One Piece is returning in style, as a brand new game is about to release as part of the 25th anniversary of the franchise. One Piece Odyssey was a long-rumored project and might be the franchise’s most ambitious entry into its gaming expansion. It’s the franchise’s first foray into bringing the chaotic Straw Hat crew into the world of JPRGs and trying to bring their unique energy to the normally slower-paced gaming genre. We get a demo release that offers a first look into what we can expect from the full game. As such, here are our first impressions of the game.
The story of One Piece Odyssey is rather straightforward. The Straw Hats were sailing along the seas before a Knock-Up stream shoots them randomly into the sky. With a last attempt to escape, they end up on the mysterious island of Waford. We start the game at the moment when Luffy wakes up and his crew is scattered, which leads to us having to help them find the rest of their crew and meet some locals along the way.
After you wake up on the shore of Waford, you’re pretty much thrown into the game. Most of your characters start off at level 40 with quite a few abilities. It lets you try out every character while getting a tutorial on how the basic combat works. The moment you enter your first encounter you’ll instantly see the basic structure of an RPG at play. Yet, there are some interesting additions that do make it stand out.
The Straw Hats are usually very powerful on their own. So, to ensure no one is nerfed, they created a system that has multiple areas where enemies face a member of the pirate crew. You can move between these zones, but you’ll have to defeat the enemy in front of you to join another. The combat system also allows you to swap out party members per turn to make use of their abilities; though it feels a bit too powerful as theirs no penalty for switching characters on the field or that aren’t on the field.
A lot of work went into the animations of these attacks, which are very authentic and add a lot of charm to this game. Though, sadly these aren’t always translated to the exploration as the game will fade to black with an effect when showing someone attacking a creature in the overworld. Given the work that was put into the models, it does seem like a shame they rely a bit too often on a fade to black to transition from one moment to the next.
One drawback is that the game has not really been challenging as of now. The Straw Hats lose their abilities and reset to Level 1 through the story but you still can one-shot specific enemies. There’s not a lot of challenge and even the puzzles are quite barebones. There’s a chance that may change over the course of the story, but there was rarely a time I had to worry about anyone taking too much damage. Though, that is mostly due to abusing the party change function to just swap out a member that would do more damage.
Still, the mechanics at play are interesting and are fun to play around with. If they start expanding on this system, it would make for a very promising JRPG, especially with the event mechanic where you’ll get a bonus if you fulfill certain requirements. There’s also a chance to use a knockback that takes care of enemies within an area fast; though not as satisfying as the knockback element in Midnight Suns. There are a lot of great elements that make these battles dynamic and interesting, which has me excited to see how they are later in the game.
The only drawback is that the exploration is very slow, especially in the opening area. It’s not uncommon for JRPGs to take some time before they get going, but there are small elements that seem to take up more time than they should. Luffy can swing to an area by stretching his arm, but you have to wait a certain amount of time before you can move again. Once you go the wrong way during a specific sequence, the loading times take longer than they really should. You’ll even have a cutscene before you can explore only to be halted just moving forward to enter another. Pacing issues could be a problem as some aspects might drag out more than they really should.
Still, overall, the game is very promising and the story also offers just enough intrigue to keep new and long-time One Piece fans hooked. They make some deep-cut references that feel like elements to help make Waford feel more like a part of this world. The mystery with the weird floating orb and the cubes is just the perfect amount of bizarre that’ll likely keep players guessing. Also, they nailed the dynamics of the Straw Hats with their little interactions during cutscenes, on the map, or even during cutscenes.
The demo also gets bonus points for letting me save at the end of it, which can be used for once you purchase the full game later on. As such, you’re not forced to replay the entire opening once again and can just leisurely jump in where you left off. Still, the first impression of this game is positive even if some exploration aspects could’ve been tweaked to run longer. With many mini-worlds to visit through memories, it’ll be exciting to see what Bandai Namco has planned for this ambitious JRPG once it releases. From what the demo offers, it definitely is a recommendation for fans of One Piece and worth trying out for those new to it.