Sometimes it feels like everyone and their dog is jumping on the open-world bandwagon, but pairing the free-wheeling cartoon pirate adventures of One Piece with a world that lets you bounce, swing and spin your way freely from fight to fight feels like a savvy call.
Enter One Piece: World Seeker, studio Ganbarion’s ambitious-looking project to drag the long-running anime and manga franchise into modern gaming relevance. Within, we’ve got a little bit of (subtitled, assuming you turn on captions) chatter from director Koji Nakajima, interspersed with a few moments of intriguing gameplay footage.
More than anything, the snippets of gameplay above remind me of the better Spider-Man games. Luffy’s stretchy rubber-based powers give him a broadly similar suite of abilities to Peter Parker, albeit wrapped in a very different aesthetic. The end result is largely the same, though, allowing for some high-flying feats of agility combined with unarmed combat that stretches well beyond what you’d think of as traditional melee range.
Whether it was their explicit intent at the start of development or not, Bandai-Namco might have inadvertently come up with the next big superhero game, a genre that feels surprisingly underserved despite the explosion of Marvel movies. It helps that Luffy’s bare-handed and whimsical fighting style means that there’s going to be little to no shooting or stabbing going on, relieving you of the moral qualms normally associated with beating down a dozen expendable goons. Batman he is not.
Visually, the thing that strikes me the most is how clearly defined the main characters are from the backdrops. While the skies and seas and gorgeously blue and clear, the paths and castle walls shown are rendered in a slightly muted palette, allowing the main characters and their primary-coloured outfits to stand out, almost as if they’re animated cels being laid over a static backdrop.
While there’s no release date on it yet, Bandai-Namco hope to launch One Piece: World Seeker sometime this year, with a planned RRP of $60. The English version will see a multi-platform release, including PC, although the unlucky few Japanese PC gamers are due for some disappointment; in One Piece’s home territory, World Seeker is set to be a PS4 exclusive.