One Piece Odyssey is a great entry point to the series

One Piece Odyssey is a great entry point to the series

The One Piece series is no stranger to the world of video games. Over the years, we’ve seen the popular manga and anime series become a multimedia giant, and that’s taken it into the realm of spin-off games. However, we’ve never really seen it in the Japanese RPG genre where it belongs. That will change next month too One Piece Odyssey.

One Piece Odyssey – Gameplay Trailer | PS5 and PS4 games

When I first saw One Piece Odyssey, as both a huge series fan and RPG lover, I felt it was a step in the right direction. What other series is better suited to follow the JRPG formula than the manga that literally feels like one at all times? After getting the chance to try One Piece Odyssey and chatting with producer Rei Hirata, I found my hunch was right.

Odyssey isn’t trying to be just another cash-strapped anime spin-off JRPG. It appears to be the anime JRPG and evolve the genre, just as its manga and anime counterparts have done for their respective mediums.

Like playing through the panels of the manga

Off the bat, one thing that immediately stands out One Piece Odyssey is that it chases the series’ vision more than any previous game. When I jumped into the demo, I was delighted to find that the Straw Hat Pirates were rendered with the absolute best 3D models they’ve ever had. Each character felt like they jumped right out of the manga, their cartoonish exaggerated expressions shining through. Producer Rei Hirata told me that this was one of the most important parts of the game’s development for the team.

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The Straw Hat Pirates stand together in Alabasta.

No One Piece game has ever had such attention to detail when it comes to the characters – I was in awe watching it. This is nothing new for me with my love for characters like Nico Robin, but I was more mesmerized than usual with the rest of the cast. The action, scene composition and impact of battles in One Piece are perfectly translated into a game for the first time here thanks to the cinematic nature of JRPGs. It’s never been more satisfying to watch a rubber man heat up his blood and fire a flurry of intense punches at giant crabs.

Trust that the adventure the series is known for is on full display here. I encountered all kinds of invisible creatures from the One Piece Universe: giant ice walruses, weird attacking monkeys and much more. It immersed me so much in Eiichiro Oda’s vast world that I didn’t want to leave after the demo’s time limit hit.

Grab some popcorn

Jumping to the more theatrical parts of the game, the story begins with the crew landing on an island and losing access to their ship. They regroup and encounter two mysterious characters who have vague intentions. After losing the expansive move sets they’ve learned throughout the series to an inexplicable force from one of the two, the hunt is on. They must find cubes that contain their memories while learning the secrets of this island filled with callbacks to a previously explored island in the series, Skypiea.

The Straw Hats against Adio.

That sounds like a great plot for a One Piece movie because it might as well be one. So many times I put the controller down and just enjoyed the show, forgetting for a moment that I was supposed to be playing a game. The fun character interactions, the big plot twists, the tear-jerking moments and of course Luffy’s badass fight scenes are here. And what makes it better is that it never stops.

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All the Straw Hats constantly chat with each other and let their personalities shine, both in and out of battle. The conversations can either be quick jokes, a simple supporting quote or a real part of the story. This is also seen when certain characters help others in battles, such as when Sanji gives Nami items and shouts his iconic, “NAMI SWAN!” pet name for her. It just oozes One Piece style and love and I couldn’t get enough of everything it had to offer.

Another big push for RPGs

While the fan service excites me, it’s not what I’m most impressed with. It’s the fact that the director decided to go in such an admirable and ambitious direction with it in so many ways, including trying to make it accessible to non-One Piece and JRPG fans.

Combat unfolds in a new direction for JRPGs here. The headline Straw Hat Pirates of One Piece are a crew that runs deep. There are eight playable party members here (as the game takes place before Wano), meaning matches cannot be limited to a party of four. How to deal with it? Well, combat is divided into sectors. There are several areas where enemies can spawn on a single field, with the highest sector count I’ve encountered being four.

A screenshot of Luffy in battle in One Piece Odyssey.

Players can have up to four party members in each section and swap them out at any time. This adds constant strategy and a more intuitive combat system than other JRPGs can boast. For example, I loved putting Luffy face to face with enemies, as he takes and deals heavy damage. Meanwhile, I kept my healer, Chopper, and two ranged fighters, Nico Robin and Usopp, at a distance to help out after taking out smaller enemies. Other times I’d just worry about who would look the coolest fighting what together, just because the game offers such tactical freedom.

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What is exciting is that an abundance of these matches is not necessary. Producer Katsuaki Tsuzuki stated that the developers were looking to remove the gritty nature of JRPGs by giving players more opportunities to level up and take on strong enemies aside from being overleveled. In true One Piece fashion, characters can party and gain an experience point bonus for the next ten matches. Usopp’s many difficult debuff attacks can be used to fight against large enemies, giving the crew a huge level boost. Like Pokemon, everyone levels up together, so there’s no need to rotate everyone out on the field for the sake of grinding.

Zoro finishes an Onigiri attack in One Piece Odyssey.

One Piece Odyssey is an incredibly well put together package so far, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished product. It looks to be a strong entry point into both the One Piece series and the JRPG genre, or a simple getaway to something new for anyone looking for a quality gaming experience. Feel free to blame me if you pick it up and shout that you’re going to be king of the pirates.

One Piece Odyssey launches on January 12 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

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