A classic turn-based RPG in the style of Dragon Quest is not exactly the first place my mind goes when it comes to thinking of game genres that would pair well with the action-heavy world of One Piece, but as One Piece Odyssey proves, it’s actually kind of a great fit. The Straw Hats make for one hell of a party of RPG characters; Eichiro Oda’s one-of-a-kind art style lends itself well to filling the world with fantastical and amusing creatures; and the over-the-top nature of battles from the actual manga and anime gives plenty of material for some of the coolest (and funniest) special attacks I’ve seen in any turn-based RPG. Those fights would’ve been better if they were a more consistent challenge, and I could’ve done with less backtracking through areas I’d already explored, but this is still a surprisingly satisfying JRPG that’s not quite by the numbers.
The story begins with Luffy and crew suddenly finding themselves marooned on the mysterious island of Waford. It isn’t long before they meet two original characters: Lim and Adio, who have an understandably deep distrust of pirates. So much so that, upon first meeting, they steal the powers of the Straw Hats, providing a convenient way to explain why Luffy and company don’t win every battle just by looking at their enemies. (Though, that does come later.)
What follows is a grand story that plays out on two fronts: The adventure in Waford sees The Straw Hat crew attempting to help Adio and Lim by defeating a handful of elemental colossi that are responsible for the giant storm that surrounds the island (I know, what’s the worst that could happen?); and another that plays out in Memoria, a world of memory created through Lim’s special ability that allows the Straw Hats to revisit specific locations and events in their history. The revelations and twists won’t shock anybody, but I still very much enjoyed both sides of Odyssey’s story. Lim, especially, is a wonderful addition to the cast, and I loved watching her go from being extremely wary and cold towards the crew to being intrigued and occasionally flabbergasted by each of their individual quirks, and eventually fully embracing the Straw Hats as her friends.
It should be noted that Odyssey is aimed directly at long-time One Piece fans, with its story picking up well after the Dressrosa arc (about 750 episodes in), and it is not shy about diving deep into some of the biggest surprises of the show. This makes it a tough recommendation for anybody new to the series, but if you’re deeply invested in the world and characters of One Piece, there are some really great payoffs in the Memoria chapters. These come in the form of “what if”-like scenarios that have the crew revisiting pivotal moments from the series with new perspectives. Even small things, like the crew reacting to seeing the Going Merry docked at Alabasta, is a moment that provides a powerful emotional gut punch for any long-time fan like myself. Moments like these are the heart of One Piece Odyssey’s story, and they’re brought to life brilliantly thanks to writing that feels totally in step with the anime and manga, excellent performances, and a fantastic art style that authentically translates the unique style of One Piece to 3D.
A Straw Hat Scrap
One Piece Odyssey’s combat is refreshingly simple, though that simplicity does wind up being a double-edged sword. The traditional turn-based combat is powered by a rock/paper/scissors logic that assigns every party member, enemy, and boss a damage type of either power, speed, or technique. Power beats speed, technique beats power, and speed beats technique. What makes this system work is that there’s no traditional turn order, and you can just freely pick whatever character you want to take the first move in combat. Even if they’re not in your active party of four characters, you can freely swap them in without taking up a turn. You’re also able to see which of your enemies will be next up to take their turn and try and plan around that as well. Once all four characters in your active party have taken an action, the round of combat ends and everyone is able to act once again.
The one complication to all of this is that there are multiple zones in the combat field, and in order for one character to move from one to another, they must first defeat all of the enemies in their own zone. So on paper, there’s some strategy involved in deciding the order of which of your characters should attack first. Let’s say for example, there’s a group of enemies in one zone that have a weakness to Technique, but my strongest technique character, Zoro, is stuck in a zone with a single enemy that’s weak to Speed. I can have Usopp, my Speed character, go first by using a ranged attack to hit enemies in other zones to free up Zoro; then, Zoro can clean up the other zone with one of his attacks that hit multiple enemies.
That’s an example of how the strategy could come into play. The problem is that One Piece Odyssey is so easy for 95% of its battles that strategy is rarely required, and there’s no way to adjust the difficulty. I never grinded – in fact, I ran past a lot of enemies that could’ve given me even more exp – and still felt wildly overpowered for most of the 40 or so hours it took me to reach the end. A lot of this stems from the Dramatic Scenes system, which randomly gives you an additional objective during certain enemy encounters. They’re almost always trivially easy, like “defeat enemy C before a crew member gets knocked out,” but the bonus they reward is just astronomical, sometimes doubling or more than tripling the amount of exp earned for a single fight. I’ve fought packs of rats that gave more exp than big, chapter-ending boss battles. That just seems poorly balanced.
Towards the very end there’s a significant bump in difficulty, but even then I never felt like it made for more challenging or particularly fun battles. It was more that it forced me to pay more attention to my characters’ equipment loadouts, which at least is fun in its own right. Rather than find new weapons or pieces of armor, you find accessories of varying sizes and shapes that you must fit onto an ever-expanding grid. It’s a very flexible system that allows you to assign your own roles to each character, and just as easily switch them up if you want to focus on a different character or bolster a different attribute. You could even make Nami your big damage dealer by loading her up with attack gear, which is surprisingly effective given the fact that for a while, she’s the only character that can hit every, regardless of what zone they’re in. Eventually, you gain the ability to fuse these artifacts and add up to four effects on them, allowing you to really turn your party into absolute beasts.
Despite the lack of tension during fights, I still enjoyed Odyssey’s combat overall, mainly because the special skills are so much fun to watch. They absolutely nail the look, impact, and comedy found in just about every notable attack used by the Straw Hats. Whether it’s the ridiculousness of Usopp’s Rubber Band of Doom, the absolute badassery of virtually any of Zoro’s moves, or the sheer devastation of Luffy’s Gear 3rd and 4th abilities. The attention to detail when it comes to how the developers took these iconic moves from the source material and put them into Odyssey is truly something to behold.
In your journey through Memoria, you’ll visit four main locations from One Piece’s storied history and credit goes to developer ILCA for doing an amazing job of making each of them feel like real, lived-in locations. The Kingdom of Alabasta is enormous, with two bustling towns to explore – Nanohana and Alubarna – and vast deserts connecting them; Water Seven has the vibe of a chill Venetian city with rivers running alongside its many streets; and while you only to get to explore it after all of the birdcage related madness goes down, there’s a chilling sense of grief and overwhelming loss as you walk the streets of the recently ravaged kingdom of Dressrosa.
One Piece Odyssey Screenshots [September 2022 Update]
Of the four, the only one that wore out its welcome was the very first Memoria location of Alabasta. The main quest pads out its length by bouncing you back and forth between locations you’ve already visited, sending you on a bunch of errands and fetch quests, and forcing you through drab caves. It’s a very slow burn to get to the actual meat of the story you’re reliving, and it’s made especially repetitive due to the fact that you don’t get any new techniques or abilities when you level up. Instead, you just unlock a ton of abilities at once at the conclusion of the chapter, making the feeling of progress uneven. So it’s just hours of the same types of battles against mostly the same types of enemies until you reach the end of this one extraordinarily long chapter.
It was especially a bummer for me because Alabasta is one of my personal favorite One Piece arcs. Fortunately, the others strike a better balance of keeping their main quest pointed and focused on the story, while relegating the more menial tasks to optional sidequests, of which there are many, though few of which were actually compelling to start or rewarding to complete. The Hysteria sidemissions are the notable exception, as they at least reward you with neat team-up special moves that gather up three party members for a single super powerful attack.
Outside of Memoria you’ll explore a handful of more puzzle-focused dungeons, which typicallsy require you to use each individual character’s unique field techniques. Luffy can use grapple points to cross gaps as well as grab items from a distance, Usopp can use his slingshot to knock down items or activate certain switches from afar, Zoro can cut through steel doors, and Chopper can fit through small passages and access hidden areas. None of these abilities really enhance the puzzles or exploration in any significant way, but they do a nice job of varying up the visual design of the dungeons, adding some hidden collectibles off the beaten path, and giving you something to do other than just walk on a path fighting enemies for hours.