One Piece Odyssey Preview – An auspicious maiden voyage through well-charted seas

I finished the Arlong Park arc of the One piece Anime and took a break to watch some other shows on my list and play through some games I wanted to finish. That said, I went into a hands-on preview session with One Piece Odyssey with just a pinch of it One piece Knowing because I know that I still have to watch more than 1000 episodes to catch up on the series. After playing Odyssey for about two hours I’m dying to get back into the anime and that’s the best compliment I can give the game. It doesn’t hurt that Odyssey is shaping up to be a great JRPG with some unique systems that make playing easier for newcomers to this genre and more dynamic for fans of these games.

I was concerned about my lack of knowledge going into this preview, but in One Piece Odyssey it’s clear that it was important to the team to design an RPG that appealed to all players, not just One piece fans.

Logs in Odyssey also fill in the gaps for players like me. When I reach Nanohana in Alabasta, these logs will help me understand the significance of the location. However, they don’t provide the full story of Alabasta, which I think is great. I don’t even feel spoiled by this bow; Odyssey gives me just enough information to understand how important it is to get that place in the game. Games based on popular anime sometimes fall into the trap of retelling stories from said anime, but not nearly as well. However, that’s not the case with Odyssey, and I think it’s a great foundation for this in-game story to build on. That’s because Odyssey doesn’t retread classic stories that fans already love, but uses those arcs to tell new stories in familiar locations.

For example, when they reach the sandy desert town of Alabasta, the Straw Hat crew – Captain Monkey D. Luffy, Brook, Franky, Roronoa Zoro, Vinsmoke Sanji, Nami, Nico Robin, Usopp and Tony Tony Chopper – are aware of their adventures here. They talk about past experiences, Luffy notes his love for the Spice Bean Restaurant, and more. It reflects something One piece done in the past, and the new adventure builds on that.

Before the Odyssey reaches Alabasta, however, it prepares a rather disastrous situation for the crew of the Straw Hats and the ship it is sailing on, the Thousand Sunny. A film reveals that a powerful storm threw the Thousand Sunny off course and onto the shore of a mysterious island. The shipwreck separates the Straw Hats and I control Luffy while trying to find them all. Here Odyssey introduces me to its unique, flashy, fun and surprisingly deep combat system.

At this point, the entire crew is at level 40 to show off their pirate skills. And each member also has nearly a dozen abilities at their disposal, such as Luffy’s various gum moves. At its core, Odyssey is a turn-based RPG, and people familiar with the genre will quickly understand how the game’s combat works. But when I look deeper into the systems, I find mechanics inspired by Pokemon and dynamic scenes and menus inspired by the Persona series.

You encounter each enemy in a Scramble Area Battle, a system that distributes enemies based on field placement. Luffy may be dealing with two enemies right in front of him and Sanji may not have an enemy in his zone, but his long-range moves allow him to attack Luffy’s. Nami can ignore the enemies closest to her to help Luffy as well, or she can focus on those in front of her. I pay attention to every opponent on the field, not just because they can attack me from any position, but because each has weaknesses and strengths dictated by a Pokemon-like, rock-paper-scissors-like system.

Power-type characters and enemies and subsequent power attacks are strong against speed, and speed is strong against technique, with technique being most effective against force. The game demonstrates its effectiveness by using red arrows pointing up when targeting an enemy with a certain move type, or blue arrows pointing down to alert you that the move isn’t effective. Some actions also have status effects, such as paralyze, bleed, and faint, which temporarily render enemies unconscious. Abilities that use the moves that manga and anime fans will likely recognize consume suspense points, but a super-effective move can easily buy you enough TP for another ability if you run out quicker than expected.

Combat is taken a step further with dynamic scenes, which are objectives that combat can introduce at the start of an encounter. In one story instance, enemies paralyze Usopp with a surprise attack and the dynamic scene asks me to defeat the enemies before they defeat the paralyzed Usopp who can’t do anything to fight back or defend himself. The enemies are almost entirely focused on him, which means I’ll have to act quickly to defeat his attackers. Completing a dynamic scene also brings additional experience and rewards, and it seems worth trying to achieve with each instance.

All of this leads to a high-energy combat system that didn’t hook me until halfway through my first encounter. It’s fast-paced, easy to understand, and features minor tweaks like the ability to swap party members on the fly at no cost, making combat frantic and exciting in a way I think will entice genre newcomers. The UI and menus, particularly in the presentation, also appear to be inspired by Persona, making Odyssey’s combat a feast for the eyes. Each move comes with inspired animations that look great and dynamic, and the menus pop with color and style. Even the post-battle summary screen is reminiscent of Persona 5, with characters appearing on-screen in a stylish manner while a catchy tune plays to signal success.

Musically it’s fantastic; maybe even the standout feature of this entire preview for me. It’s adventurous, pirate-like, and just what you would expect One piece. It’s no surprise, however, considering that Dark Souls composer Motoi Sakuraba, who also features in the Tales and Super Smash Bros. series, is composing Odyssey’s score. Sakuraba’s score I’ve heard in Odyssey so far is a marked departure from what I know best about him – the Dark Souls series – but it encapsulates everything that’s going on in the game with the same spirit of adventure like the anime score. I’m excited to hear other tracks in the game.

The game’s opening moments are all about teaching you its combat system, but shortly thereafter you’re free to explore the starting areas of this mysterious island that Robin discovers as Waford, a place new to this universe. It’s shrouded in mystery, of course, because the crew has never been there and only Robin has heard of it, but it houses strange relics and artifacts covered in ancient-looking symbols.

I soon learn that these are attached to a new character created by One piece Creator Eiichiro Oda named Lim. This character is introduced shortly before the introduction of Adio, another new Oda creation. Determined that the Straw Hats are pirates, Lim uses their strange power before the performance to convert the crew’s skills and strength into cubes, which they mysteriously distribute across the world. At this point, the level 40 comfy characters I used to smash enemies are now level 2 and their powerful abilities are gone as well. All I can do now is use my standard attacks, and I giggle as I watch enemies take hundreds of damage before, maybe a few dozen now.

It’s a fun twist on the typical “how do we make this strong party no longer strong” formula found in RPGs, and I like that it’s woven right into the story. It’s also fun to collect these dice, which is at the heart of the story, as with each successful mission could come the promise of a new dice, and with it some of my former abilities and strengths. I must explore the world of memories to find more of these cubes. Although I can’t see how this world works, it seems to be some kind of portal that transports me to famous places One piece history, like the aforementioned Alabasta.

Lim takes the Straw Hats’ powers, fearing they are criminal pirates who she has problems with, but she soon discovers that they are “good” pirates and regrets what she has done, informing them that what they need to do is return to their former selves. Enter the world of memories.

In Alabasta, I do some standard quests – defeat an enemy holding a mission item, bring it back to that person, collect some ingredients so that the crew cook, Sanji, can conjure up a delicious soup for a local, and much more. The individual objectives aren’t the most exciting, but one look at the beautifully rendered world of Odyssey makes it easy. Being able to control different crew members at different times also makes things exciting. Some gamers will probably disagree with the 3D aspect of the game, but it works for me, as does the weird but painterly visual style. It’s going well too.

Side content in Odyssey doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, although admittedly I’ve only dabbled in it during my hands-on time. But I don’t necessarily have to be groundbreaking, and the same goes for the golden path. Odyssey is the first One piece turn-based RPG of this caliber that breaks the mold of typical anime games that either go the way of 2D or 3D combat or action, and that alone is refreshing.

Even with my relatively little One piece Knowing this, it’s easy to see how much care developer ILCA has taken in bringing this franchise into RPG territory. Whether it will be a hit in the fandom remains to be seen, and the same goes for authenticity One piece as a franchise is Odyssey. But if my two hours of hands-on time show anything, it’s that Odyssey is shaping up to be a unique and exciting JRPG, and a player should keep an eye out, One piece fans or not.

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