Open world and One Piece, a combination that on paper would make every lover of Oda’s work or more generally of the shonen genre soul/manga jump on the chair. Yet, once again we are in the review to set aside our teenage dreams and abandon for the hopes for a title that allows us to ply the Big Blue to the cry of “Go, all boarding!” with Giorgio Vanni and Cristina D’Avena.
In the landscape of soul/manga-based video games, One Piece World Seeker is definitely one of the most ambitious products of recent years. Ganbarion certainly wanted to try to recreate the emotions that One Piece has made its own for more than twenty years now, especially that constant feeling of discovery and mystery that surrounds every new journey of Rufy. Unfortunately, however, One Piece World Seeker betrays its aims, proposing a lean open world, without biting, unable to stimulate the player to explore every square inch of Prison Island in search of even the most ephemeral citationism. The plot, unprecedented compared to what Oda proposed in his work, would like to propose an intriguing narrative arc characterized by the maturity of some details, such as the tragic and devastating past of Jeanne or the separation of Rufy (for the umpteenth time) from his crew, but in practice it is reduced to a set of flat dialogues, without soul, that do not come close to what is proposed in the manga. Between the senseless appearance of Rufy’s historical enemies, insulting side missions and a bizarre Karma system (so the consideration of some side characters based on your in-game actions increases the number of lines of dialogue ONLY) the only element that stands out is the main villain Isaac: the scientist from the Celestial Prison is respectful of the distinctive traits of the main antagonists of One Piece and its meticulous and successful realization makes us ask why we have not used the same care for the other sides of the narrative as well.
Yet another disappointment on the combat system side: despite being in front of a park animations of Rufy really well done and faithful to the counterpart paper / television, the moveset, the two styles of combat (agility and armor) and the lack of a depth of combo entrusted to multiple keys (only the finishers have a mapping on multiple buttons and different) reduce the gameplay to a little effective button mashing. Not even the introduction of the skill tree to unlock skills with the classic PA and a small RPG component related to the equipment (why?!), raise the fortunes, indeed, if possible increase the burden of negativity, resulting in unintuitive, useless and inconclusive in order to advance given the disconcerting ease, even at higher difficulty levels.
One Piece World Seeker’s strong point is the technical sector. The world created by Ganbarion is absolutely a joy for the eyes: colourful, sparkling, clean and respectful of what we have always seen in Oda’s work. Both the Prison Island and the Celestial Prison offer a recognizable style, able to hit the player. At the same time, however, the contrast with what the gameplay offers in negative terms is able to daz the user, leaving him helpless in front of the possibilities that the title could have exploited and that unfortunately wastes.
The contrast between the cartoonish style of the models of the characters and the similar realism of the setting, moreover, create an intriguing pair that enhances in the eyes of the player the fidelity of the characters, whether they are main or “minion” of the Navy. And just among the ranks of opponents there is also to emphasize the excellent variety of types of enemies, which are inspired, varied and well contextualized with the environment that surrounds them and with the original work.
It is instead the choice to use only Rufy as a playable character to be really out of town, the pirate from the straw hat, in fact, beyond the two styles of combat mentioned above (and Gear Fourth as a temporary enhancement) is extremely limited, mainly because of the unlocking diluted over time skills. The choice to make appear the compressors only in the short and sporadic cutscene seemed inconceivable for the game design, especially in light of a franchise that has made the team (Mugiwara, remember Mugiwara!) a real backbone of its essence.
Certain that the open world formula may indeed be the most suitable option for One Piece, it is clear that One Piece World Seeker could be a first experiment in what the future holds for titles related to Oda’s work. But the bitterness in the mouth remains for what the title was not and what will remain: a wasted opportunity in half, another “I wish but I can’t” that adds to the long list of titles based on soul/manga.