One Piece is a pop culture giant that inexplicably never got a foothold outside of Japan. The officially best-selling manga comic series of all time is now celebrating its 25th anniversary, and One Piece Odyssey is honoring this milestone. Previous attempts to expand the story of this fun-loving pirate crew beyond comics haven’t been believable, but with this game, Bandai Namco takes a big step toward restoring balance.
It’s simply the one-piece game that fans have been clamoring for: a classic 40+ hour long Japanese RPG that includes all of the genre’s most popular elements (and some less popular ones). It has turn-based combat embellished with retina-twisting special moves that emphasize each character’s style and skills; bizarre, often confusing terminology; Layers of side quests and subquests sprinkled with puzzle sequences; and an obsession with cooking and food. The only thing missing is a fishing minigame.
Story wise, in line with the comics, it’s wacky. Forget coherence, but expect quirkiness. The main character Luffy and his motley crew of Straw Hat pirates are stranded on the mysterious island of Waford, which has been robbed of its powers by local resident Lim. She quickly realizes that Luffy and company aren’t like other pirates (they’re too nice, for one) and then helps them regain those powers through epic quests set in recognizable locations from One Piece canon, those from the memories of the crew were reconstructed .
This narrative allows you to conveniently build your characters from the ground up and shape them to a great extent, and one of the strengths of One Piece Odyssey is that the characters’ signature abilities flow into both combat and puzzle-solving. Luffy has a rubber body, allowing him to bombard distant enemies with punches, extend an arm to reach inaccessible areas, or catapult enemies across the battlefield. The game divides its battlefields into areas, giving characters melee and ranged special attacks that can be used on one or more enemies. It introduces a welcome, fresh element of strategy into what might otherwise feel too familiar.
One Piece Odyssey isn’t perfect: it takes a while to really get going, and it’s hard to ignore the scantily clad, anatomically unfeasible presentation of two of its female characters. That’s at odds with the game’s overall atmosphere of naivety and sweetness, which at times trespasses on the territory occupied by the games Zelda and Ni no Kuni. Its overall theme is an exploration of the nature of friendship, though thankfully it’s too funny and bizarre to ever be tweed.
This is a distinctive, engaging example of the JRPG genre that also captures the essence of the One Piece universe. Fans from both worlds will love it, and I found it a perfect appetizer while waiting for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom later this year.