“You know how hazy memories can be.” It’s a convenient and hand-waving line, delivered by new character Lim, who warns the Straw Hat Pirates of impending adventures in some of One Piece’s most popular story arcs. Similarly, One Piece Odyssey can be an ambiguous experience. It oscillates between being thrilling and exhausting. The promise of the quest “What if…?” The scenario is enticing for longtime fans, but it rarely moves in a meaningful way. And as a possible introductory point for new fans, One Piece Odyssey falters as most of the main story flashback references and characters are stripped away. While I’m conflicted about my time with One Piece Odyssey, it’s a testament to the series’ RPG outing that I’m fond of the overall adventure, despite a few glaring holes.
The completely original content of One Piece Odyssey starts off slow, but builds up nicely to intrigue each time I return to Wafford Island. That’s where Elastic Bandit Monkey D. Luffy and his infamous crew find themselves trapped. Trouble quickly finds them as a fanatical girl named Lim uses her powers to drain Luffy and his friends of their strength and abilities, storing them in mysterious cubes scattered around the island. Along with his caretaker, an explorer named Edio, Lim helps restore the Straw Hats’ power. To do this, they must enter the world of memories to retrieve what was lost.
These opening hours not only introduce turn-based battles but exploration as well. Most Straw Hat crew members can be switched out as you move around the world, each with unique and valuable skills that fit naturally with the character. Being a Rubber Man, Luffy can stretch his arms to reach areas in the environment that are not accessible to other characters or intercept sparkling trinkets in the distance. Likewise, the Chopper’s smaller frame allows it to get into tighter spaces only it can fit. The crafting system, such as cooking healing items with Sanji and forging accessories with Robin, are delightful touches that meaningfully expand the characters’ ship roles in gameplay. With authentic dialogue between the crew, One Piece Odyssey feels surprisingly close to who these characters are.
With a mix of sketches and realistic textures, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda’s style translates superbly to the character models and world. Areas like Alabasta and Water Seven are well realized, along with the creatures and eerie looking characters that live in them. The crew’s signature attacks, like Zoro’s sword techniques or Chopper’s transformative Devil Fruit powers, are killer in motion. The anime’s Japanese VO cast also adds a welcome level of authenticity, making Odyssey feel like another chapter of the anime. While the English VO or score and theme music of the anime would have been appreciated, what works well is there.
The attention to detail is on full display in Odyssey’s turn-based battles, with an abundance of Luffy-like flexibility. Maybe too much. Combat feels grand, splitting the crew into multiple micro-battles, usually before helping them fight their enemies elsewhere unless ranged or AOE abilities are at hand. The process of killing enemies and then consolidating a full force to clear out surviving enemies is satisfying, as is completing bonus objectives that reward extra experience. What helps make fights a little too easy is the option to swap any character’s position with any character at any time without penalty, as long as they haven’t attacked. Exchanging the locations of Naomi and Brooke, who should be tied to different regions, feels like cheating. The combat system has a lot of potential but not enough restraint to make it truly special.
While the initial thrill in Memoria drags on, the second half picks up significantly as the action and stakes in Memoria and Wofford escalate. Most of Odyssey is content heavy, and void of context for the events at hand, save for some lore dumps in the game’s menus. Still, the key moments in the final hours left me in awe, thanks to the funny fantasy situations with the characters that didn’t happen in the canon story. I wish those moments were amplified even more during One Piece Odyssey to make better use of the amazing settings and characters at hand.
I have reservations about the whole experience – though, I can’t help but smile thinking about this adventure with the Straw Hats. It nails the main cast of characters, the Memoria areas are fun to revisit, and the revelations surrounding Wofford, Lim, and Adio ultimately satisfy. Of course, I can’t fully recommend this voyage to anyone new to One Piece, but seasoned pirates will find a worthy adventure on the horizon.