Odin Sphere was a game that was originally developed by Vanillaware and released on the PS2 back in 2007. Back then it was considered a cult classic, now they’re hoping it gets more mainstream attention. While I did play the original game a few years ago, I really only played about an hour of that release so I’ll be treating this as if I’d never played the game before. I couldn’t talk in depth about many of the changes that were made, but from the people I’ve talked to who played the original there were some things that were desperately in need of a change.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a from the ground up re-working of the original game. The visuals and story stay mostly intact, but everything around it has been redone to fall in line with some of their more recent releases like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Dragon’s Crown. Combat is fluid and fast paced, built mainly around the idea of stringing huge combos together. While not really necessary to be successful it is really satisfying to see that combo number go up, entering the realm of 2-300 attacks in a row on a pretty regular basis.
Visually, it’s hard to top anything that Vanillaware puts out. There is so much attention to detail on every single character in the game, whether they’re a lowly frog or hulking gods among men. There is so much subtlety in everything you’re looking at on screen that it’s hard not to get lost in the visual masterpiece that is on the screen at any time. Everything feels like a work of art. Characters tell you so much about themselves just in the way they move and hold themselves. Character like the Demon Lord Odin tower over everyone else giving you the sense that they’re invincible. Others, who aren’t quite as sure of themselves will be hunched over, eyes downcast and heavy. Just look at any screenshot and you’ll discover new little details for hours on end. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game to look at. It’s important to note, however, that visual beauty isn’t everything this game has to offer.
I could spend pages talking about the deep game play mechanics of the game. As you play you’ll earn Phozons, which you can use to level up dozens of new traits for each character. Some of them are active traits that you can directly use in combat to aid in defeating your foes. Others are passive and take effect immediately when certain conditions have been met. While they unlock upon being discovered in the level you have control over just how powerful they get and you can be guaranteed that you’ll find a combination of skills for every character that best suits your play style.
The bulk of your time outside of combat will be in levelling up your character. This is done mostly through a very extensive cooking system. You find and purchase ingredients for recipes as you progress through the game. Unlocking new recipes will give you access to new foods that you can create that will grant you very large bonuses to your XP. Most of the characters will have access to the same recipes that grant the same bonuses, but some characters learn recipes that only they can access. Learning what you need for these recipes and finding the ingredients will take up a good portion of your time and you’ll find yourself eating many times throughout any given level.
The combat itself is fast and fluid, as mentioned previously. Muramasa is one of my favorite games of all-time and this new version of Odin Sphere takes many of its cues from that game before it. You have a vast array of different regular attacks per character. Some that you can use to slam down on enemies, some that will pop them up into the air where you can follow up and continue your onslaught. Even without the different special attacks the combat system has a lot to offer and learning how to best manipulate each character will be very important to your overall success. When you add in all of the different, incredibly powerful, special attacks you have even more control over a fight than before. You can use area of effect attacks to give you some much needed breathing room.
Each of the five main playable characters are very different from each other and you’ll have to learn their various subtleties to be most effective. Mercedes, the Fairy Queen, for example is best when used at range from her opponents. Cornelius is best just mixing it up as close as possible and the Valkyrie Gwendolyn has a nice mixture of those two styles at her disposal. There are most likely going to be some characters you really like and some you don’t.
Overall, the experience is one you shouldn’t miss. There are some flaw in the game, though. The story itself weaves in and out of itself through all of the five main characters and there is a 6th story to unlock that combines all of their skills together. Because of this you’re backtracking a lot through some areas you’ve previously visited. Many of the same areas are reused and you’ll fight the same enemy types in every single campaign. The tactics you use won’t change much as they all fight the same way regardless of which character you’re using. Some people may find this repetitive and it’s worth some criticism. The game also may extend a little longer than necessary. You can finish the game, if you play straight through in 15-20 hours. If you try to go for everything it could take upwards of 30+ hours. That’s a lot of time to be revisiting many of the same areas.
Also, the voice acting, while it’s good, sometimes sounds like the actors are speaking through tin cans. While all of the performances are very good and convey the characters true thoughts and emotions, sometimes the sound of their voices can be a bit distracting.
Despite any flaws that Odin Sphere Leifthrasir has, and really the flaws are minor, the game is worth checking out. I played the game, for review, on the Vita (and it’s absolutely worth playing on that system), but it will be available for the PS3 and PS4 as well. It plays well. It is one of the best looking games you’ll ever see, in my opinion. I could find little to complain about in my time with the game.