Odin Sphere Leifthrasir Review

  • Developer: Vanillaware
  • Publisher: Atlus
  • Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
  • Release Date: 7 June 2016
  • MSRP: $59.99 (PSN)

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a remaster of a PS2 game of the same name.  A more accurate description would be a reworking.  The original was a great concept but was bogged down in tedium, which I’ll address later.  Some of you may be familiar with Vanillaware’s other works, such as Dragon’s Crown and Muramasa: The Demon Blade.  This game follows a similar style as the previously mentioned games.  Odin Sphere is two dimensional sidescrolling beat’em up with a picture book aesthetic.  The game is heavily inspired by fairy tales, Norse mythology, and the writings of Shakespeare.  If you’ve seen Dragon’s Crown, then you’d be familiar with Vanillaware’s usual art style.  Odin Sphere is jammed pack with hours and hours of content.  Let’s dive in!

Story

Odin Sphere tells the story from the perspective of five characters.  The plot unfolds in a series of books read by a little girl named Alice and her cat, Socrates.  I like the unique storytelling style.  It gives you the motivation to keep playing.  Each character’s point of view adds more context to the story.

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Gwendolyn and Oswald do battle.

As stated earlier, the story follows the fates of five characters.  It begins with Gwendolyn, a Valkyrie who is the daughter of Demon Lord Odin.  She is banished for defying her father and is arranged to marry Oswald.  She eventually comes to love him.  Gwendolyn always tries to do the right thing and often suffers for it.  Then there’s Prince Cornelius of Titania, who is cursed and transformed into a humanoid rabbit-like creature called a Pooka.  He’s also been sent to the Netherworld.  He must find a way to regain his original form and reunite with Velvet, his true love.  Mercedes is the Fairy Queen.  She takes the throne after the death of her mother, Queen Elfaria.  There is betrayal in the midst of the fairies and Mercedes must find a way to protect her kingdom.  Oswald is a berserker knight who transforms into a beast.  He is deeply in love with Gwendolyn, who despises him at first.  As a child, he was taken in by Melvin, an adviser to Queen Elfaria with a nefarious plan.  Oswald’s power eats away at him and tries to use his love for Gwendolyn to overcome it.  The final character you play as is Velvet, an exiled princess of the fallen kingdom of Valentine.  She must confront her deceased grandfather’ horrendous deeds as his soul continues to wander.

Each character’s story connects to the greater story at large.  All of the events that transpire are part of the Cauldron War, a conflict over an all powerful magical artifact that could easily destroy the world.  There are many men with their eyes set on the Cauldron.  Every character is connected to the Cauldron in some way.  They must keep it away from those who lust for power.  Mistakes of the past must not be repeated.

You really come to care for these characters.  Spending so much time with each character gives you reason to be invested in their fates.  The story brilliantly intertwines, and everything comes full circle.  Its great for those who love Norse mythology and classic fairytales (not the Disney versions).

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Velvet and Cornelius.

Gameplay

Odin Sphere is a combination beat’em up and RPG.  The levels playout in a two-dimensional sidescrolling space, destroying every enemy is sight.  Only certain sections of the map have combat.  Once every enemy in the area is defeated, the player is given a score and grade.  You will often get rewards based on what grade was achieved.  The player will get experience with every fight.  Rest areas give you a chance to eat food.  Food is the best way to level up and avoid grinding.  Every map has several mini bosses and a final boss.  The boss fights were challenging and exhilarating to beat, testing all the skills you’ve acquired.

Each character has a unique weapon and combat style.  The weapons are called Psyphers and become more powerful as the player absorbs phozons from defeated enemies.  The phozons are used to obtain new skills and upgrade them, as well as make the weapon stronger.  Some skills use the POW meter while others take up power points (PP).  The POW meter replenishes after a few seconds.  PP is restored by either taking a potion, collecting phozons, or leveling up.  Odin Sphere gives the player many different skills to unlock, meaning combat is always spiced up when you start to get bored.

Eating food is a major mechanic.  Every map has several rest spots, where a wandering Pooka chef cooks food based on ingredients you’ve gathered.  This is the main method for gaining experience points.  Eating cuts out the grinding that would otherwise bog down the game in tedious busy work.  The key is gathering good ingredients to level up faster.

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Another notable game mechanic is alchemy.  Potions will prove valuable in battle.  Whether that be replenishing health or using magic to damage enemies.  Potions are crafted through the cultivation of Mangragoras.  Make sure to gather enough bottles.  Try not to rely too much on potions to attack, as enemies defeated with potions will not give phozons.

Now I’d like to go into detail about each character’s fighting style.  Let’s start with Gwendolyn.  She is a Valkyrie and can fly for a brief period of time.  Her weapon of choice is the Psypher Spear.  Gwendolyn likes to get up close and personal.  Since she can fly, aerial attack will be useful.  Gwendolyn is the most balanced fighter, which is why she’s the first character you play as.  Next is Cornelius, who fights like Sonic the Hedgehog with a sword (cue flashback to Sonic and the Black Knight).  He is acrobatic and extremely quick.  Cornelius is a short-range fighter.  His weapon is the Psypher Sword.  Mercedes being a fairy means she can fly.  Suddenly, the game has transformed into a shoot’em up.  Mercedes is more like a fighter jet than a fairy.  Her weapon of choice is the Riblam, a Psypher bow.  The bow gives her an advantage at long-range.  She can be difficult to get used to, as her style is so different.  Oswald uses a Psypher sword called the Belderiver.  He is a powerful knight with incredible speed and jumping ability.  Oswald uses the dark power Queen Odette of the Netherworld to turn into a powerful beast when in Shadow Form.  The Shadow Form is activated when the Berserk meter fills up.  This form makes Oswald absurdly strong and fast.  Velvet uses the Graveryl Chain and whips her opponents (Oh so kinky!).  She fights at midrange.

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The combat is lightning quick and highly customizable.  One of the best improvements in Leifthrasir was changes to how skills work.  In the original, skills were bound to a menu, meaning you had to pause the fight and activate a skill.  Basic attack used up the POW meter.  Combat had too many starts and stops, making the whole game clunky.  Leifthrasir removed the skill menu.  Now players can map skills to specific button combinations.  Normal attack no longer uses the POW meter.  You don’t have to stop combat repeatedly and are free to fight exhilarating lightning fast combat.  This is how you do a remaster.

Graphics

Odin Sphere is a beautiful game.  Words fail to give it justice.  One must see for themselves.  It uses a picture book aesthetic.  The visuals are simply breathtaking.  The background and foreground are filled with meticulous detail.  If you’ve played a Vanillaware game, then you’d know this is par for the course.  Director George Kamitani has a very recognizable art style.  Just incredible art direction.  The characters have such diverse designs.  Odin Sphere’s world is so imaginative and full of wonder.  The game runs silky smooth on PS4.  Combat runs at a consistent 60 fps, which complements the lightning quick battles.

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Sound

Odin Sphere has a gorgeous soundtrack.  The orchestral arrangements are perfect for the fantasy setting.  Forests have peaceful songs.  Battles have epic sounds to make combat more, well, epic.  The sad moments have music that fit the melancholic atmosphere.  I would buy it on CD if I got the chance.  The voice acting isn’t great but is passable.  Not much to say about it.

Final Thoughts

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a remaster done right.  It fixes the problems found in the original PS2 version and transforms it into an instant classic.  Lightning fast battles and numerous unlockable skills keep the game fresh.  Every will pixel and song will take your breath away.  If you have a PS4, get this game.    

8/10 

             

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