Review | Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
"Not short to be sweet, not innovative to be fun, too much repetition to be a must-play title; but the story is good. Is that enough for you to push through? It was for me, but I wouldn't want to repeat this adventure anytime soon, probably never."
Odin Sphere is an action role-playing game developed by Vanillaware for the PlayStation 2 console, published by Atlus for Japan and North America in 2007, and by Square Enix for Europe in 2008. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir was released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita in 2016 as a remake of the original title.
Remake version introduced a large number of changes like additional stages, defense and dodge actions were added for characters, enemy and boss AI was redesigned and refined, additional enemies and sub-bosses were included, a new difficulty level was added, and the POW gauge, inventory and Psypher systems were redesigned. If I barely found any joy in gameplay aspect of this game, I can’t recommend the first game at all. If you’re into 2D side-scrolling action RPG’s with great story from different perspectives, boring gameplay and so many backtracking while playing the mentioned other perspectives; maybe this one is for you, but let me give my review first.
Meet the crew. Fluffy rabbits are cool! Each story begins by reading a book; you can always jump back to any one you like (after you finish at least one and start the rest). Too bad the concept of the game isn't somewhat different as you will be replaying the same locations over and over again.
My journey was supposed to start with their latest title – 13 Sentinels, but due to fact the title is at full price, and Odin was cheap - I just went with Odin to see if I’ll like their way of writing and their games. I can say I’m really satisfied with the overall story they present in Odin Sphere, but the rest was really boring.
You will experience the story from 5 different perspectives and learn about the big cauldron and the kingdom obsessed with its power. It lead to many casualties and sacrifices, while you represent the protagonists in these stories. It’s so arty and beautiful, I liked the graphics a lot. The fairies, valkyries, rabbits (yeah, with swords!); they’re all here, and they have their stories to tell. It’s cool to see chunks of stories from the different perspectives. I especially liked the ending chapter where everything comes together. That last chapter is different from all the other chapters where you play the same areas, kill the same enemies and bosses. It was a well-received dose of freshness compared to a stale game design which lasted for 25 hours. If you don’t click well with the story and the characters, I fear you will not finish this game (let alone like it).
Art is really inspiring. It's well-drawn. At the same time it's really minimalistic and it feels during your exploration. It all comes down to running in circles, entering other rooms, finding treasures, getting treasures, boss fight, repeat.
I knew I was in for a side-scrolling adventure, but I never thought it will get so stale so quickly. You get the experience by eating fruit, cooking and defeating enemies. Cooking is your best bet, while growing food using photons (mostly you get them by defeating enemies) is how you start progressing at start. It’s always the same how you progress – defeat enemies, enter new room, get some accessory, and defeat enemies… And that goes for 5 hours per character. The exploration is almost non-existing, the only real treat is when you find a secret room where you usually unlock a combat skill.
Gathering empty bottles can be used to produce healing or combat flasks using alchemy, but on Normal difficulty you might survive without using any. Still, Toxin is a great combat item and can fasten things up. Eating lamb meat was fun, and it can heal you, but aim to do it outside of the battle so you don't get interrupted.
This reminds me of mobile “games” (sorry, I just dislike mobile gaming in general). I just didn’t like the combat as much as the story, even though you have special skills and abilities that can make it somewhat fun. It’s still a really basic button masher that gets worse when you figure out you need to replay all of the locations/dungeons with all 5 characters. You will be doing the same thing for 25 hours, so you need to “weight” whether it’s worth it. I found my reasons in the story, but it was not fun as I thought it’s going to be.
Boss fights are a bit more fun, especially the last chapter, but overall I think this needs so much more to be so much more fun. It’s just not, at all (well, first story and the combat were fine, but everything later was a drag). I'm really sad that they didn't intruduce boss stages as the ones during Mercedes story where you fly and just move up-down while the game takes cares of flying. It was a fresh breath of gameplay in the sea of boredom.
Apart from boss fights being cool because of the art; they get stale quickly. Maybe too quickly, even tough the remastered Odin Sphere is improved in almost all areas when it comes to combat. You can even beat the game on Normal by not using any special skill.
There are no quests, nothing as a side activity other than upgrading your active/passive skills to make your journey easier. It’s all about the story and small dialogue lines you can trigger at start of each chapter, and at its end. It’s as if the combat and the whole gameplay concept is just a heavy content filler in between telling the story. I would rather watch more scenes and play less than going through this backtracking nightmare.
The only real effort is gathering ingredients to eat spicy chickens and other delicate meals. Of course, you can also buy some of the stuff such as maps of each area and recipes. Maxing out each character is out of the question, even though you barely max out some passive skills during a single character story run. There is nothing to justify these enhanced RPG character parts to make it worthwhile, so I fear the problems the original title had.
Most of the progress factors are eating food to get the EXP faster and investing in passive skills that raises damage. I did not find many uses of skill upgrades, so I just went with what was enough.
My favourite character is probably Gwendolyn (the Valkyrie sister), and the boy she fell for. I also liked Velvet, while I disliked Mercedes and her gameplay style (and its story). Voice acting is decent, but not on the highest level, and the soundtrack is cute. It fits the game, but nothing is really memorable.
I don’t know where the high grades for this game comes from. I can understand the storytelling impact on the final score verdict, but you need to play for almost 30 hours to get most of the game, and 25 hours are repeatable combat, exploration and loop of things that got boring even during the first story.
I will for sure play 13 Sentinels – I love a good story. Hopefully the concept is different there. I don’t think I will replay Odin Sphere ever again; the replay value of doing the same thing over and over again is near zero. But enjoying the story it ever comes in a form of an anime movies or a TV Show – that is something I would indulge into. Also, what’s with Velvet’s boobs bouncing when she runs? Run, Velvet, run!
"Sweet but not fun."
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