One Piece Odyssey Review for PS5
When it comes to anime games like One Piece Odyssey, expectations are rarely sky-high. Most simply hope that it would do the bare minimum of dropping beloved characters into interesting situations and make some fun references to past arcs. They don’t have to be genre-defining experiences, or bring a slew of new elements to the table. All they need to do is pass a broad definition of acceptable, and offer an inoffensive expansion to a universe people have come to know and love.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I realized the latest One Piece title wasn’t this type of anime game. Instead, it’s the kind of offering that takes some genuine risks and tries to do something novel with its gameplay, albeit while falling into some of the same ruts that plague most other anime games story-wise. Not only that, but it largely succeeds in its efforts, and sets a new standard for games that will come after it.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. For those who aren’t caught up on all the game’s marketing, One Piece Odyssey sees the Straw Hats dragged into a new adventure set in-between the arcs of the manga. Following an encounter with an unknown entity, the crew is shipwrecked on a mysterious island inhabited by ancient automatons and otherworldly phenomena. A pair of strange individuals also call the island home, and one robs the Straw Hats of their strength and abilities due to their being pirates.
This forces them to explore the island so that they can regain their lost strength and abilities, delving into the memories associated with these aspects of themselves in order to once again take control of them. This quite literally means reliving some of the biggest moments from the series, whether that means facing down former a Warlord in Alabasta or reliving some of the worst challenges they ever faced in Water 7.
This likewise allows the crew to prepare themselves for an even greater challenge that lurks on the island, and could serve to threaten the wider world if they don’t step up to defeat it.
It’s a decent enough setup, but is handled much like other anime games for better and worse. Cliff Notes-versions of the series’ more popular arcs are used to pad out the larger plot of the game, and can definitely cause the story to drag when players are forced to play out a story they’ve seen dozens of times before.
It’s exactly what fans have come to expect from anime games. Which is a shame, considering the original story and characters are actually fairly interesting. They could have really shined given a bit more focus a la a One Piece: Worldseeker approach, but end up feeling underdeveloped and shallow.
Luckily, One Piece Odyssey does manage to shine through its gameplay. Utilizing a turn-based RPG framework, the core elements of the title are simple enough: In addition to exploring the wider world and going from point A to point B in the story, players can also hop into battle with a variety of enemies using up to four members of the Straw Hats. They can then fight said enemies in a turn-based manner, with the Straw Hats and their foes exchanging attacks back and forth until only one side is left standing.
It’s a simple enough gameplay premise, but things become infinitely deeper in practice. During battles, one has to consider a variety of factors in order to come out on top. These include the damage type each character can deal, where one’s characters are positioned, and how many points are available that can be used on special techniques.
Not only that, but one has to constantly shift and change their party layout in order to react and adapt to their opponent’s party makeup. Much like in Pokémon or Persona, each party member and enemy has specific strengths and weaknesses based on their damage type.
Luffy, for example, is a Power Type that can deal heavy damage to Speed Types but can’t handle blade-based Technique Types. Usopp, meanwhile, is a Speed Type who can snipe Technique Types from a safe distance, but will fall quickly when pitted against Power Types.
Complicating things further are different elemental and debuff effects that can be applied to attacks, strengthening or weakening attacks further in addition to potentially applying negative effects to their targets.
This results in battles where pitting one’s party members against some enemies can mean an instant victory, while tossing them out to fight other foes can mean a decisive defeat. As such, shuffling one’s party regularly — and figuring out how to best utilize every Straw Hat — is a necessity to come out on top, and can occur several times even during smaller battles.
It can be chaotic, but also keeps battles feeling fresh and intense even dozens of hours into the game. I had a blast switching the Straw Hats in and out of combat, firing off their trademark moves in rapid succession against enemies for disgusting amounts of damage. Some battles felt deservedly brief, while others were satisfyingly challenging thanks to the constant shifts in strategy I had to implement.
Further improving the experience was One Piece Odyssey’s aesthetic and visuals. Applying the style of the One Piece franchise to modern gen platforms, the world pops with a 3D version of Eiichiro Oda’s art style. Character models and enemy models alike are as emotive and colorful as anything from the manga or anime, and are sure to keep players visually engaged throughout their adventures.
The sound design is likewise serviceable enough. The Japanese voice acting is on par with the anime, and characters display plenty of emotion in every line they deliver as a result. The music also serves as a good accompaniment to the gameplay, though the tracks rarely stand out and tend to fade into the background even during more climactic moments.
The end result is a game which is far better than it had any right to be. Granted, it isn’t perfect, but it’s still a great showing from a game adaptation and a major outlier among the field of anime games.
Fans of One Piece and turn-based RPG lovers alike will be more than pleased with what One Piece Odyssey has to offer. Its combat offers a great new spin on the genre’s trademark battle systems, and is far deeper than one would expect from an anime-inspired title. Even if it isn’t perfect, the game takes chances in the best way possible and could very well lay the groundwork for much more promising One Piece games in the future.
Original story and characters feel underdeveloped.
Music is a bit bland.