Odin Sphere was a late era PlayStation 2 game that saw incredibly positive reviews and have since garnered a faithful following as a cult classic. Unfortunately, due to how close it came out to new and more powerful hardware, it didn’t get the same public awareness as the titles coming out at the time for PlayStation 3. Odin Sphere also suffered from problems that are inherent in later gen games, mainly the limitations of outdated hardware and the resulting ceiling that most games bump their heads on when a generation is getting ready to sing its last song. In this game’s case, it was evident that it was meant for a much more powerful console, plagued by slowdown and long loading times. A shame, because the game underneath all these limitations was probably one of the most beautiful titles ever to grace the PlayStation 2.
Fast forward almost a decade later, not to mention a couple console generations, Atlus has finally put a definite version of Odin Sphere out for all of the current Sony machines. Dubbed Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, this new and reworked version of the game is by far the best way to experience all the beauty that Odin Sphere had to offer back in 2007, now under a fresh and redrawn presentation and re-tinkered gameplay.
Everything about this game oozes with thoughtfulness to style. From the get go, you’ll be treated to a slower pacing of storytelling that moves from panel to panel via fully voiced cutscenes full of drama and romance worthy of the classic folktales of old. Odin Sphere’s story is split among tomes and deal with a variety of characters that by the end of the game intersect and interact among themselves, weaving into a sizable tale that easily takes well over forty hours to finish, possibly more if you decide to fully develop skills and explore all the maps.
The sphere part of the game comes through in the way the world is presented. Each screen is a two dimensional plane that infinitely loops, most of the time featuring more than one exit that lead to other similarly shaped rooms. These rooms also vary in types. Some are empty, acting as rest spots for you to level up and heal your character, while others basically serve as means of giving you inventory items. The rest are combat arenas that pit you against waves of enemies, sometimes bosses, for you to chop and dice to your heart’s content.
Unfortunately, the combat portion of Odin Sphere is probably its least impressive feature. While it’s certainly fun to quickly build up ridiculously high combos that can reach triple digits in a manner of seconds, the enemies themselves feel like hit sponges that rarely vary in approach, mostly due to how much havoc you can deal with your own attacks. Sure, there’s the occasional deflect attack and block poses that show up from time to time, but in most occasions, you’ll blow through combat scenarios in a matter of seconds. On one hand, it helps make you feel incredibly powerful, like the characters the game’s lore so richly builds up, while in the long run, it turns the game’s fighting into a rather mindless affair. Boss fights, though, do throw some variety in, but aren’t enough to quell the overall feeling of combat fatigue.
Rather, the task of somehow making the fighting bits of the game more exciting falls to you, via the skill upgrade and discovery system, which is where you’ll spend the bulk of the phasion orbs that enemies drop upon defeat. Most of the skills you develop help pack the aforementioned punch in combat, dealing an absolutely enormous amount of damage to the ever growing number of enemies on screen. The phasion you gather can also be used to help grow crops you plant, which in turn yield a variety of bonuses and healing, as well as giving you ever valuable experience points.
Planting crops is one of the unique twists in this game that help make it much more than just a pretty action game. That’s due to the fact that the plants that grow don’t merely limit themselves to bearing fruit and vegetables, also giving you live animals and other trinkets which see some different uses depending on how you decide to consume them. For instance, by planting a particular crop, you’ll get lambs who can then be slaughtered for meat, which can then be either eaten right away or brought over to a cook, who can turn it into a stew or chop with much stronger stat benefits, through the use of new recipes you pick up along the way.
In fact, picking up and smartly using items is paramount to developing your various Odin Sphere heroes. The sheer amount of different concoctions you can craft and use is just bonkers, which certainly helps to prolong the game in more interesting ways than simply having more and more enemies to slash your way through. This adds an unique farming mechanic to the game, not only in the literal sense of actually growing crops, but also in its more modern use of the word, by having to look and accumulate the necessary items for the growing needs of these recipes. Thankfully, you’ll rarely have to do the MMO thing of sitting in a single place killing numerous amounts of enemies in order to get that one particular item for that one recipe that has a .001% chance of dropping, though.
It would be a disservice to not mention how gorgeous this game looks and sounds all throughout. Odin Sphere was already a looker back in 2007, but the competition is much more fierce in the visual department now, which only makes the work Vanillaware put into the game back then seen even more impressive in 2016. Everything has received a clean up and looks absolutely amazing and clear, showing off the sheer amount of detail put into every single character sprite, item, and background. It goes without mentioning that Odin Sphere Leifthrasir runs at a smooth 60 fps in 1080p widescreen, never slowing down. And thanks to its digital form, the loading times are millisecond long, with brisk transitions between screens and menus.
Regardless of how you’ll probably end up feeling about the combat in Odin Sphere, there’s no denying the game deserved a second chance. Its story and characters are incredibly well developed, making it worth getting through the overall mindlessness of the combat sections. Thanks to its many presentation and gameplay improvements, Leifthrasir is the definitive way of experiencing an already thoughtful and beautiful game that happened to be mired by the limited technology at the time of its original release.