Tech reviews

Review: Ingenious storytelling sets ‘One Piece Odyssey’ apart from past games

When it comes to manga, One Piece is widely considered a masterpiece, but the only issue is that the long-running pirate saga still hasn’t ended. After more than 1,000 chapters and 25 years, author Eiichiro Oda said he’s at last on the final arc, but even that won’t wrap up anytime soon.

The ongoing nature of the narrative has always been one of the problems facing One Piece video games. Because it’s so story-driven and the future is murky, developers can never get a handle on how a character matures or how a plot unfolds. It’s like riding a train while workers build the track a few yards ahead. At best, teams convey an incomplete tale, and at worst, they wing it and make some monstrous changes to the plot.

One Piece Odyssey, a Japanese role-playing game developed by ILCA, doesn’t fall into this trap. The studio cleverly writes around this challenge while paying homage to some of the best chapters in the series.

The developers accomplish this by setting the series on the mysterious island of Waford. It’s inhabited by strange colossi, pesky creatures and two enigmatic inhabitants, Adio and Lim. Luffy and his Straw Hats crew stumble on the island and end up shipwrecked. Fearful of the pirates, Lim uses her power to take away their abilities and convert them into cubes.

After discussing the misunderstanding, Lim agrees to help the Straw Hats regain their abilities, but they’ll have to travel to Memoria, the World of Memories. That takes the crew back to the adventures of the past, which includes romps through Alabasta, Water Seven, Marineford and Dressrosa. It’s an ingenious way to let fans revisit some of the best arcs in the saga without straying too far from canon.

Adapting One Piece to a JRPG

Because this takes place in memories, the trips through Memoria aren’t carbon copies of previous storylines. Characters who were not around in one arc are written out or find ways to be useful elsewhere to avoid messing with the narrative. But for the most part, the plots stay true to the source material, though ILCA adapts it to the JRPG gameplay.

Luffy and his friends will battle enemies mostly as a team. Each member has a special attack trait — power, speed, or technique — and each one is strong against one and weak against another in a rock-, scissors- and paper-fashion. Using the right character against an enemy is key to efficiently wiping out foes, but the developer also layers positioning and status effects into the combat.

When entering a turn-based fight, the team fans out into different zones to take on enemies. If it’s a bad matchup, they can normally switch out crew members without a penalty. It takes time to learn the specialties of each hero and what their attacks do. Zoro’s sword-focused techniques inflict bleeding while some of Usopp’s long-range speed attacks deal burn damage. Players will find several factors to juggle when directing members of the crew, but that provides enough depth that combat isn’t boring.

It’s for One Piece fans, not for newcomers

It’s great that Odyssey has a surprisingly good combat system, because the way ILCA tells the story isn’t as well done. The campaign itself is geared to fans of the anime and manga. They’ll appreciate the deep cuts into the lore, and the story will make more sense if one has followed the series. Newcomers will definitely be lost without the background of the crew or the inner workings of the world.

Odyssey is made for One Piece fans who’ll get a kick out of seeing key moments adapted in video game form. They’ll also appreciate such quirks as Sanji not being able to attack women in combat or how ILCA interpreted the mechanics of moves such as Luffy’s gear forms.

Bringing Oda’s world to life

Although the storytelling can often feel like the CliffsNotes version in each chapter, Odyssey does the yeoman’s work of bringing the world of One Piece to life. Players can explore the locales that the Straw Hats stepped foot in. They’ll talk to inhabitants and develop a better feel of the nitty gritty of Oda’s world. It makes One Piece feel more concrete as players wander the streets and alleys that are casually drawn on panels.

What deepens that connection to the world are side quests and adventures to fix frayed memories in Hysteria. Players will come across a slew of quirky characters that have odd but somehow appropriate requests based on the lore. Elsewhere, players will run into Hysteria rifts, which opens another dimension in Memoria, and these act as standalone side stories in which the crew has to help a stranger in need.

This is where Odyssey shines because these side quests and the larger overarching story in Waford break new ground, but it’s done in a way that feels right for the One Piece narrative. All of this makes this JRPG one of the best One Piece games to ever come out. It sets an example of how developers can tell a fresh but authentic story in Oda’s world.

One Piece Odyssey

3 stars out of 4

Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox Series X and Series S

Rating: Teen – Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service


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