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Why One Piece Odyssey Is Disappointing as an Anime Fan – Why It Doesn’t Translate Well

The most popular franchise of all time... can corner the game market
One Piece Odyssey logo title cover
Image Via Bandai Namco

One Piece Odyssey is the latest entry into a long-running franchise of One Piece Video games. While the level of enjoyability and competence of any given One Piece game can vary, one word seems to inevitably fill a fan’s head after playing it. Fine… if be somewhat rather disappointing. While Odyssey may be one of the better-reviewed OP games ever, it’s reaching about the same level of reception as say Sonic Frontiers but with much less fanfare.

Why is that exactly? Why can’t One Piece, towering above all other anime franchises not bust its way through the video game competition? Is it just gameplay? Graphics? What about One Piece doesn’t translate well to video games? Why does every entry into the video game franchise yield such disappointing and lackluster reception? Let’s take a look at some key points.

The Franchise

It is quite a fascinating aspect of one of the highest-selling anime and manga franchises to struggle in one aspect of its media empire. While One Piece is not the be all end all anime franchise, its value is undeniable. It is the undisputed best-selling manga of all time. It is one of the top 5 highest-grossing media franchises to come out of Japan. One Piece films are also the highest-grossing Japanese film franchise of all time. One Piece is only 3rd to Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon in anime merchandise. Even the games make a decent 2.8 billion total gross of its overall revenue. Yet those games, despite that seemingly impressive number, don’t amount to much regard or praise.

2.8 billion might sound like a lot but in the world of video games. However, once you compare it to the heavy hitters like Mario, Pokemon, and Call of Duty, One Piece is utterly dwarfed in comparison. Even game franchises edging out the top 50 of all time have better numbers. In an industry where 2 or 3 million copies (plus WAY higher) can be the standard, a single One Piece game is lucky to reach above half a million. This is where One Piece Odyssey comes in.

(Related: Do You Need to have Seen One Piece to Play One Piece Odyssey? )

The Thing about One Piece Odyssey

One Piece Odyssey is a pretty good, well-enough turn-based RPG. For me, it reminds me a lot of Dragon Quest. That is a good thing. However, it also feels rather cheaply skinned over with One Piece instead of really feeling like a One Piece game. That does seem to be the trouble with One Piece games though. Possibly the most beloved One Piece game is Pirate Warriors 4 and that’s a very late entry to a somewhat muddied spin-off franchise of a completely unrelated game series.

One Piece Odyssey’s plot also seems to come from the constant struggle of introducing new fans rather than completely rewarding long-time ones. In true Kingdom Hearts fashion Luffy and the crew must revisit past memories of events throughout the series and battle their way through new original game-only characters. Hardly One Piece and more just a game with One Piece characters in it. However, perhaps it is too late to just have a game where you RPG your way through the entire 25-year storyline.

This turn-based style RPG would have worked better if this kind of game started about 15 years ago and Odyssey was just the canonical continuation as more cannon arcs were added. That’s another issue about One Piece games, how unconnected they feel to the source material. Even DBZ fighting games usually pay some kind of tribute to source material instead of remixing too much. While there are some good moments in Odyssey, its stagnate gameplay and wooden character portrayals are hard to get past.

The Look of One Piece Odyssey (and other games)

Perhaps one of the bigger issues of One Piece games that Odyssey definitely has not fixed is the look and feel of the Straw Hat Crew and company. The 3D modeling just doesn’t capture the flexible nature of Eiichiro Oda’s manga or even the flawed but faithful look of the anime. There are not a lot of vibrant colors like in the anime. Even the anime can’t always capture the unique art style of Oda as well – a long-time complaint among the most diehard of fans.

Although the art style is also been a long-time complaint of people not willing to get into the anime/manga either, especially in the west. So if that’s also the case, why does every new One Piece game feel less of a celebration and more like a new way to get into the series? Yes, Odyssey covers the history of the story, but it’s done in such a new way divorced from the source material it begs the question: Why it had to be that way? Was the original story just not appealing? Especially since it’s going with such a faithful JRPG style this time around?

What Makes a Good One Piece Game

DragonBall Z and Naruto found their success in games through the fighting game genre. One Piece has tried it’s hand at the genre as well with people being fond of Grand Battle for the PS2 and finding Burning Blood from a few years ago admirable in adaptation but lacking real complexity. Which might be the real problem with One Piece games. No matter what type of game it is, the gameplay is always lackluster and painfully simplistic.

This might be more of the fault of Bandai Namco, who owns the rights to One Piece video games but also seem to choose Developing studios with very little or comforting experience behind them. Some of the companies that have made One Piece games have such short Wikipedia histories. Or on the other end have a very long history of middling game-making.

It seems that no matter what good a One Piece game brings, it brings equally bad or uninteresting. If it’s a faithful adaptation, it has lack luster gameplay. If the gameplay is good the story is wonky or not very appealing. At the very least most games don’t seem to keep you wanting to play and many don’t finish with an overall satisfying experience. Odyssey seems earnest to a fault but is so easy and repetitive in some ways there’s not a lot to entice you to go beyond a few hours at a time. Or even worse, you just play the game once and move on to something else.

Conclusion

While One Piece Odyssey is arguably a better entry than most for the series, it has once again hit the mark on what fans really seek with One Piece. That promise of intrigue and adventure with the manga and anime is severely lacking or missing altogether.

Perhaps the infectious energy of Luffy and crew don’t translate super well into video games? Yet there are so many iconic characters in video game history that say otherwise. There’s also plenty of wild and wacky storytelling like One Piece in video games. From Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts to God of War or Last of Us, compelling storytelling exists in abundance.

It probably really comes down to property management. Bandai Namco is famous for not giving a franchise its full potential, just look at Digimon. Studio Toei and Shounen Jump don’t seem too worried about it either since they likely struck the deal with Bandai so many years ago.

Perhaps a worthwhile One Piece game that satisfies fans who are gamers will never come. Its a hard sell sometimes and in general ‘good enough’ seems to be the company standard for those involved with getting these games to churn out every couple of years. Either way, the majesty and dream-chasing spirit of One Piece will always live on in its original source material even if we can never truly play it for ourselves.


For more opinion pieces on how we all deserve better as gamers check out What Does Game of the Year Mean Anyway? Let’s Take a Look. For updates, news, guides, and help with all things gaming be sure to subscribe to our Facebook page.

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