Recently, Bandai Namco invited me to San Diego to get hands-on with One Piece Odyssey, the upcoming turn-based RPG set in Eiichiro Oda. It is a turn-based RPG. Some people might be confused with One Piece's history of action games, but this title builds upon the anime's legacy.
One Piece Odyssey is the best anime-based game I have ever played, with fantastic One Piece Musou games on the table. It's incredibly accessible, with a combat system that's easy to pick up, regardless of your experience with JRPGs.
Perhaps the best thing about One Piece Odyssey is that it perfectly captures the art style and character interactions pioneered by Eiichiro Oda. Considering One Piece World Seeker felt flat, despite being visually appealing, the new game looks, feels, and plays like you would expect the anime to.
One Piece Odyssey is an impressive game
The media were onboard The Star of India, the world's oldest active sailing ship. It was an appropriate place to play the latest anime game from Bandai Namco, One Piece Odyssey. Rei Hirata, the producer of the upcoming game, elaborated on the motivations behind the JRPG's production.
According to Hirata-san, there was some reasonably negative feedback on One Piece World Seeker. Players found the action-based gameplay to be too challenging. This led to the decision to try making a turn-based JRPG instead. Frankly, this was an excellent decision for several reasons.
While I liked World Seeker, it lacked the personality of One Piece. I don't recall a single comical back-and-forth between members of the Straw Hat Pirates.
Watch: The One Piece crew goes Bounty Hunting.
While interesting, the art style didn't feel like an anime. But One Piece Odyssey looks like the anime infused with better production. The character models look incredible, and the interactions were precise, as I remember from the anime. Sanji and Zoro's constant back-and-forth arguing and Luffy's blind, hopeless, almost foolish optimism are all there.
Another reason this franchise belonged as a turn-based RPG is because One Piece is all about the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates - it's about their experiences as a team. Playing/controlling just one character makes little sense.
From combat to exploration, it felt like a real One Piece experience. Each character in your party has an action that befits their character. We had access to most of the Straw Hats in One Piece Odyssey, and they could do the following:
- Luffy: Can extend his arms to reach far-away items and use Observation Haki to detect enemies that grant bonus exp.
- Sanji: Can locate hidden, rare ingredients for cooking.
- Chopper: Crawl through tight, small places thanks to his size.
- Zoro: Can cut down sturdy objects, like steel doors.
- Nami: Can spot money lying on the ground.
- Usopp: Can fire his Slingshot to knock hidden items down, making them accessible.
We also had access to Nico Robin and Franky, but we did not have time to see their active abilities. There will be other character abilities later in the game as well. Brook was also in the game, but he was just a soul - his body and spirit were separated. I hope that's a side quest we can undertake to set it right.
I know that One Piece Odyssey takes place after the current story arc (Wano). However, I don't think it's canon. This is important because this means the Straw Hat Pirates are incredibly strong at this point. You don't need to get caught up with the current story in One Piece. This game is a standalone story, so don't worry about where you are in the anime or manga.
It would be a boring RPG if your party started with overwhelming power. You start the game at level 40, and at first, I thought it was just a weird custom build. While exploring the island, the crew crashed into a mysterious girl, Lim, who used her gourd to seal away the crew's powers in mysterious Memory Cubes. That's how the party in One Piece Odyssey becomes level 1.
It's an excellent, reasonable explanation that fits into the anime world. This means that players must find these cubes while exploring Waford Island. Some will be out in the open, while others will require some exploration. Each of these is tied to a character, and you can use them to improve the abilities of that Straw Hat.
The gameplay is phenomenal
The most important part, though, is the actual gameplay. It works great for One Piece Odyssey. The game uses a Rock-Paper-Scissors system, so it's pretty easy to see which foes are weak or strong. There are three combat types: Strength, Speed, and Technique.
When you're targeting enemies, you can see on the left side of the screen if your current party is strong against the opposing force. You can have four party members in play at a time, but you can also swap out other characters, similar to Final Fantasy X. Just press Triangle on the PS5 controller (or your equivalent on another controller) and swap two characters out.
Watch: Making the right choice in battle.
I was a big fan of this because it didn't feel like FFX, and I had to swap all the characters out in each fight. The characters on the bench have gained exp, though perhaps not as much as the main crew.
You have basic attacks, items, and skills requiring TP. When you use regular attacks, you build up more TP to keep dealing with special, familiar special attacks. The attack names will look familiar to the anime/manga fans while they play One Piece Odyssey. We didn't see all the attacks and started the game at level 40. There are further, more powerful attacks to unlock later.
Watch: Nami didn't ask for more enemies
Combat takes place in the Scramble Battle Area system. Players move across four zones to attack enemies at close and long ranges. Another cool part of the battle is that you'll occasionally have Dramatic Scenes occur. They will randomly trigger at the start of the battle and will have clear requirements. You'll have to save an ally, defeat specific enemies, and things like that. Succeeding grants rewards like stat buffs and exp bonuses.
Combat was fun, and I didn't feel like I had to be conservative with my skills/special attacks across the Straw Hat Pirates in One Piece Odyssey. A lot of the foes were animals and beasts, though we did also fight some human foes. Swapping out characters didn't feel forced, and the pirates' various attacks felt appropriate.
I also appreciate that we aren't confined to using the characters in a particular order. When you select the order in which the party members act, you have far more tactical options than in a traditional RPG. To heal, start with Chopper or use an item. Want to start with a status ailment? Try one of Sanji or Zoro's attacks first.
Watch: Swapping out party members in battle is easy and rewarding.
If you want to make the most of level grinding, you'll want to use campsites, which lets you feast with your crew. This increases your EXP gain by 30% for 10 battles and grants a 5x more significant chance of landing a critical hit. It also fully restores your HP.
Combine this with Luffy's Observation Haki to find enemies that grant bonus exp, and you can level friendly and fast. This is by design, to make the game have a faster pace than traditional JRPGs.
The look and feel of One Piece Odyssey is brilliant
Visually, the characters looked like I remembered them from the anime. While I'm not caught up with One Piece, I am familiar with the franchise. The visuals from the game were terrific, and I also immensely enjoyed the audio of the game. Developers have perfectly nailed the look of the series.
Watch: Brave Captain Usopp.
Waford is new to the overall world of One Piece. Players will also live out events from classic anime stories during One Piece Odyssey. This includes Water Seven and Alabasta, though it won't be exactly as the fans remember. I don't want to spoil what happens or why. Just know that you're going to see some very familiar moments.
While I have not caught up with the anime, this game made me want to do so. One Piece Odyssey is a brilliant title, and the decision to push it back to January 2023 was correct in hindsight. It's a fitting tribute to the 25th anniversary of One Piece. A gorgeous game with sharp, easy-to-understand gameplay, One Piece Odyssey is exactly what I hoped it would be.
As a big fan of JRPGs, I was excited to hear of the decision that the game would be a turn-based RPG. If you're worried that it won't look and feel like a One Piece game, don't worry about that. It has that heart and soul Oda-san made famous over the past 25 years. The characters act and speak the way they should.
One Piece Odyssey releases on January 13, 2023, and will be the definitive One Piece experience. It tells a new story, and it will not let fans of the anime down. With that said, I am returning to catch up with One Piece.