Interview with One Piece Odyssey Game Producer Katsuaki Tsuzuki – Anime Expo 2022

One Piece Odyssey is an upcoming role-playing video game being developed by ILCA and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment set to release sometime in 2022. The game features an original, self-contained story with involvement by series creator Eiichiro Oda. At Anime Expo 2022, Anime News Network was given the opportunity to interview Katsuaki Tsuzuki, the game’s producer who hopes to “deliver an epic drama adventure of the Straw Hats which both One Piece fans and JRPG fans can experience and enjoy”.

An odyssey usually implies a long and eventful journey. The Straw Hat crew has already gone on numerous jaw-dropping adventures up until this point. What would you say makes this journey stand out from others?

Katsuaki TSUZUKI: Yes, so we put the title of Odyssey to emphasize an epic adventure, and that’s something we will be portraying throughout the story. As you are aware, the story takes place in the Waford island and on this island, the party needs to overcome various mysteries and solve different clues in order to progress through the story. And it’s through this mystery that we hoped to construct this epic story.

An epic, but self-contained story. Am I right?

TSUZUKI: Yes, you’re exactly right. It’s pretty much a self-contained story separate from the main story in both the manga and the anime. When it comes to RPG games, the main emphasis is the story and I think a lot of people are looking for a very grand story experience. So we thought that like the series, when there’s no definitive end to the story, it tends to be unsatisfactory when people play games for that reason. We took a long time in developing this game fully knowing that the original story would be continuing while we were working and we didn’t want the content of the game to be influenced by that progression. So we made something that both longtime fans and newcomers could both enjoy without missing much.

Well you just answered one of my other questions already about whether or not this game would be a good entry for newcomers, since it’s such a clear love letter to the franchise. In fact, I remember in the trailer there was a line about how this new world we find our crew in is actually made up of their memories. Can we expect a lot of callbacks and references to our crew’s past adventures?

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TSUZUKI: Yes, stuff like that is something that we would like to reveal bit by bit. But what we can tell you now is that we worked really hard to put an emphasis on letting players experience the One Piece world. But we also didn’t want anything to be obvious to fans or anything that they’d obviously see coming. That element of surprise is important. Regarding what the memories entail, we can’t really tell you that just yet, so stay tuned as we reveal more.

The target audience for the game are obviously the long-time fans of the series, but we also hear that there are many US fans that are just now getting into the series and we definitely want to appeal to both of those crowds. It is important that the mindset coming into this adventure has the context of what the crew has previously overcome, so that will be included. That way, new and old fans alike will grasp the emotional context of what they are facing.

You mentioned before that in RPGs, there is a huge emphasis on story, but a lot of previous One Piece games have been very action-oriented. Was that desire to create this story what influenced this choice in game genre? Was it the reverse? Or were both of those desires realized at the same time?

TSUZUKI: So during the planning of Odyssey, we were actually slating this for the 25-year Anniversary and we were thinking about it for 5 years. The conclusion that we came to was that while the action is important, I think the biggest feedback we received from the fans was that they really wanted to experience that feeling of discovering a new island and finding new things. So that idea of ​​adventure and discovery is what we decided to focus on. But how do we portray that? How do we have the gameplay reflect that experience?

In an action title, if you have just one character, the focus is usually on that one character, but this game is about the whole Straw Hat crew as a team. So in order to place the emphasis on the crew and that team play, we decided to go for this turn-based gameplay where teamwork is key. It’s not just one character doing things while everyone else is on the side. Everyone is using their own abilities and bringing their own quirks to the table to overcome the challenges that they may face during this adventure. That is why we chose that format.

Were there any difficulties in applying the crazy abilities of the Straw Hat Crew to a traditional turn-based RPG format?

TSUZUKI: Yes, you’re right, there were some difficulties. Since it’s turn-based gameplay, illustrating a cool action was easy. The challenge was that when you think of the story arcs in a traditional RPG, you usually gain and recruit more party members as you’re playing the game. But with One Piece Odyssey, you start with all the members! So the party doesn’t really expand, and we thought it was going to be difficult to portray and expand the characteristics of the characters if we went the more traditional route. So what we decided to do instead was introduce a mechanic called the Scramble Area Battle. When you enter a battle, the team members get separated into these 4 different areas where they can fight individually. If one character sees another character struggling to defeat their monster, they can send an assist or jump to that area to help. That’s how we tried to incorporate that all-important teamwork element from One Piece into the gameplay and I think we did a good job handling that obstacle.

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