What is it? A turn-based JRPG romp through One Piece's past.
Expect to pay: $59.99/£49.99
Developer: ILCA, Inc.
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Reviewed on: Windows 11, Nvidia 2080 Ti, Intel i9-9900k @ 4.9GHz, 32GB RAM
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
25 years ago Half-Life hit PC, the first PlayStation ruled supreme, and a little pirate adventure manga called One Piece began. Now I'm pushing 40, greying, and still enjoying the ongoing adventures of rubberized ruffian Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates. Celebrating a quarter-century at sea, the crew are off on a grand JRPG voyage with One Piece Odyssey: a sprawling, charming adventure that creaks under its own scope.
If you've no idea what One Piece is, or have only seen a few episodes of the anime, Odyssey probably isn't for you. It's set around 750 episodes into the anime, and assumes knowledge of its characters, their abilities, and their histories. On top of that, most of the game is dedicated to (loosely) retelling the events of four major story arcs, these reprised adventures bookended by a story written specifically for the game.
While manga author Eiichiro Oda had minimal input in Odyssey's story, he did contribute some concepts and creature designs, including some adorably doofy monsters. Odyssey strands Luffy and crew on Waford, a forgotten island inhabited by a pair of new characters: big-haired explorer Adio and mysterious local girl Lim, who magically strips the crew of their powers before realizing they're the good kind of pirates. While mercifully no one has amnesia, the Straw Hat crew have forgotten how to fight, so they're off on an adventure to recover the memory cubes holding their lost battle prowess, and then into the World Of Memory to relive four of their most important adventures and brush up on their beatdowns.
The black spot
Odyssey is effectively a massive filler arc—the kind of questionably canonical side adventure the anime has to insert to keep the TV show running weekly. While Odyssey's new story and characters are decent enough for One Piece, where the game narratively shines is, paradoxically, in retreading old ground.
While these adventures in Memoria are based on past story arcs (Alabasta, Water Seven, Marineford, and Dressrosa), the Straw Hat Pirates know this is just a rough approximation of their adventures, and their actions won't change what actually happened. Despite this they all resolve to do things better. Even if it's just a dream, they're out to save everyone they couldn't, win unwinnable fights and create a happier ending. What could have been a glorified clip show takes on an unexpectedly bittersweet and personal edge, with the heroes getting a chance to see lost and fallen friends one more time.
It makes for a rich well of character beats compared to the average One Piece filler anime, with each member of the crew getting time in the spotlight to pick apart their feelings and come to terms with their losses. The manga frequently has characters crying rivers of tears over lost friends or sad farewells, where Odyssey trades more in coming to terms with the past. Sadly, funky skellington Brook only joins the party late in the game, but the rest of the crew are given room to breathe. At least when they're not getting sidetracked.
Odyssey is stuffed to bursting with padding, filler within the filler. It's not just sidequests, grinding and scouring maps for treasure—the main story often forgets where it's going. In one particularly egregious case, a chase across the desert to save a friend gets delayed by bandits stealing the crew's food, a monkey stealing Nami's wallet, a river of quicksand, a spelunking adventure to bypass the quicksand (which fails), and then a big cartoon crab turns up to just take everyone to their destination anyway.
It was hard for me to stay annoyed at Odyssey—or the giant crab for that matter. The distractions often lean into One Piece's sillier side, and even these weird story digressions lead to some spectacular boss fights and fun new monsters. There's some great encounters in the optional side-content too, including chasing the bounties on rival pirates who have their own comical gimmicks, like a crew that like to leap dramatically off cliff-tops, but haven't figured out the "landing safely" part yet. But almost every part of Odyssey could use some trimming. Quests could be shortened, the grind reduced and backtracking excised to leave a leaner, faster game.
The main thing you'll be doing in One Piece Odyssey is getting into turn-based JRPG fights, and fortunately, filler or no, battles are cleverer than I expected. I'd have been happy enough if this game mimicked Dragon Quest, but the developers put some real thought into how to replicate the sprawling, messy cartoon brawls of the source material in an accessible turn-based combat engine. I took on super-powered naval officers, screen-filling monsters, and many cavefulls of bandits, and I was always happy to see the Straw Hat Pirates throwing hands against often overwhelming odds.
Everybody was kung-fu dugong
Battles in One Piece Odyssey are initially familiar—four of my characters taking turns to trade punches with a bunch of enemies—but the scale is novel. Each party member can engage with a separate enemy group of up to four enemies in their own part of the battlefield. While some attacks are limited to targeting nearby foes, others can be used to hit distant enemies, or go bowling for meatheads by slamming one mook into their nearby buddies. I'm especially fond of attacks that launch enemies toward a distant crewmate, leading to fun mid-battle banter. Some of Luffy's crew appreciate fresh targets, while others (Usopp) would prefer less on their plates.
Surprise bonus objectives called Dramatic Scenes are an extra twist. Sometimes the game will ask you to finish an enemy with a specific character or rescue a crewmate before they get hit by a big charge-up attack. Completing these objectives can give a hefty XP boost, and sometimes the system is used to inject a little more character into the battles too. If Sanji and Zoro are standing together, their rivalry might result in some banter and their Technique Points (this game's MP equivalent) being fully recharged.
Despite all of these neat details, One Piece Odyssey lacks difficulty settings or scaling, meaning the first 5–10 hours are extremely easy. Even without paying attention to stats and largely ignoring synergies between characters, it wasn't until 15 hours into Odyssey that I saw my first character knocked out, and a quick healing item saw them revived seconds later. The difficulty does even out a bit after that point, but that's a long time to wait for any kind of challenge.
Still, even when they're easy, the fights are fun to watch. One Piece is beautifully replicated, capturing the visual tone of the anime, but channeling a little of the manga's style by rendering shadows as increasingly dense shading lines, mimicking Oda's art. It's a deeply charming detail that felt so natural I didn't notice it at first. It helps the exaggerated, googly-eyed cartoon monster designs work in 3D and fit in naturally with the more restrained geography.
While largely linear, the dungeons and towns of One Piece Odyssey are fun to wander through and poke at. In the overworld each character has their own interaction abilities: Luffy can cross gaps with his stretchy rubber arms, Zoro can slice through metal bars, Franky can build bridges over specific gaps, and Sanji can smell fresh ingredients a mile away. It's often worth taking the time to chat to the NPCs too. While not materially rewarding, they've got plenty of little gags to add—guards who forgot their weapons at home, bandits questioning their career choices, shopkeepers haggled into the ground by Nami, and sassy talking animals translated by Chopper.
Charming as the NPCs are, they don't get much in the way of animation, with conversations outside of major plot scenes looking a bit stiff and awkward. Thankfully, the combat animations are a treat. Most characters (not Brook—the undead get no respect) have an unreasonably long list of attacks representing almost every notable named technique or attack panel from the manga. These animations are fast, clear, and bursting with nostalgia. Thankfully there's an option to double the speed of all combat animations so they never grate like an overlong, unskippable Final Fantasy summon.
Tech-wise there's little to complain about here beyond a lack of ultrawide monitor support. There's a decent range of graphical and control settings, and it plays equally well on gamepad or mouse/keyboard. It even supports high refresh rates, which looks great in combat, although some cutscenes only run at 30 fps. If you've got a Steam Deck, you'll probably want to cap the game to 30 fps for consistency and battery savings, but you should have no problems otherwise. (Not quite a technical note, but Odyssey only contains Japanese audio. Subtitles or bust, and some incidental chatter doesn't get translated at all.)
One Piece Odyssey is a fine new adventure with an unexpectedly bittersweet tone, expanding the world of a venerable manga/anime. It celebrates 25 years of pirate adventures, while capturing the faintly sad vibes surrounding the announcement of its final saga (opens in new tab). Much like the TV anime it's a little flabby and some trimming would have made for a consistently thrilling 30-hour game instead of a meandering 50-hour one. Still, if you've been following One Piece all this time, the chances are you're here for a leisurely cruise, rather than a race to the finish.