Embracing the JRPG Genre: One Piece’s Next Adventure
The One Piece franchise has established its presence in the world of video games over the years. As a multimedia powerhouse, it was only a matter of time before the popular manga and anime series ventured into the realm of gaming spin-offs. However, it has never truly found its place in the Japanese role-playing genre, until now. Enter One Piece Odyssey, set to release next month.
When I first caught a glimpse of One Piece Odyssey, as both a devoted series fan and a lover of role-playing games, I immediately sensed that it was heading in the right direction. What other series could be better suited to embrace the JRPG formula than the manga that consistently exudes that feeling? After testing out One Piece Odyssey and engaging in a conversation with its producer, Rei Hirata, my intuition was confirmed.
Odyssey is not just another cash-grab anime spin-off JRPG. It aims to become the quintessential anime JRPG and revolutionize the genre, much like its manga and anime counterparts have done for their respective mediums.
Stepping into the Manga’s Panels
One Piece Odyssey immediately catches the eye by staying true to the series’ artistic vision. When I dove into the demo, I was delighted to find that the Straw Hat Pirates were brought to life with the most impressive 3D models ever seen in a One Piece game. Each character felt like a direct translation from the manga, with their exaggerated expressions shining through. Producer Rei Hirata emphasized that this was a crucial aspect of the game’s development for the team.
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Never before has a One Piece game paid such meticulous attention to detail when it comes to its characters. I found myself in awe. This was not surprising to me, given my fondness for characters like Nico Robin, but I was particularly captivated by the rest of the cast. The action, composition of scenes, and impact of battles in One Piece were flawlessly translated into the game, thanks to the cinematic nature of JRPGs. Witnessing a rubberman heat up his blood and unleash a barrage of intense punches at gigantic crabs has never been more satisfying.
The game truly captures the adventurous spirit that the series is renowned for. I encountered a plethora of unseen creatures from the One Piece Universe: colossal ice walruses, peculiar attacking monkeys, and much more. It immersed me so deeply in Eiichiro Oda’s expansive world that I was reluctant to leave when the demo time limit expired.
An Engaging Journey
Transitioning to the more theatrical elements of the game, the story begins with the crew landing on an island and losing access to their ship. As they regroup, they stumble upon two mysterious individuals with ambiguous intentions. One of them possesses an inexplicable power that causes the crew to lose the extensive move sets they have acquired throughout the series. The hunt begins, as they must recover cubes containing their memories while uncovering the secrets of this island, which is filled with callbacks to Skypiea, a previously explored island in the series.
The plot sounds like it would make for a fantastic One Piece film, given its cinematic quality. Countless times, I found myself engrossed in the storyline, momentarily forgetting that I was supposed to be playing a game. The game offers a delightful blend of hilarious character interactions, major plot twists, heart-wrenching moments, and, of course, Luffy’s awe-inspiring battle scenes. And the best part is that it never lets up.
All the Straw Hats engage in constant banter, allowing their unique personalities to shine both in and out of battle. The conversations range from quick jokes and simple supportive quotes to pivotal pieces of the overall story. This is also evident when certain characters come to the aid of others during battles. For example, Sanji providing Nami with items while affectionately shouting her iconic nickname, “NAMI SWAN!” The game exudes the distinctive style and love of One Piece, and I couldn’t get enough of everything it had to offer.
Pushing the Boundaries of RPGs
While the fan service is undoubtedly exciting, what impresses me the most is the director’s decision to take the game in admirable and ambitious directions, aiming to make it accessible to both One Piece and JRPG newcomers.
Battles in One Piece Odyssey veer into new territory for JRPGs. The headline Straw Hat Pirates of One Piece form a formidable crew. With eight playable party members (as the game is set before Wano), battles cannot be confined to a typical party of four. How is this challenge overcome? By implementing a sector-based combat system. The field is divided into multiple areas where enemies can appear, with the highest number of sectors encountered so far being four.
Players can have up to four party members in each sector and can swap them out at any given time. This introduces constant strategic decision-making and a more intuitive battle system compared to other JRPGs. Personally, I relished the opportunity to have Luffy confront enemies head-on, as he deals and withstands massive amounts of damage. Meanwhile, I kept my healer, Chopper, and two ranged fighters, Nico Robin and Usopp, at a distance to provide support after dispatching smaller foes. At times, my focus was solely on creating the most visually stunning battle compositions, purely for the sake of tactical freedom bestowed upon players by the game.
What’s exhilarating is that an excessive amount of grinding is not necessary. Producer Katsuaki Tsuzuki stated that the developers aimed to eliminate the grind-heavy nature often associated with JRPGs. They achieved this by providing ample opportunities for leveling up and taking on formidable enemies, even without being overleveled. In true One Piece fashion, characters can form parties and gain an experience point bonus for the next ten battles. Usopp’s arsenal of tricky debuff attacks proves invaluable when facing formidable foes, enabling the crew to earn significant level boosts. Similar to Pokémon, everyone levels up together, eliminating the need to rotate all party members onto the field solely for the sake of grinding.
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One Piece Odyssey is shaping up to be an exceptionally well-crafted experience, and I am eagerly anticipating its release. It serves as an ideal entry point for both One Piece enthusiasts and those unacquainted with the JRPG genre, offering a refreshing gaming experience. So, if you find yourself picking it up and proclaiming that you will be the king of the pirates, feel free to blame me.
One Piece Odyssey will be available on January 12 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
- One Piece Odyssey’s great ending would have made for a perfect anime arc