What makes One Piece so enjoyable and so magnetic is the chaos of the world. Fans love the kinetic energy of the characters and how battles can go on for dozens of episodes, yet still keep us thoroughly engaged. The turn-based gameplay of One Piece Odyssey is missing that signature frenzy that makes One Piece so phenomenal. The series moves at such an incredible pace and the battles are so memorably over the top that this game focusing on turn-based combat just can’t replicate the same feeling.
Likewise, within One Piece Odyssey, the Straw Hat crew are sent back into their past, to relive some of the most memorable moments of their journey. The unfortunate issue is that by abridging each arc, cutting characters and then having lackluster battles, One Piece Odyssey feels boring.
One of the critical moments that cemented One Piece as an iconic piece of storytelling for me was the Alabasta arc. When Luffy has to take on Crocodile at the climax of the arc, Luffy has to do something clever after having already faced Crocodile once and being soundly beaten. Since that isn’t necessarily Luffy’s strong suit, it’s all the more impressive when he rocks up to Crocodile with a water barrel attached to his body to ensure he can take advantage of Crocodile’s one weakness.
It’s a duel of elements, of a rookie against one of the old guard, and Luffy comes out on top bloody and battered but victorious. The utilization of the water barrel, to keep himself hydrated and also slow down Crocodile’s sand body, was ingenious and thrilling to watch. Cut to One Piece Odyssey’s version and it’s tragically simplistic. Every playable character on the team waits for their turn to use their abilities against Crocodile. The moves look fine, but the battle has none of the flair, grit, or emotional weight of the original.
The turn-based nature of the combat system sucks all the passion out of the battle. It’s strange because I am an RPG fan. I cut my teeth with games like Final Fantasy VII when I was seven. Here, however, it just does not gel with the outlandish world of One Piece.
Fans will remember the epic showdown between Lucci and Luffy within the Enies Lobby arc, as the entire island is crumbling around them under the weight of an unbridled assault by the Navy. Luffy is pushed to his limits and has to sacrifice his own life to beat him in an absolutely stunning battle. On top of that, there is a brilliantly bizarre and wild battle going on between Zoro and giraffe man Kaku. Adding to this chaotic brawl is Sogeking being used as a makeshift sword to do battle with Kaku. It was bizarre, it was funny, and most importantly, it was memorable.
One Piece Odyssey decides to simply have you gang up on Kaku with the whole crew. The game tries to give a nod to the original battle, by giving you extra experience points if Zoro finishes off Kaku. But it’s as disappointing as you can imagine.
The worst part about this is there are anime-inspired games out there that have achieved this. Games like the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise perfectly encapsulate the over-the-top battles of the Naruto and Naruto Shippuden anime. From large-scale kaiju-style battles to intimate duels, this franchise has shown that you can masterfully relive those monumental moments. The fight for me that comes to mind is the epic and ultimately tragic duel between Sasuke and Itachi. The game rewards you for remembering key moments of that fight, by giving dramatic and beautifully rendered integrated cutscenes. One Piece Odyssey is sorely missing this.
Even other One Piece games have better replicated the sense of danger and wonder in the battles within the One Piece world, like One Piece: Pirate Warriors. The Dynasty Warriors one-versus-many elements perfectly capture the ferocious battles found within One Piece.
One Piece Odyssey most illustrates its disappointing limitations when Luffy returns to his own greatest failure, losing his brother Ace. In the anime, Luffy rushes headlong against thousands of enemies. He is desperate to save his brother from an unjust execution, and you can feel his misery as he wages war against all those in his way.
None of that desperation, agony, or tragedy is felt as you go through a lackluster boss gauntlet in One Piece Odyssey. You’re even given a warning beforehand that it is recommended you are above a certain level before you challenge this section of the game. There’s something about having your hand held before a decisive battle that goes against the ideals of One Piece.
This is what ultimately makes One Piece Odyssey a pedestrian and mundane title that limply flies the flag of such a daring anime legend. It needed something that could better marry the energy of the franchise with the restrictions of a turn-based battle system.