This article was originally published at Another-Castle.com
Ragnarök ‘n’ Roleplay
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Platform: Vita (reviewed), PS3, PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Odin Sphere is a side-scrolling RPG action game divided into multiple stories or books with five different characters. Each of the five characters adventures that intersect at various points and many characters have direct encounters with each other along their journey. There is a large amount of spoken dialogue but the game places a heavy emphasis on the frequent real-time combat. When you\’re not viewing in-game narrative scenes, exploring, collecting ingredients, eating, organising your inventory and mixing potions; you\’re in combat. All of the former tasks combined make up about half of the game with the latter making up the rest.
Having five characters with unique stories may make the game sound large but in playing it, it doesn’t quite work this way. The five characters all have different play styles but the paths they tread, enemies they fight and even most of the boss battles are the same. The only difference is in how each story unfolds and more significantly how each character controls.
The five characters in the game are Gwendolyn, Cornelius, Mercedes, Oswald and Velvet all control similarly though they have noticeable differences. The most important difference is with their weapons which changes their fighting style. Mercedes is the most noticeable using a crossbow and is the only character with a ranged weapon. This also gives her story some on-rails shooter sections that other characters don’t. All characters move and attack differently so adjustments in your play style must be made. As well as the weapons, the characters all have unique skills that are unlocked in the game during progression and when found. These can all be upgraded and it would be quite a grind to unlock and upgrade them all.
What is undoubtedly the best aspect of Odin Sphere is the combat which is good because as mentioned, it is the main focus of the game. As with many great games, it is easy to learn but difficult to master. The aim is generally to chain attacks and try not to break them until all enemies are defeated. Doing so will earn a higher rank in each scenario which gives better payoffs in loot and currency at the end but pulling this off is rewarding in its own right. The game is definitely at its best when your character is juggling enemies through the air with unrelenting strikes or stacking status effects on the gigantic bosses while repeatedly pummeling them. Your main weapon will do most of the work, most of the time but it is also important to make careful use of potions and special attacks on top of this.
A close second to the combat is the presentation and Vanillaware’s reputation for beautiful hand-drawn animation is literally on full display. This is one of those games that is worth playing if only to see how it looks. Everything is intricately detailed even down animations for consumables and dropped items. I played the game both on Vita and on the big screen through the PlayStation TV and I was often stopping to admire the detail. I wish I had a got a chance to try out the PlayStation 4 version as I’m sure that looks considerably better.
Where Odin Sphere will rise or fall is based on the game itself. As mentioned, while the game offers multiple characters to play through multiple storylines, they are little different from a gameplay perspective. The paths might be different but you will be traversing the same areas, fighting the same bosses and the same enemies with all five characters. Unlike with Dragon’s Crown, if you want to see the game brought to a conclusion, you’ll need to go through all of it. For enthusiasts for the genre, this won’t be a problem but if you’re curious and enjoyed the present but optional grinds in Vanillaware’s previous two titles, this will be in an issue.
After it’s all done, there are multiple endings and a number of ways to extend the game. From the beginning, the game offers the original PlayStation 2 version of the game but this is more of a curiosity as the updated game is definitely superior. For those that are interested, the original version also doesn’t include trophy support. Naturally there is a new game plus option with higher difficulties and a few other things I won’t spoil.
With the enormous volume of remakes, reboots and remasters coming this generation, it is easy to be cynical about yet another. With Odin Sphere an exception can be made because it was released on the PlayStation 2 when most eyes were on the next generation of consoles. For a game that originally released ten years ago, it holds up very well today and this higher definition upgrade brings this largely overlooked title to a lot more people. I can say for certain that it isn’t my favourite in the Vanillaware library but it isn’t far behind. This gets a special recommendation to Vita owners as it could very well be the systems swan song.