One Piece Odyssey - A Surprisingly Good Adventure
I must admit that after experiencing some less-than-stellar anime video game tie-ins, I was a little bit unsure about how One Piece: Odyssey would play out. Fortunately, Odyssey is a rather enjoyable romp through the memories of the Straw Hat crew that puts you in control of Luffy and the Straw Hats as they unravel the secrets of the island of Waford, a journey that will have them relive some of the best arcs in the long-running One Piece manga. One Piece: Odyssey is only held back from greatness by some frustrating game design choices and a very limited open world that can easily result in content being missed and locked out until near the end of the game.
The greatest aspect of One Piece: Odyssey is in the story itself. Unlike some tie-in games that try to force the player character into the events of the pre-existing storylines, Odyssey is instead an entirely new story created in collaboration with One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, giving players a story that is new and yet stays faithful to the journey the crew has taken thus far. Without giving up too many details, Odyssey has the Straw Hats making their way through their memories of some of One Piece’s best arcs in a bid to regain their lost strength. As the game explains though, people don’t tend to remember everything exactly as it happened, paving the way for the memories to diverge in ways that allow the story to progress but does not interfere with the gameplay elements like the combat, as traditionally in the manga the Straw Hat crew invariably ends up getting split up and fighting different enemies instead of fighting as a group.
Rather than just having players use Luffy, Sanji and Zoro, easily the three most powerful of the Straw Hats, Odyssey instead make you spread the love throughout the crew. The Straw Hats and all of their enemies will have one of three designations, power, speed and technique, and as you may have guessed by now the game uses a rock, paper, scissors model to force you to utilise different crew members throughout combat. An interesting twist on the turn-based combat model is that Odyssey can have the crew fighting in up to four different areas per battle against varied opponents. Luckily you can switch out members of your crew without any penalty so you can always try and keep on top of your opponents. It doesn’t always work and for some people, the combat may feel a bit too easy, but the game also throws in random challenges that can provide big experience bonuses to mix things up a bit.
The only time Odyssey really changes this formula is when you enter a Hysteria, a broken memory within the memory worlds the crew journeys through. These side quests are locked to certain crew members and their completion will unlock powerful Bond Attacks that have parts of the crew team up for a big attack. The one big problem with these is that the game expects you to complete these side quests (along with bounty hunts you can pick up for extra cash) in a particular order. I had not completed the bounty hunts or the Hysteria in Alabaster before I continued through the main story quests and when I reached the Water Seven memory I found there were no bounties to be picked up and no signs of any of the Hysteria’s at all. With a return to Alabasta locked out until near the end of the game, I ended up completing the game without any more than the first of those powerful moves.
That was one of my biggest frustrations while I was playing through Odyssey. While it presents itself as an open-world style RPG, more often than not you are stuck on a linear path. Even the fast travel abilities that you unlock will be suddenly and randomly locked out at points in the story, mostly because the game wants to present you with two or three thirty-second conversations on the way to your objective. It is made even more frustrating when these conversations are part of the game making you back-track to areas you have been before, for example, to pick up a shell from the beach, turning what could be a very quick fast travel moment into a five-minute run with conversations on the way. It is not going to ruin the game for you but you will get frustrated with it. As the game goes on you will encounter less of it so my advice is to just grit your teeth and push through it.
The biggest issue I had with the game comes down to a purely personal choice. I am unashamedly a fan of English dubs when it comes to watching anime. While I can make do watching subtitles, if I am given the preference I will always choose the dubbed version over the subtitled version. The amount of time that One Piece has been running and the number of episodes that have already been dubbed into English (over 900 so far) has earned it a lot of fans in the western world, so I was really surprised when I started the game and there was no option for an English dub. It is by no means a deal breaker and there are quite a lot of people who prefer the traditional Japanese voice actors and subtitles. It comes down to the players’ personal preference so I would be remiss to not at least make mention of it for people thinking of buying the game.
With gorgeous, colourful worlds and character models that are true to the manga designs (well except for the chest areas of Nami and Robin, those are a bit overboard even by traditional manga/anime stakes) and plenty of content to keep you interested, One Piece: Odyssey is a great game for fans of the series and even players that have not seen the manga/anime. While it does have flaws I had a great time taking control of Luffy and the Straw Hats and will be interested to see if they produce DLC with different story arcs or movie content.
One Piece Odyssey was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by Bandai Namco Australia