If you ignore the One Piece: Pirate Warriors sub-series for a second, the last title fans of Luffy and his eccentric crew had to look forward to was One Piece: World Seeker. A disaster of an open world game, it felt unfinished with horrible gameplay and visuals — enough to make any enthusiast sceptical of future projects. However, nearly four years later, with a new genre and developer backing it, the One Piece franchise makes its debut on PS5 with something to be proud of. One Piece Odyssey is fantastic.
Rather than have the Straw Hat Pirates explore another open world, studio ILCA (best known for its Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes) has taken a much more focused approach in the form of a JRPG ala Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Turn-based battles are aplenty, hub-based areas only allow for so much exploration, and the story naturally guides you from point to point, introducing set pieces and plot points along the way. It's not entirely linear — you're free to fight and complete side quests as you please — but the game feels a lot more purposefully crafted with genuine intrigue and an immediate purpose to progress.
You see, while the gang hasn't been hit with amnesia, they have lost most of their powers. After the Thousand Sunny ship crash lands on a mysterious island, its inhabitants agree to help the crew regain their abilities. To do this, they must enter other dimensions known as Memoria which re-enact events from the history of One Piece. What follows is a pretty cheerful 30-hour campaign that visits classic moments and locations from the franchise's past; while some suspense is introduced as the story develops, One Piece Odyssey remains a breezy and feel-good experience.
The island doesn't actually play as large a part in the game as you might think, though, with the hubs of places past being where you spend most of your time. You'll visit plenty of different towns and cities, all of which have a problem you need to solve in order to take back your skills. Along the way, you can agree to optional objectives, mingle with the townsfolk, or accept bounties. The JRPG follows a relatively simple structure outside of combat, but exploration is heightened by little interactions you can have with the environment.
You're able to switch between every member of the Straw Hat Pirates at any time from a menu, and each one can do something different. Luffy can use his ludicrously long arms to reach high places, while Chopper takes advantage of his short stature to run through holes. Zoro slices through metal gates, Usopp shoots down objects, and Robin can sense historical information. They're all pretty basic actions — they only require a single button press — but they help make the places you're exploring feel a tad more alive. With conversations to have and a decent amount of optional content to complete, you could easily extend your playtime by another 10 hours if you committed to finishing everything the title has to offer.
Much of that time will also be spent in combat, which is where One Piece Odyssey invites most of its Dragon Quest XI comparisons. The JRPG keeps its battle system traditional, with a single attack option and a list of abilities to choose from. You can then make use of items, special moves called Bond Arts, and freely switch party members in and out. It's simple in the same way Dragon Quest is: easy to pick up with so much enjoyment to match.
Alongside a really stylish user interface and some very funny abilities for every combatant, you'll likely actively seek out the enemies that roam the battlefield instead of avoiding them. It has that addictive quality where as soon as you've earned any XP from a previous bout, you immediately want to do it all over again for the sheer enjoyment of conquering the beasts of each world.
Combat uses a system in the same style as rock-paper-scissors. Dubbed Power, Speed, and Technique, the three form a triangle where one is always weak to another, but is then strong against the one left over. For example, party members specialising in Power are strong against Speed enemies, but are weak to Technique foes. Technique users are then powerful against Power members and take extra damage from Speed wielders.
Because of this, you'll be constantly switching in and out party members in accordance with the type of enemies you're facing. The mechanic adds a good degree of strategy to fights, making you question who should be part of the starting line-up while the others wait in reserve. It elevates the combat system above the traditional setup by offering the cosy options you're familiar with and then giving you something else to think about without becoming overwhelming. A smart approach that really pays off as your party levels up and gains access to new equipment.
Another neat twist is how both your party members and combatants can be positioned; called Areas, you're able to attack within and across different zones depending on which move you select. This places even more emphasis on getting the right party set up at the start of a bout because if you pair an ally up with an enemy type they're weak to, the encounter will quickly become a lot harder to win. Introducing even further depth to combat, One Piece Odyssey smartly builds upon the traditional combat system of old with its own ideas, all of which pay off.
Perhaps the only real slight against the title's gameplay would be that some objectives can feel like padding. Particularly in the first Memoria, the story goes on a bit too long, to the point where the worlds afterwards feel a lot shorter in comparison. With menial tasks like rescuing someone’s wallet, certain objectives can become a bit of a drag. It was one of the few times where we skipped combat entirely so we could just get the chore over and done with.
Make sure to not lose your concentration during those moments, though, because there's no English dub. All dialogue is in Japanese with English subtitles, which is fine. However, some small translation issues appear in tutorial pop-ups that could force you to read a few sentences over again to make sense of them. Although, we didn't pick up on any related to the character dialogue, so it's not an issue you'll be encountering with much regularity.
You could say the same about any frame-rate issues, which in actual fact are virtually non-existent. The game allows you to choose between two options: Performance Mode and Graphics Mode. The former runs at an incredibly smooth 60 frames-per-second while the latter halves your frame rate, but both appear pretty much locked to their target. We didn't encounter a single noticeable frame rate drop throughout our time with the title, and the playthrough was completely devoid of bugs and glitches too. Load times then go by so quickly it can be difficult to read the tooltip on-screen in time.
Pitched alongside the series' 25th anniversary, One Piece Odyssey is very much a game for the fans, but it also represents a chance for newcomers to come aboard the Thousand Sunny ship. Sort of. The story of the island is completely new to the series and so too are the characters that live there. What new fans will struggle with are the pre-established faces — the game doesn't go out of its way to explain why Luffy's arms are so long, for example, or how the Straw Hat Pirates were formed. A lot of knowledge is assumed, so most references will likely go straight over your head and any callbacks made to past events not in the game will prove confusing.
However, the title also represents a great JRPG that fans of the genre shouldn't miss out on simply because they're not familiar with One Piece. Thanks to a wonderful battle system, which makes an effort to introduce some new ideas, the game can be enjoyed by all. And if you just so happen to take to the charm of Luffy and his gang of pirates, there are only 1,000+ manga chapters for you to catch up on.
No matter whether you're a hardcore One Piece fan or a complete newcomer, One Piece Odyssey is an utter joy of a JRPG. Its combat system remains incredibly enjoyable throughout, and new mechanics provide depth and strategy in droves. Most certainly the highlight of the experience, but with fun exploration to boot, you're always assured of a good time. One Piece Odyssey plays a lot like Dragon Quest XI, and it's not that far off being just as good as it.