One Piece World Seeker review for PS4, Xbox One, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Ganbarion
Medium: Disc/Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

One Piece is a Japanese manga which has been serialized since 1997, with a fanbase almost comparable to Dragon Ball?s. The story follows the journey of Monkey D. Luffy as he travels the world to find treasure of Gold Roger, the only man to earn the mantle of Pirate King. Luffy is an particularly odd pirate because he cannot swim, this isn?t because he never bothered to learn to swim, but he is physically unable to submerge himself into bodies of water because he ate a mysterious fruit known as the Gum Gum fruit, which granted his body the ability to stretch like rubber. During his journey he is joined by a motley crew which includes a swordsman who uses 3 swords, an archaeologist, a skeleton musician and a reindeer doctor.

One Piece World Seeker explains none of this and assumes the player is already a fan of the franchise with an intimate knowledge of the series. Developer Ganbarion developed several One Piece titles in the past and this is the first one which utilizes a singular map as opposed to stages connected via a singular hub map. The title places itself in the series time before the current arc in the manga. The Straw Hat Pirates find themselves infiltrating a prison in the sky in search of rumored treasure that resides that. After the plan goes awry, their captain Luffy finds himself on an island called Prison Island and meets Jeanne who is the daughter of the island?s previous leader. Prison Island was embroiled in a conflict 12 years ago which ended with the death of Jeanne?s mother. The conflict scarred the island to the point where its denizens fractured into 2 factions, one Pro-Navy and one Anti-Navy (The Navy…even though their gear denotes them as ?Marines? are a stand-in for the global government in the series). Luffy must gather his crew and help his new friend resolve the issues of the island as a greater conflict looms.

The island is relatively big, with several towns, however none of them are as vibrant as the game?s intro (which was also the title?s announce trailer) would lead you to believe. It?s more a Zelda-ish world than a GTA-style world. Sadly unlike Zelda titles, the denizens outside of Jeanne and the game?s antagonist, the island?s warden Isaac are relatively forgettable. With names like Anti-Navy Fred and Pro-Navy Rose, it?s tough to care about the problems of the Prison Island. Traversing the island can be a bit of a chore, besides huffing it on foot; Luffy can utilizes his stretchy limbs to propel himself from point to point. This move, dubbed the Gum Gum Rocket can only latch onto trees and man-made structures, which means the aerial traversal is not as fluid as it is in games like the Batman: Arkham games. The island?s layout pretty much prevents you from ?flying? from across the island; you will end up doing a lot of starts and stops. It also doesn?t help that the sniper enemies will never miss a shot if they see you sailing through the skies will stop any prolong flight sessions. To the game?s credit you can run around the island and rarely encounter a loading screen.

The games missions usually involve going from point A to point B, talking to people, beating up either Navy soldiers or Pirates. Occasionally there will be a boss fight which features a named character from the series. Since the game never removes you from the open world, the game will provide invisible boundaries that if you stray too far from will result in a defeat. This actually added a level of frustration for me as several bosses in the game managed to knock me out of bounds on several occasions causing me to fail the mission. Besides combat, there are missions which asks you to gather resources from around the island, usually these collectible resources are represented by sparkles in the world and you know what they contain until you have collected them. Perhaps the most pirate-like thing the game lets you do is the treasure map missions. With a reference image, you are tasked to find the area where the treasure is buried. This treasure usually contain equipment and costume blueprints, items which can be crafted with materials found in the world.

Unlike other Ganbarion One Piece titles, the only playable character is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy. While this means the rest of the crew is relegated to quest giving and cutscenes, it means the devs can make Luffy?s moveset a bit more robust than his previous Ganbarion outings. Players can switch between two styles, one which focuses on speed and the other focuses on strength. Although the only time that styles really mattered is when you fight aerial enemies where the speed style is more preferable and the strength style appears to be more effective shielded enemies. Luffy can also be upgraded via a skill tree, granting him access to additional moves for each style, and additional super moves that can be used when he builds up his tension bar enough. In a very uncommon move, the tension bar actually depletes if you are not actively attacking, so if enemies are smart enough to keep away from you, any hopes of using a super move will be lost.

The strangest mode in this game is the Free Battle mode. Again comparing previous Ganbarion releases, they had modes which allowed you to play against a human player with the option to play as the Straw Hats but also the bosses that you beaten in the main game. The Free Battle mode in this game simply lets you control a base-level luffy taking on 3 basic Navy soldiers that cannot be knocked out. It?s inclusion in the title just makes no sense and I checked after each patch to see if the mode is actually made entertaining.

I liken One Piece World Seeker to a filler arc or a movie for the series. It?s non-canonical, but nonetheless can be an enjoyable experience. The game leans heavily on the player to be knowledgeable to the series and might be a turn off for those not familiar with the series. This is a competent title, but it falls short of what the teaser trailer promised. Much like Dragon Ball which had a string of titles which were middle, the IP did eventually release a title that received universal praise. I imagine that one day One Piece will also get that release, World Seeker is a definitely a step in the right direction.

Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a One Piece World Seeker PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B