While i’m overburdened to even conceive putting out a full review for the game (since i’m still early into it, as the title may suggests, since it’s a JRPG we’re talking about) before Spring hits, i do wanna talk about it since i have been looking forward to it since the announcement, and i pre-ordered the collector’s edition with the figure and season pass and shit.
I mean, i have been expecting a proper One Piece RPG to wash the horrid taste Romance Dawn on the PSP/3DS left in me mouth for years, and i’m not feeling like digging out emulated and/or translated roms of those very old and very “Japan-only” One Piece RPGS on the Wonderswan and Game Boy. I do have some of those imported, but whatever, i do want to play something modern once in a while, you know?
Btw, these first impressions are based on the PS4 version running on a PS4 Pro (and there’s also a demo version available), so you know.
Story is nice and sees the crew shipwreck on the mysterious island of Waford, where Luffy and friends meet two new original characters made for the game, Ado, an adventurer that is trying to solve the mysteries of the island and Lim, a little girl that also shipwrecked here, with a mysterious power that lets her take away strenghts and powers by removing the memories of people in forms of mystical cubes.
So the crew has to scramble in order to regain its abilities, by exploring the island, its strange ruins, mystical stone guardians, and also revisiting some of the most beloved narrative arcs and locations of the series, like Abasta, Enies Lobby, and so on.
Presentation it’s excellent, technically it looks the part for a fresh 2023 release, Waford looks very intriguing and colorful, the monsters’ designs are pure Eiichiro Oda going for a homerun, the story it’s solid, well told so far, the new characters are likeable, and it runs without hiccups or crap like that, fairly smooth performance overall.
in terms of gameplay, it’s a very simple and quite classic styled JRPG, with turn based combat and a simple “rock paper scissors” mechanics for the characters types and their weaknesses/strenght against each other, but also throws some more modern ideas in, as you’re not bound to use characters in the order dictated by their Speed parameter, you havecharacters fighting in different areas of the battle zone, so – for example – if you wanna help Zoro fighting a lone basque-wearing ice monkey as another character set in a different “block” of the battle zone, you gotta first clear out enemies in your area first.
To spice things up further, often battles will have “dramatic scenes” that add special objectives depending on the situation or context, like having one or more character paralyzed, frozen, bleeding or in with little health and having to dispose of the enemies in their area that also got a bigger chance to land critical hits, or having to finish a certain enemy with a certain character, stuff like that.
Combat may feel old fashioned to some, but it’s pretty fun, fits One Piece a lot more than some of you might expect, heck, the developer ILCA managed to also work the rebound mechanic that One Piece Romance Dawn, so some special moves might launch/project enemies against other enemies situated in a separated block of the battle area.
Simple, but not too simple, and overall quite fun still.
My only gripe with the combat is that the overall difficulty it’s set low, like, i don’t play many rpgs and even i think it’s fairly easy, with the game being overly generous in terms of exp gain and levelling up, so it kinda mades moot the overworld ability to use the Observation Haki of Luffy to find enemies that give out more exp, as you rarely will need to grind at all to progress. I definitely NEVER felt like i needed too in my experience so far, things might pick up later but i fear this low level of challenge might trivialize any need for strategy in the combat in the long run.
And to be clear, i’m playing at the standard difficulty, i’m fine with it being on the easier side so far, but many could be a lot less pleased by the lack of much of a challenge. Again, at least so far into the game.
Like in the Unlimited World/Cruise sub-series, you can control all the Straw Hats both in combat and in exploration, for which every character comes in handy in a specific situation: Chopper can move in small cave-like tunnels or holes, Usop can aim and use his slingshot, Zoro can cut steel doors, Luffy can stretch himself and grapple around building and ruins, etc.
Fairly simple in terms of exploration, as are the enviromental puzzles often found in the ruins or caves or dungeon like areas of Waford, though i’m not fond of the option of having an “auto-moving” function for the character traversal, since it feels stiff and it may lead to you stumbling into enemies on the overworld (it’s a classic JRPG, but not that old fashioned, you have to touch enemies to initiate battle with the normal foes) you didn’t meant to start beef with.
There are also some modern QOL features, like fast-travel points via “animal taxis”, and since it’s One Piece, you can have parties by bonfires, which is where you acces the crafting, cooking and costume changing options.
Aside from the game being quite easy, i’m liking it a lot, honestly quite enjoying my time with it, and most likely i will have a full lenght review of it by this summer, maybe even complete with mini-reviews of the DLC pieces that are coming via the Season Pass, which i’m guessing will release in 3 batch months apart, as Namco Bandai previously did so with World Seeker and Pirate Warriors 4.