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The Straw hats look at the camera during a cutscene in One Piece Odyssey

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One Piece deserves better than One Piece Odyssey

The franchise’s clout isn’t enough to sustain this weak JRPG

Image: ILCA/Bandai Namco

One Piece is a monolith. The pirate-centric manga and anime series’ branding can be found in films, bath bombs, deodorant, and commercials for To its detriment, One Piece Odyssey, the new JRPG from developer ILCA, tries to capitalize on that ubiquity by appealing to everyone, and as is often the case with this approach, it doesn’t feel geared toward anyone. It’s composed of tailored moments for both casual and longtime fans, but the end result is a garbled adventure. A great RPG sits somewhere inside One Piece Odyssey, but it’s obstructed by numerous baffling choices.

One Piece centers on Monkey D. Luffy’s journey to becoming King of the Pirates. To achieve this goal, Luffy and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates, search the sea for a legendary treasure known as One Piece.

In One Piece Odyssey, the Straw Hat Pirates have been marooned on an island called Waford. The island has only two inhabitants: an adventurer named Adio and his surrogate daughter, Lim. Like most rational people, Lim doesn’t trust pirates. Upon spotting the crew, Lim preemptively uses her abilities to remove the group’s memories of how to fight. To regain their skills, the Straw Hats need to explore the mysterious “world of memory.” This functions as an excuse to lead players through re-creations of iconic moments from One Piece’s 25-year history.

The Straw Hats brace themselves for a possible fight in front of a giant crocodile in One Piece Odyssey Image: ILCA/Bandai Namco

Thus, Odyssey tells an original story while borrowing haphazardly from the source material, without fully fleshing out either. When the manga is adapted via “memories,” it’s almost like watching the world’s worst clip show. Everything has been truncated. All the famous beats are there, but with minimal buildup. Despite this abbreviation, the Straw Hats act as emotionally charged as when the events first occurred, causing a rift between the writing and the emotions it’s trying to extract. It’s difficult to feel invested when none of it ultimately matters.

It’s unclear what audience was in mind during Odyssey’s development. This is simultaneously a horrible way to relive One Piece and to dive into its world for the first time. These stories are old hat to longtime fans. Dressrosa — the most recent arc included in Odyssey — was originally published from 2013 to 2015 and has been featured in numerous recap specials. It’s outdated. Conversely, Odyssey features too little information on each arc for potential fans to gravitate toward without prior context.

Odyssey doesn’t respect the player’s time in the design sense, either. Levels are tedious, filled with mundane, mandatory fetch quests, like locating a desert bandit who has stolen the crew’s food or defeating an unnamed outlaw to claim their bounty. This monotonous design is heightened by poor optimization. Short one-to-two-second loading screens frequently obstruct progress at crucial points. They’re especially prevalent during puzzle sections in which you have to quickly go between multiple areas. They halt Odyssey’s momentum at nearly every turn.

A shot of Nico Robin from behind as she surveys a marketplace during a fetch quest in One Piece Odyssey Image: ILCA/Bandai Namco

Odyssey also fails to guide players effectively, and navigating its world is needlessly difficult. The map doesn’t show you where to go unless you’re in the same zone as your objective: If you reach your destination in Zone A and your next objective is in Zone A, a bright red exclamation point will mark your ultimate destination. However, if you complete an objective in Zone A and need to go to Zone B, there will be no indication of how to reach Zone B. What’s more, tracking is almost entirely absent for side quests, requiring players to rely on verbal cues to ascertain the next step.

On the bright side, Odyssey’s art direction does a great job mimicking the source material. The environments and characters are the best they’ve ever looked in any One Piece game, with Dressrosa and Marineford Town as standout locations. Animal designs expertly mix campy and vicious elements. There’s a gargantuan squirrel enemy with a malicious smile that sticks its tongue out like a goofball. Side quests are also filled with silly scenes, like the one in which Sanji — the series’ resident flirt — fields affections from a horse. It’s great. Odyssey’s vivid take on the One Piece world makes its navigation and pacing issues even more exhausting by contrast.

For all of its mechanical stumbles, the game does excel in combat. Odyssey’s developers understand the appeal of One Piece’s many brawls, and it shows during Scramble Area Battles. Characters fill out roles in a rock-paper-scissors turn-based system. Your party is spread out across several distinct areas in the combat zone, and you need to consider how you’d like to match up crew members with enemies. Much of the joy comes in determining when certain members need assistance. Like the original series, every skirmish here feels like a strategic team effort.

Roronoa Zoro prepares his next attack during a turn-based battle in One Piece Odyssey Image: ILCA/Bandai Namco

Be warned, though: Odyssey’s combat isn’t designed for those seeking a challenge — by the mid-to-late game, your team will likely be overpowered. Thankfully, as you progress, you’ll unlock beautiful attack animations of the Straw Hats’ most powerful techniques, including Luffy’s Gum-Gum Red Hawk or Zoro’s Charming Demon Sleepless Night Onigiri. The combat is breezy, more inviting than it is intimidating. This speaks to the canon — Luffy and his friends often tear through foes — but it won’t give rise to any major difficulties. It’s more focused on spectacle than depth, and it works.

It’s clear, both in Odyssey’s thrilling combat and colorful art direction, that ILCA harbors a lot of love for its source material. But these fleeting moments of joy make their counterparts — hapless storytelling, terrible pacing, and stilted navigation — all the more exhausting by comparison. The kernel of a good RPG exists within Odyssey’s framework, but it’s surrounded by so much muck that it can’t shine through. One Piece has a long, storied history, but I suspect Odyssey will soon be forgotten.

One Piece Odyssey was released on Jan. 12 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PS5 using a pre-release download code provided by Bandai Namco. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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