Monkey Around With the Straw Hat Crew in One Piece Odyssey - PreviewEvan Norris , posted on 10 October 2022 / 2,912 Views
One Piece was a big deal at New York Comic Con this year — literally. Indeed, one of the largest individual installations in the Javitz Center was a giant inflatable likeness of Monkey D. Luffy, the main protagonist of the One Piece manga, anime, and video game universe. Aside from the three-story Luffy, you could spot on the Con floor plenty of items related to the popular property, including merchandise, cosplay outfits, and promotional material for One Piece Film: Red, the animated movie that arrives in the United States next month.
You could also find multiple demo stations for the upcoming turn-based role-playing game One Piece Odyssey. Hoping to get a taste of Odyssey before its launch in January 2023, I made my way to the Bandai Namco section of the floor first thing Saturday morning to see what the game was all about.
One Piece Odyssey is a brand new RPG meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the One Piece IP, which debuted in manga form in 1997 in Weekly Shōnen Jump. In my 15 minutes with the game, I experienced its real-time exploration, turn-based battles, monster designs, and character interactions.
The demo finds Monkey D. Luffy and his colorful Straw Hat Crew stranded on a mysterious island. The money-grubbing Nami, the crew's navigator, is cornered by a hulking orangutan-like monster named Del Kong, and it's up to Luffy et al. to save her. As Luffy, I moved across a limited and linear stretch of the island in order to close in on the climactic battle. There were some branching paths, but each time I tried them I was gently rerouted by my compatriots — a product of the demo, I hope. One interesting wrinkle is Luffy's Gum Gum Rocket, which allows him to swing across deep chasms in the overworld. It sounds like in the finished product each member of the Straw Hat Crew will have a unique traversal ability, which might lend itself to some interesting lock-and-key situations. That's just speculation on my part, however.
While movement and exploration were fairly undemanding — I essentially moved in a straight line from one combat encounter to the next — there were some interesting vantage points on the map, marked by a magnifying glass icon. By interacting with these, I was able to trigger dialogue from the crew and also learn something about the mythology, flora, or fauna of the island.
Things got a bit more engaging when I finally entered battle for the first time. The general structure of combat in One Piece Odyssey appears to be rather typical of the genre: turn-based battles where accumulated TP is used to deploy powerful skills. There's a rock-paper-scissors dynamic at play where power beats speed, which beats technique, which beats power — very similar to the setup in Monster Hunter Stories: Wings of Ruin, to give a frame of reference. It's all safe and reliable and good enough, but not extraordinary in any way.
That is until the demo introduces the idea of "areas" within combat. This was by far the most intriguing bit of the entire demo, and I'm eager to see it fleshed out across many hours in a full game. In every turn-based encounter, the Straw Hat Crew will find itself in multiple zones across the fighting arena. In the final battle against Del Kong, for example, Luffy and Sanji took on the enormous orangutan in one area where the rest of the team fought lower-level baddies in another. If you use the right tactics at the right time, you can punt enemies to different zones or move zones yourself to flank enemies. It's a very clever conceit.
Moreover, the game will, under special conditions, introduce dramatic scenes, where a member of your party might be separated from the others in a different area. During the demo, this happened to Usopp, when he got too close to a pack of hungry penguin-like creatures and was quickly incapacitated.
Other highlights, apart from the area-based combat encounters, include monster designs, animations, and characters. I only saw a few monsters during my limited time with the demo, but they stood out as creative and weird. It makes sense, since Eiichiro Oda, creator of One Piece, contributed to the monster designs, as well as new characters and the main plotline. The battle animations are also something to behold: dramatic, explosive, and very much in tune with each character's signature abilities. Luffy's battle moves are especially captivating, thanks to his elastic arms. Finally, the characters are a hoot. As someone who isn't overly familiar with the One Piece manga or anime, I immediately wanted to learn more about Luffy, Usopp, etc.
Ultimately, based on my limited experience via the preview build at NYCC, I suspect One Piece Odyssey will find its biggest audience among the One Piece faithful who yearn to see their favorite characters in battle. I'm unsure if there's enough role-playing greatness here to win the hearts and minds of the RPG community, despite the clever wrinkle of multiple areas per combat arena. What I experienced seemed very safe and scripted, although that could very well be the product of a demo designed to explain the basics in a short amount of time. That said, I'm more interested in One Piece than ever before, so the game is doing something right.
One Piece Odyssey launches January 13, 2023 on PC, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series.
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