If there was ever a game made for the fans, One Piece Odyssey is it. Mangaka Eiichiro Oda ended up involved, with new character designs based on his original art. The characters look true to life, with voice actors returning and familiar attacks back. It also revisits past arcs, tapping into stories that mattered to people. It nails the ambiance and the team behind it understood the assignment. However, people unfamiliar with the series probably won’t get much out of it, especially considering how easy it can be.
When someone starts One Piece Odyssey, they better know who the Straw Hat Pirates are and what they do, because the game isn’t going to wait for you to catch up. Luffy and the Straw Hats find themselves caught up in a storm, which strands them on Waford Island and sinks the Thousand Sunny. People are (temporarily) separated. Brook’s lost his body again. Franky needs to stay back to try and repair the ship. From there, things get worse, as they encounter a mysterious man named Adio and a young woman he considers his daughter named Lim. Lim, based on her hatred of pirates who ended up stranded there before, removes everyone’s memories. Not to mention the Marines are nearby with Smoker the White Hunter on deck.
The ejection of everyone’s memories in the form of cubes offers both an excuse to revisit memories and drop the crew from well-established level 40 back down to level 1 pirates with no special skills. As you find them in the field or from story-based events, you regain the party’s special attacks and can fortify them to make them stronger. Larger cubes necessitate a visit to Memoria, which allows the Straw Hats and Lim to revisit the Alabasta, Water Seven, Marineford, and Dressrosa arcs following the defeat of certain Waford island guardians.
However, these might not go exactly as someone would expect. This is because, as Lim noted, memories are unreliable. This means enemies are stronger than they were in the past, you might see unexpected cameos from characters that didn’t show up then, or the story might go differently. In some cases, this can also feel like an excuse to add more busywork or sidequests to pad out a storyline. As a spoiler-free example, the Straw Hats can’t take the Going Merry to Crocodile’s Rain Dinners casino, so you have to go through the desert next to Nanohana to reach Rainbase instead. This means the overall pacing can suffer, since there are unnecessary elements that interfere with what were originally reasonable plotlines.
Suggestion of things not going exactly as you’d expect aside, One Piece Odyssey shocked me with how straightforward it was. While people involved with the Tales series worked on it, I felt it was more like Tales of Graces than something like Tales of Berseria or Arise. (Though yes, Arise’s camping feature appears for parties and crafting.) This world isn’t an open one, and the path you need to take to get from point A to point B is usually incredibly direct and littered with red exclamation points showing you exactly where to go. (The game will also force you to stop and turn back many times, keeping you from exploring.) Given the size of spaces, you likely won’t go more than a few in-game feet before encountering another “event” that pauses everything to force you into a story segment or battle.
That simplicity carries over into other elements of One Piece Odyssey. It holds the player’s hand more tightly than any game I’ve played in the last few years. How do I perform an action? Press square to toggle whether or not the ever-present “directory” on the screen. Where do I go next? Follow the big red arrow on the map to the exclamation point. Can I interact with something? Well, either there is a magnifying glass or a magnifying glass with an on-screen sparkle. The tutorials continue well into the second chapter, to the point at which it might feel like over-explaining. Accessories start out as huge blocks that take up every space in the equipment grid, locking someone into only one possible item they can use for buffs at time, but also making it very simple to determine what you should equip.
This is coupled with the game generally being rather easy, especially when it comes to puzzles, until you hit the late game. The fights on Waford especially are laughably so, with even bosses posing no threat. Characters gain levels at a shocking pace, with my party being at level 18 before I even headed into the Memoria version of Alabasta. Rather than being challenging, some main and side quests can involve running back and forth between obvious places in a rather small map with few detours or additional paths to go beat someone up or retrieve certain items. And while the Memoria segments mean the enemies can be more difficult, it can sometimes feel instead like they just have extra HP or deal slightly more damage than usual.
The One Piece Odyssey battle system attempts to make things interesting by having people in certain areas when fights begin and character traits. Characters belong to certain attack types like power/speed/technique, as do enemies. So Luffy is “power,” Nami is “speed,” and Zoro is “technique,” as an example. There are also different zones, with enemies and allies placed in different ones when a fight begins. It is novel, but it gets to feel like frustrating busywork when it comes to constantly swapping party members around to take advantage of weaknesses. Likewise, movement putting certain characters in or out of range of enemies or group healing is annoying. Especially since there is no specific “move” command. It’s almost easier to rely on the auto battle feature, unless you’re against a boss or later in the game.
However, when I said this was one for the fans, I meant it. The character designs look good when brought to life. So much so that I would have liked to have seen more original enemies. Before you even leave the first chapter, you’ll start seeing palette swaps. There are entertaining asides between characters when you investigate points of interest or explore. Side quests can bring back minor characters from the anime and manga asking for help. Some folks may temporarily join your party, though you won’t be able to control them in battle. You also get lots of time with allies. You can switch your lead character to perform special actions or reach different areas, though Luffy and Chopper were the two I ended to swap to most often for traversal purposes. You can also unlock Bond Arts via using Memory Links to get to Hysteria. These give people a chance to unlock memories with specific characters, getting a super strong group attack in return.
If you always wanted to join the Straw Hat Pirates, then One Piece Odyssey is the adventure for you regardless of your proficiency with video games. However, it wouldn’t necessarily be the best game for everyone else. Those who love Tales titles or are experienced with turn-based RPGs would do better with a different, more challenging title that doesn’t expect you to be familiar with the source material. It is a very easy adventure that expects a certain degree of knowledge about One Piece, even with Lim using the memory cubes to offer brief asides during chapters. But if you are a fan and are up for an effortless, nostalgic, and pretty stroll, this will leave you satisfied.
One Piece Odyssey will come to the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on January 12, 2023. A demo is available on consoles.
Related: One Piece Odyssey Review on Twinfinite