In 2016, we have no shortage of remakes hitting various forms of media, much to the delight and disgust of many. Delight tends to stay within the realm of video games however, as many internet commenters have widely voiced their unfavorable opinion on an innumerable amount of remakes and claiming Hollywood has no original ideas anymore. But this makes a lot of sense for the gaming industry. As we progress further and further and become used to a different standard of technology, it begins to become increasingly difficult to be able to play older titles (legally), unless you still own the older consoles and a TV with the right cable sockets. And unlike the ever present negative feeling many audience members have towards remakes having enhanced visuals and CGI, a fresh coat of paint is almost always welcomed with open arms by gamers, particularly those new to the game in question.
This was my experience with Odin Sphere Leifthrasir and I’m glad this is my first time being welcomed to it’s world. For a lot of these remakes, I often find myself sitting down for hours at a time only to leave it alone for a long time before ever returning again as a way to savour the experience and not feeling quite ready to be engulfed into all the mythos and lore within the story. At my time of writing I have not completed the game for this exact reason.
There’s a lot going on in Odin Sphere, particularly within it’s story. Initially, you are in control of one character, Gwendolyn, a Valkyrie and youngest daughter of the Demon Lord Odin, who fights for her father and his army to gain control of the Crystallisation Cauldron, possession of which would lend him immense power and the ability to rule over Erion. That basic information is all you need to know, as the game itself is very story heavy with multiple characters to take control of, each of which has their own stories that intertwine with each other, such as a fight in Gwendolyn’s story taking place in another character’s story, some taking place prior to other events and giving backstory etc. All of this is framed as stories already having taken place and being read in various different books by a young girl named Alice, as she sits in her library.
It’s quite an easy story to find yourself invested in, though is very heavy on having an extensive narrative. This is not at all a bad thing and is a credit to complimenting the visual and gameplay. The story itself is delivered through in game graphics, using a mix of beautifully hand drawn and animated 2d characters and gorgeous painted backgrounds, with many notes and letters being scattered throughout the world as rewards for being enemies that further help to flesh out the lore of the land. These notes are typically written by a variety of different people of different political standings to your current character or being a close member of their family, offering a lot of different view points on one subject or protagonist. These are lovely little additions to slowly unraveling a deeper tale, typically in small, easy to digest paragraphs. They’re nothing new to RPG’s, but are greatly appreciated and a real attention to detail in world building on the developers part.
Ofcourse, where Odin Sphere really shines is the gameplay. Having your justification to travel the world fighting, you’re presented with wonderfully simple 2d side scrolling action, with easy to master mechanics. With the DNA of a Hack n’ slash, you go from battle to battle with an ever expanding skill set of moves that encourages you to experiment and rack up as high a combo string as possible. Everything flows so perfectly, allowing for a seamless stream of attacks to be launched and have a number of enemies being juggled around effortlessly. Your main attacks are mapped attack in all directions, can be charged and done in the air but you’re also granted special attacks using different replenish-able gauges along with a number of attack items that can be combined using alchemy to create stronger or enhanced magic spells, often being helpful for a quick blast to get space and relaunch yourself at the enemy.
This all superbly comes together during the numerous mini and main boss fights. With a large health bar to drain, these become the most enjoyable sections as you try your hardest to fight some legitimately challenging and mostly monstrously large, despicable creatures that pack a heavy punch that you can feel with hit taken. When your HP drops low, it begins to become a frantic grudge match of bottles being hammered out and special abilities being launched with reckless abandon in hopes of stunning and bombarding them with everything you’ve got. It’s exhilarating.
Beyond fighting, there’s a robust item system with a plethora of foods, berries and seeds that replenish health, increase your overall HP and give you experience points with every bite eaten. Infact, eating is encouraged with plenty of rest stops present in each area where you can call on moving restaurant to cook you meals from recipes you find in your travels. Many of these meals will greatly increase your exp. and enhance your HP to varying degrees. There’s also an upgrade system to enhance all the moves you learn throughout. Exploring the world presents levels interconnected in different sections, some being fighting areas, rest points and general point A to B areas where treasures and secrets can be hidden away in the climbable environments.
Speaking of environments, I would be remiss not to mention once again the stunningly crisp and delightful art design in this game. The HD overall used to bring them to the PS4 is graciously used in really aiding in bringing this world to life. With dips into Norse mythology, the game takes on a lovely anime-esque, hand painted style, which really promotes this as a labour of love. Be it the vibrant and colour environments you inhabit or the smooth animation of the meticulously crafted characters and enemies, particularly the dragon and serpent like creatures, it all is a visual treat to behold and only serves to make embarking on this adventure all the more remarkable.
Odin Sphere is a superb experience to play. With a world rich in detailed story, aesthetic and deftly fun gameplay, it makes for a fantastic play. A shinning example of JRPG’s done right, it is a welcome addition to any game library and anyone looking for a good RPG to sink their teeth into, with a long campaign before them and hours of expertly crafted enjoyable game mechanics to lose yourself in.