One of the principal issues I have with licensed anime games is that a lot of them are either arena fighters or musou brands, such as the Warriors spin-off games. While I’ve completely sworn off the latter, I also don’t find the arena fighter genre particularly engaging. It’s a shame, too, because I honestly want to be less apathetic about the state of these sorts of games, but it’s proven difficult due to the lack of choice or innovation. However, that might finally be changing with the release of One Piece: World Seeker. Although not the first style of anime I got into, the shonen (young boy) genre is what kickstarted my passion for the medium, and while I sadly don’t have a lot of experience with this particular series, I lept at a chance to check it out given its open world design.
Something that One Piece: World Seeker immediately does well is leaning into the characters’ personalities by way of introduction to the world, rather than the long sprawling narrative that exists behind it. You out start with control of the cheeky pirate captain Monkey D. Luffy, and more characters are slowly introduced as you progress, such as Luffie’s crew, the Straw Hat Pirates. For newcomers like myself, it makes the whole experience much more palatable and brings the barrier to entry down considerably, which many other games based on source material seemingly struggle to achieve.
Keeping himself busy, Luffy works tirelessly in-between being captain of his crew, settling disputes between the pro and anti-Navy factions, and helping out the island inhabitants. Luffy’s undertakings are also further enhanced by the “Karma” system, which rewards you for completing quests or unique goals that are different depending on which character/faction it is. While I can’t honestly speak for series diehards, I think there is enough content and reference points in World Seeker to provide fan service while keeping the unitiated engaged. It does leave some criticism to be levelled at the depth of the narrative arc, which is relatively shallow compared to the main series’ storyline. However, ultimately, I feel it’s a good thing that it’s far more accessible to a wider audience.
While narrative scope may be an issue for World Seeker, the geographic scope is not. World Seeker is open world to the fullest extent, encouraging exploration to complete main/side quests, and gathering materials for the crafting systems. It does have its issues,though; while exploring, I yearned for a fast travel function and embarrassingly discovered after some time that there is one. I blame this on a general lack of a UI tutorial system, as players are dropped into the deep end from the start without much assistance. There’s some guidance on combat and a few general features, such as interaction and looting, but that’s the extent of it. Overall, I wouldn’t call World Seeker’s open world design or its accoutrements inspired. However, it’s serviceable enough for what it’s aiming to achieve.
The game offers you the opportunity to play either via stealth or combat, allowing you to take care of business however you see fit. To this end, you can switch Luffy between two different modes, one which focuses on speed and movement while the other focuses on power. It allows you to seamlessly switch between different playstyles depending on your situation, though charging right in is undeniably more enjoyable. Adding in special abilities and a skill tree, combat feels even more dynamic and engaging over time as you make your way through the game.
The art style for One Piece is excellent, with a vibrancy and life that suits the atmosphere of the characters and the world that they live in to a tee. However, World Seeker does fall disappointingly short in the graphics department and general UI design, both of which look outdated and second rate for a title of this scale. Although, these issues are ignorable to a small degree due to a strong performance from the impressive field of voice actors, and The World Seeker music catalogue also boasts an impressive 56 individual tracks for the musically inclined.
One Piece: World Seeker is an encouraging step in the right direction for licensed anime games. It’s not outstanding in any way, and it doesn’t push any boundaries, but the open world design feels refreshing, the gameplay is fun enough, and, in this particular case, the pull of the One Piece franchise is enough to warrant attention from the gaming mainstream. There are still many teething and performance issues that will need to be fixed if World Seeker is going to be considered a design template for future titles. However, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for titles like this, and that’s a far better feeling than I’ve had about anime video games in a long time.