For decades, the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates have thrilled and enchanted readers and viewers across the globe. Turning such a beloved and long-running action-adventure series into game form has proven to be quite a challenge, with many developers stepping up over the years to try and gamify the magic that's made the One Piece anime and manga such a success, often to mixed results. One Piece Odyssey is the latest such attempt, and it takes the approach of transforming One Piece's dramatic battles into a turn-based RPG. While it does a solid job of getting the look and mood of the series down, One Piece Odyssey unfortunately offers little more than a very basic RPG adventure.
The game opens with the Straw Hat gang stranded on the mysterious island of Waford. Their ship, Thousand Sunny, lies in a wreck nearby and with no obvious way to repair it, the gang sets out exploring this wild new world. A strange young girl named Lim emerges and, fearful of the pirates, she removes all of the crew's strength and special powers. With the help of Adio, a rather suspicious adventurer who calls the island his home, the Straw Hats set out to recover their powers, learn the secrets of Waford Island, and escape to journey another day. Along the way, they'll also be able to relive the great adventures of the past.
The story shifts its focus from getting off of Waford Island to getting everyone's full power back with the aid of island residents Lim and Adio fairly quickly, and that remains the crux of the story for quite some time. Recovering powers means finding special cubes scattered across the island and held by the mighty Colossi. Fully restoring the powers contained in the cubes is a rather involved process: Lim must send the crew to a dreamworld called Memoria, where they relive some of the most important events of their lives--in other words, they venture into re-creations of past story arcs from the One Piece anime and manga, though events within them unfold differently. (The justification is that "memories are unreliable.") Only by fully reliving these events in Memoria--and in some cases, venturing even further into strange sub-worlds--can the crew restore what they've lost.
One Piece Odyssey's narrative is, sadly, rather disappointing. Over its lifespan, One Piece has given fans many wonderful, memorable stories and created a fascinating world filled with lore and intrigue. The idea of playing through an original story packed with action and adventure set in the One Piece world as an RPG is a very exciting one, but Odyssey mostly eschews that potential in favor of revisiting past story arcs in Memoria so the Straw Hats can recover their powers. These journeys into the past comprise the bulk of the game's 30-40 hour playtime. While there are some thoughtfully portrayed interactions from the present-day crew as they revisit places and people from the past, setting the game in dream-universe stories that have already resolved, even if they play out differently, robs them of their drama and impact--the conclusions are already known, the stakes don't feel compelling, and the characters are simply doing what's needed to reach the inevitable finale we've seen before. It doesn't help that there's a lot of fetch-quest and NPC-hunting style padding present, either.
From the outset, One Piece Odyssey does a fantastic job of capturing the look and feel of the manga. The character models look vibrant, and their animations and expressions nail the goofy slapstick kineticism that defines One Piece's style of action and character art. Combat animations are particularly well done, with Luffy's rubber-limbed smackdowns, Usopp's comical sniper techniques, and Robin's strangely sensuous multi-limbed combat submission strikes look dynamic in a way that feels authentic to the source material. The interactions between the characters are also in line with what fans of the series have come to expect. The Straw Hats banter and bicker with each other as you explore the various environments, adding a good dose of charm to the proceedings and letting the personalities that many have come to love truly shine through. The audio dialogue is limited to Japanese only, and there is no option for an English localization, which is something to keep in mind if you're a dub fan.
While exploring, characters can swap in and use their unique abilities (provided they've recovered them) to get through obstacles, sling across gaps, and find hidden items like cooking ingredients. Each character has one or more unique field abilities: Luffy can stretch and grapple, Zoro can cut through certain barriers, Usopp can shoot at specific targets, and Chopper is small enough to go through small tunnels, and so on. While this adds some enjoyable variety and discovery to field navigation, the frequent need to interrupt exploration to go into a sub-menu and choose a new leader to use their skills is a bit of an annoyance. Still, the solid visual presentation and the constant crew chatter combined with all the exploration abilities make field travel enjoyable enough to offset the inconvenience of swapping.
When it comes to combat, however, things start to slip. Battles are presented in a traditional turn-based format, though unlike many turn-based games, characters can act in any order and be freely swapped in/out without penalty during your phase, giving you a very strong combat advantage off the bat. When you're choosing which foes to target, there's a Fire Emblem-style rock-paper-scissors system in play where characters are affiliated with one of three combat types that grants damage advantages and disadvantages over other types: power beats speed, speed beats technique, technique beats power. There's also an added twist where, upon battle commencement, characters are randomly assigned to different "areas," restricting which enemies they can attack: You can't target enemies outside of your area with normal attacks (unless all foes in your area are KO'd), but depending on character and abilities you may be able to affect enemies in another area with a special technique. This sounds like a neat twist on paper, but in practice the targetting restrictions simply prove irritating, necessitating you either spend TP to attack enemies out of your area or shuffle everyone around. The presentation of the battles also makes it difficult to tell at a glance how many enemies there are and which zone they're in, leading to targeting mistakes and resulting annoyances.
It's not a terrible combat engine, but it's easily exploitable to the point that it becomes unengaging, and, at worst, an annoying interruption. The freedom to take turns in any order and swap in characters on a whim makes it a cinch to stack your combat party full of characters with advantages over the opponent, placing crew exactly where they're needed to mow enemies down and heal allies quickly. You can also set up powerful Bond Arts that require specific team members to be on-field without much hassle, further trivializing many combat scenarios. Some side-quests, such as the Memory Link quests that unlock Bond Arts, restrict the crew members you can use, which makes things much more interesting--but these quests are woefully short.
Also, One Piece Odyssey hands out copious amounts of EXP for completing very simple random challenges like "beat this enemy in one turn," so you level up quickly if you're engaging in combat with even a moderate degree of frequency. Leveling up grants stat boosts only, as you only acquire combat techniques after reaching set points in the story--but those quickly-accumulating stats can make a huge difference, even if the overall character growth is rather limited Eventually, it can get to the point where even the character-type system becomes mostly irrelevant: In my playthrough, loading up Zoro with a bunch of attack boost accessories and letting him loose in auto-battle was often enough to decimate most enemies. Even some "difficult" encounters weren't really challenging in a tactical sense: the enemies either had better evasion, an extremely strong attack I couldn't anticipate, and/or were HP sponges that took way too long to kill.
Fundamentally, One Piece Odyssey isn't a bad RPG, just a very generic one that strives to do little more than tick off all the checkboxes of what players expect from the genre: side quests, crafting, cooking, fan-service, and so on. Attaching the One Piece license to it results in expectations that are only partially met: While the Straw Hats are as delightful as ever to be around, the story they've found themselves stuck in is not. Ultimately, the greatest sin of One Piece Odyssey is wasted potential, something it shares with many of the other video game adaptations of the franchise.