members like Franky have such outlandish and unique designs that you can’t help but wonder what will come next.
The line art shader is very effective at giving the setting and characters some grit. The etched line art was a holdover from the manga and textures emulate some of these details throughout all the models. Every character and locale looks illustrative and is highly expressive; a quality that you’ll want to have in an irreverent, feel-good anime-style JRPG.
Oda’s art style is a lot like Akira Toriyama’s in that the art they make is very personalized and distinct and not at all realistic. The visual makeup of One Piece is undeniable and is superbly realized in this game. There is a good reason why One Piece Odyssey takes a lot of cues from Dragon Quest XI, and if you squint, they would be hard to tell apart.
One Piece Odyssey looks the part and if you’re intimate with the material, you’ll be hooked. It is too bad the gameplay won’t impress anyone. As far as JRPGs go, One Piece Odyssey plays it very safe- too safe. It is so unremarkable in its execution of JRPG turn-based gameplay that it fails to draw the player in at all.
Combat revolves around a rock-paper-scissors style alignment system. Every character and enemy is either “melee”, “technical”, or “ranged”. There isn’t any discerning what the enemy’s alignment will be. All information is given on the battle HUD and every battle becomes extremely routine.
The game balance is also hopelessly in the player’s favor. This may be due to the game possibly being aimed at young children, but several bosses get significant difficulty spikes which will test the player on which party member to use. To One Piece Odyssey‘s credit, the cast does get diverse abilities and everyone has a defined role in battle.
Usopp and Sanji for example get fire-based abilities but are different alignments. Chopper is the team’s main healer and Zoro is who you use for doing heavy damage. The best aspect of the combat is that any of the nine party members can be swapped out at any time in battle, with a total of four heroes fighting at once.
The only problem with any of this is that the game rarely puts up a fight. For an overwhelming majority of the time, encounters are utterly braindead and players will win by spamming basic attacks. Resources are also irrelevant since savepoints are plentiful and they restore HP. Battles regretfully become a mind-numbing chore, especially since the cast levels up quickly and foes are pushovers for the most part.
The other module of One Piece Odyssey‘s gameplay is adventuring and using the crew’s abilities in the field. Every character gets some abilities they can use to reach some distant area or unlock some path or some other meaningful way to open a way forward.
These abilities are doubled between the party, though it rarely matters since the game will auto-switch to the appropriate character. Found a small tunnel? The game will auto-prompt the player to switch to Chopper every time. It also does not make any sense because the party still squeezes through the tunnel with Chopper when he travels through his tiny nooks and crannies.
There is never any question or thought about what to do or where to go because One Piece Odyssey often feels like it is on autopilot. This wouldn’t have been too bad if the story was engaging, but expect to feel checked out for the most part as you skip through tedious and repetitive dialogue with no English audio.
Sadly, the above is true. One Piece Odyssey has no English dub. Was Coleen Clinkenbeard too busy to voice Luffy or something? This should have been the big cinematic RPG One Piece experience, but be prepared to read every line of uninteresting dialogue.
Worse yet, One Piece Odyssey fails to be funny or entertaining in cutscenes. The battles are a riot due to the outrageous and bizarre abilities, but story sequences are told very dryly and without much style or personality.
All of the fun zany expressions and cartoon eccentricities of the manga and anime are not present for most dialogue scenes and characters stand around with limited animation to get the plot moving along cheaply.
One Piece Odyssey had a good idea and the potential was there, but the execution was sorely disappointing. The visuals are excellent and the game looks like Oda’s vision brought to life, even if the low-priority scenes and the story is inconsequential.
The plot is non-commital and there are no guts to tell a real One Piece story since it could interfere with the current canon. Telling the story from the start might have been too complex of a project and there was no way to fit everything in a single game because there are fan expectations to have characters who show up hundreds of episodes later.
By far the biggest disappointment is the generic gameplay and sloppy sense of pacing. For a JRPG that is about 30-something hours long, it felt longer. Any RPG enjoyer will find One Piece Odyssey to be a forgettable licensed game and fans of One Piece won’t care since it isn’t canon. It pleases nobody and only insomniacs will appreciate it for putting them to sleep.
One Piece Odyssey was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a copy provided by Namco Bandai. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. One Piece Odyssey is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.