They number in the dozens, and yet none of the adaptations of the manga One Piece in video games has only managed to rise to the height of the work of Eiichiro Oda. Under the banner of Bandai Namco, Japanese development studios have tried everything: fight, action-adventure, large-scale battles, minigames and even a few ersatz RPGs (role-playing games) confined to their country of origin. But none really marked the spirits and even those who were the best received by the players (Pirate Warriors, Unlimited Cruise/World Red or even Burning Blood and World Seeker) remain to be recommended only to fans of the franchise.
So, will the most essential manga of the last 25 years finally find the playful form that suits such an unclassifiable work? We will try to explain to you why One Piece Odyssey is far from being yet another dispensable derivative product and to what extent it is likely to convert a lot of people to the attractions of turn-based role-playing games.
Will he be the king of role-playing games?
Waiting to know what will be the fate of the one who swore to become the king of pirates (the manga could soon come to an end), it must be admitted that the term odyssey perfectly suits the phenomenon One Piece. There are so many plural things in the universe of the saga that trying to reduce it to a particular genre is doomed to failure. So, by openly opting for the role-playing formula, One Piece Odyssey seems to throw himself (once again) head first into a register that is far too compartmentalized for him.
Because it is above all a question of succeeding in paying homage to the absurd excess which characterizes the manga since its beginnings. However, the doubt of the first hours of play gradually fades in favor of an obvious observation: not only was it time to dare an ambitious RPG in this universe, but it was also probably the best card to play to celebrate the 25 years of the undisputed king of the manga planet.
One Piece Odyssey was designed like a real Proust madeleine. Whether they discovered the series through the manga or its animated adaptation, fans must enter it with the desire to take a general look at the incredible journey of the work of Eiichirô Oda. A journey so rich that it would obviously be impossible to summarize it in a single game.
It is therefore a question of diving into it with the desire to remember some of the most significant moments in the history of Luffy and his companions. The four narrative arcs offered (Alabasta, Water Seven, Marineford and Dressrosa) serve above all as a backdrop to an adventure that prefers to bet on a multiplicity of nostalgic references rather than drag on events that everyone knows.
Clearly, do not expect an exhaustive overview of the arcs in question: the game will give you the keys to revive your memories, but it assumes you already know the basics of the Straw Hat Crew story. Exactly like the characters, aware of reliving a past that may not unfold exactly as they remember…
One Piece like you’ve never seen
One Piece Odyssey benefited from the direct participation of Eiichirô Oda, the author of the manga, to propose an original plot in which two completely new characters are integrated: Adio and Lim. It all starts with a shipwreck… that of the Thousand Sunny (ship of Luffy and his companions) which fails on a mysterious island called Waford. Taken for dangerous pirates, the members of the crew are brutally deprived of their powers and have no other choice but to go in search of the fragments of cubes scattered all over the island to regain their abilities.
Who are Adio and Lim really? Who to trust? Is there really a way to relearn all the lost skills? In terms of play, we find there the unstoppable cog which consists in justifying in a more or less crude way a restart at level 1 to then allow the rise in power of the player. At least the prologue allows you to get a concrete idea of the possibilities offered by the combat system once all the powers have been recovered, even if you have to be patient before finding material to diversify your techniques afterwards.
Let the fans be reassured, One Piece Odyssey displays a clear respect for the original material, and all of the characters in the Straw Hat crew retain the Japanese voice acting from the anime series. Better still, they regularly chat with each other during the exploration phases, which makes the adventure very lively and close to the atmosphere of the series. What is even more surprising are the music by Motoi Sakuraba, one of the most renowned composers of J-RPG (Japanese role-playing game) to whom we owe the soundtracks of the different parts of staroceanof Valkyrie Profile or even the saga Tales of. Hence the impression of not really knowing if it is an adaptation of One Piece with RPG components or a real role-playing game in the colors of One Piece…
A flexible and subtle combat system
It must be said that the title also defends itself very well in terms of game mechanics, while offering an adventure spanning several dozen hours. No question of offering manga fans an RPG at a discount, One Piece Odyssey does its best to tick all the genre boxes without taking too many risks.
We can therefore blame it for a relatively classic approach and for defects that we would no longer like to see today, such as the slowness of movement (even by activating the auto run), the invisible walls or the very great linearity which prevents get away from the rails… at the start of the game. Subsequently, the size of the areas visited and the many fast travel points fortunately leave much more freedom, but no risk of being lost.
The game is also deliberately very accessible, just to gently convert fans of One Piece to a genre they may not be very familiar with. The progression is therefore generally rather easy as long as one correctly exploits the tricks specific to the combat system.
We can even make our characters frankly formidable by taking advantage of the fusion of accessories, which gives them many bonuses. By relying on a mechanic similar to rock-paper-scissors (strength > speed > technique), the turn-based battles retain their interest throughout the adventure without risking putting the player to sleep who must apply the these rules of complementarity. Otherwise, the sanction is immediate.
Thus, behind the apparent classicism of the clashes hides a very flexible system which makes it possible to exchange the places of the allies very easily in order to reshape each situation in the most advantageous way possible for the group. This also has the merit of constantly rotating the members of the team who are all essential to triumph, provided that they also evolve their range of accessories so as not to leave anyone behind.
You quickly learn to reason effectively by looking for who to intercept first, with which ally and using which skill. The notion of distinct but interconnected zones adds even more subtlety to the whole, which ends up becoming really addictive and never boring.
Since allies can only regroup or attack distant targets by clearing the area where they are, it is necessary to clear the way for them so that the right character can reach this or that enemy vulnerable to their attacks. The possibility of freely juggling between the heroes in order to always use the one who is best equipped to counter the style of the adversary is really appreciable.
The designers have even thought of integrating secondary objectives which occur randomly and which can considerably multiply the experience gains. Without forgetting the possibility of feasting to optimize the chances of critical hits in order to catapult the enemies on their congeners. One Piece Odyssey is a title full of subtleties, always in the spirit of total absurdity that characterizes the franchise so well.
Happy who, like Luffy, had a nice trip
Note, however, a little less control in the design of levels, with dungeons without real originality that sometimes drag on unnecessarily. In return, the game benefits from a very solid lifespan that it would be wrong to underestimate.
Four memorial arcs to revisit the past adventures of the protagonists, it seems little, but (except Marineford) we actually spend quite a lot of time there. Dozens of hours of play to which must be added many optional missions as well as the whole part which takes place on Waford Island which shelters its share of ruins to explore.
It is also difficult to ignore the secondary quests which give access to combined attacks between several characters, not to mention the time spent searching every corner of the environment by juggling between the different heroes to exploit their respective talents.
A word of advice: listen carefully so as not to miss calls from your companions, who will always show up to let you know that a hidden bonus is nearby! If its sound part is impeccable and the strategic aspect of the fights instantly captivates, One Piece Odyssey all the same still lacks panache and originality to raise its potential to the level of that of the manga. The unusual cocktail of ingredients used is no less tasty.
One Piece Odyssey will be available from January 13.