The adventures of Captain Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates have been around for over 25 years now. Originating in the pages of the Japanese magazine, Weekly Sh?nen Jump, the manga series has been collected into over a hundred volumes. In 1999 One Piece made the jump to anime with a Toei Animation TV show that is still going today.
The series premise has Captain Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, The Straw Hat Pirates sailing The Grand Line looking for the legendary pirate treasure, the One Piece. Luffy has peculiar rubber limbs, a power obtained by eating special fruit, that enable him to deliver punches and other useful stretching tricks. The downside is that he cannot swim.
I’m only casually acquainted with the franchise, having read a few of the early stories and watched some of the TV shows. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, but understand the appeal of what is a quintessential bit of manga/anime fantasy storytelling.
One Piece Odyssey is set within the continuity of the TV show/comics, but you don’t need an encyclopaedic knowledge of either series to enjoy it. In fact, the game is a perfect jumping-in point for newcomers to the One Piece phenomenon.
The game starts with the crew in their pirate ship, The Thousand Sunny, being shipwrecked on a strange island. Here a mysterious girl seemingly strips them of their powers.
The game is a pretty standard Japanese RPG with turn-based combat that will be familiar to anyone that’s played similar games. The open-world areas amalgamate the party into one lead character that the player controls.
Upon approaching (or being approached by) a hostile creature the turn-based combat system is triggered. Each member from the selected party character takes turns attacking the enemies. Whilst only one creature may be displayed “in the world” the combat usually involves defeating multiple hostiles.
As almost a prelude to the game, players are treated to Luffy and the crew all operating at full power with a few combat encounters that look straight out of the cartoons. The characters are then reduced from their original level 40 skills down to level one. This gives players something to work towards, rather than have the Straw Hat Pirates as formidable as they are on TV.
Combat is still pretty easy, with the characters leveling up and unlocking their immense powers very quickly. Some of the battles have additional challenges, like defeating enemies with rapidly increasing strength or having one character incapacitated. But generally, the fights are easy and the rewards plentiful.
Players can explore the locations, with Luffy using his Gum Gum Rocket power to stretch his arms and reach higher platforms. Some light puzzle sequences unlock new areas and enemies.
The story progresses after completing tasks for the main episode. But there are also side quests and objectives that the player can undertake.
Fans of the show will likely get a lot more out of the game, especially as the crew revisited settings from the anime TV show. The game does still make it easy for newcomers to see the appeal of One Piece and enjoy the crews’ adventures.
The larger-than-life cast, from the rather over-excited Monkey D. Luffy to the brooding Roronoa Zoro, means there’s a favourite for everyone. Being able to pick your line-up in the party means you can have a lot of fun with the crew members that you like the most.
The game utilises a cel-shaded painterly style that at once reflects the manga and anime look, as well as rendering everything in 3D. We have seen The Straw Hat Pirates in 3D before, most notably, for me, One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3.
By and large, the 2D characters make the transition to 3D very well, although Luffy does tend to look a bit too maniacal with his constant grin. The game uses Unreal Engine 4 to create crisp and beautifully lit environments complemented by extremely well-designed models for the Straw Hats, supporting characters, and the wealth of diverse enemies. It’s a lovely game to look at.
As a Japanese role-playing game, it’s not as heady as some that I’ve played. I’d even go as far as to say that it is lighter than the more Westernised recent Final Fantasy games. The dialogue is in Japanese with English subtitles. This should please purists, but a dubbed audio track would have been nice.
One Piece Odyssey is a game that draws very much on the vast history of the series, but it does so in a way that will appeal to fans without intimidating players unfamiliar with Luffy and co. With only a passing knowledge of the cartoons and comic books, I found that game did a good job of introducing the characters and some of the crews’ classic adventures. It’s a great game and a good primer for anyone looking to delve further into the mega-hit One Piece adventures.
Rating: Very Good