When it comes to anime and manga you won’t find many series that have gone on longer or reached the level of worldwide success as One Piece. If you’re an anime fan, whether you watch the series or not, you certainly know about it. Just like many other popular anime series, One Piece has also had it’s fair share of video game adaptations in the past. Each with varying levels or quality and success. Now to celebrate One Piece’s 20th anniversary the team at Ganbarion have released the most ambitious game for the series yet, giving fans what they have wanted in a One Piece game from day 1. An open world to explore.
The story of World Seeker hits the ground running as soon as you boot it up. You learn during the cold opening that Luffy and the other members of the Straw Hats have traveled to Prison Island after a rumour had spread claiming that the island was home to a treasure. Obviously the Straw Hats are going to investigate but learn pretty quickly that they’ve stumbled into a trap.
After managing to escape Isaac, the warden of Prison Island, Luffy travels the island to locate other Straw Hats, leveling up his pirate abilities and assisting new character Jeanne, the sister of Isaac along with her ‘Anti-Navy’ to take Isaac down. Along the way you’ll encounter many enemies, complete some well written story missions and take on side quests from one of the game’s many NPC quest givers.
The story of World Seeker feels like a more fleshed out anime filler arc but that’s not a bad thing. I don’t use the word filler in a negative way the same way many others in the anime community use or perceive it. Here it actually works in World Seekers favour. It takes the core cast we know and love and puts them into a really fun story that is in a brand new location and has brand new characters at the core of it’s plot. It works for a video game, and makes it much more accessible to people that want to jump into the game and experience a One Piece story but may not be up to date on the 900+ episode series or even seen it at all in some time.
Of course with the game being based on the largest Shonen battle series of the past 20 years, the game is full of a lot of hand to hand combat. Most of the core missions involve you having to go out, track down and eventually defeat in battle a specific enemy and their cohort of navy followers. Combat is mostly mapped to one button and utilises several of Luffy’s Gum Gum abilities to dish out stylish attacks that deal massive damage.
While the performing of combat moves is quite one note there are numerous ways you can approach any combat scenario and the game allows you to use your preferred play-style and strategies to succeed in the missions. For instance if you’re skilled enough track a target and sneak up behind them unnoticed Luffy is able to perform a silent take-down to swiftly subdue the opponent. Luffy is also able to use his Gum Gum skills to perform long range attacks and even headshots on enemies. But if you prefer to play with a more hack-n-slash approach of course you can rush the enemies head on and mash square to unleash furious combos on the foes. When in combat Luffy is able to utilise 2 different styles that are interchangeable on the fly using the d-pad. There’s the Observation Haki which focuses on dealing out fast paced punches and kicks and provides Luffy the agility to dodge away from attacks. And then there’s the Armament Haki that switches Luffy to slower but more powerful heavy attacks and provides the ability to fully block an oncoming attack. You’re given the freedom to see what style works for you and enhance aspects of each using the game’s skill system.
As you complete quests you will earn skill points that are able to be spent on World Seeker’s skill tree to unlock new abilities for Luffy. The upgrades available are plenty but some are definitely more valuable to unlock over others but once again you’re given the freedom to level up the aspects of Luffy that you either use frequently or want to improve. And it’s not just about combat ability here. Quite a number of the skills will improve Luffy’s traversal abilities, opening up completely new and fun ways to get around the environments of World Seeker.
And that’s one aspect of World Seeker that I really loved. Moving around in the world feels great. Even before unlocking a single traversal skill, taking control of Luffy for the first time after the opening cutscene felt really good. He has a sense of weight to him, the movement animations are on point and using his stretching Gum Gum abilities to jet across the world like a man-sized sling shot made me feel like I was playing a Spider-Man game at times.
The world itself looks stunning. It’s vibrant and bright and running through the varied environments and grassy hills in the game reminded me of my adventure through last years’ Dragon Quest XI. The art style has managed to capture the look and feel of One Piece even after transitioning the designs to 3D which is often the breaking point in other anime video game adaptations. While the world is highly detailed and the environments look great, I would have loved more visible life in the world, especially in the city based areas of the map. For the most part they’re empty except for the enemies and quest givers. It’s almost as though the whole city have been locked away in their homes and don’t want to come out and enjoy the beautiful towns and settlements with you.
I also found that although they present a fairly easy way to obtain skill points or various resources, the side missions can get quite repetitive and become a bit of a grind to work through. They are definitely better played intermixed with the story missions as you progress through the main questline as if you leave them all until after the main story you could easily find they become a chore to work through.
Voice acting when it is used is in the game is presented in Japanese only. The voice acted moments are often saved for cutscenes or key moments in a conversation. Most Dialogue sequences in the game are limited to scrolling through on-screen text. I would have loved to have seen all of the dialogue voiced seeing as they went to the effort of bringing in the original voice actors to play their respective characters but I understand that due to the number of dialogue lines in the game it’s not always a possibility. But hey, we have seen it done in large scale games in the past.
One Piece: World Seeker is going to be adored by veterans and hardcore fans of the series, but is still quite enjoyable and easy to follow by someone that either has a casual knowledge or used to keep up with One Piece and the adventures of Luffy and his crew in the past. The game makes no effort to bring you up to speed with the story so far, character relationships or telling you why you should care about Luffy and the other members of the Straw Hats so I probably wouldn’t recommend this as a jumping on point for someone with zero familiarity with the One Piece universe just based on the fact you wouldn’t get the complete sense of enjoyment that someone with knowledge of the series would.
What you will get though is a story that is engaging and an open world that while too empty at some points is really fun to explore along with Luffy and the other Straw Hat crew.
A PS4 review copy was provided by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review.
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