A side-scrolling action RPG that is a little bit special.
Much as it may seem that I am fed up with the constant remakes and remasters that are flooding this generation of consoles, the reality is that I really support them. While sometimes something new is craved, it is great to revisit older favorite games that have been given a new splash of paint, or bolstered by additional content that was passed on last time around. Even better is when a remaster of an unknown game comes around, one that may have been missed in the past, and it turns out to be quite brilliant. This is where Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere Leifthrasir comes into it, originally released back in 2007 for the PS2 and now polished up and improved for the PS4, PS3 and Vita.
There is something quite magical about the way that Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is put together, with five tales of five separate characters whose tales occasionally intertwine before finally coming together for a sixth chapter that wraps the game up. Set within the fantastical world of Erion, each of the different characters offer different perspectives of the events happening in the world at large, and they each have their own personal motivations for making their way through the story. These motivations are often deeply personal and give the characters a depth that often missing in games. And, of course, each of the characters plays a little differently, but not enough to make it jarring when changing from one to the next. The overall tale in Odin Sphere is expertly crafted, engaging and surely one of the highlights of the game.
Another highlight, and the thing that players will first encounter upon starting the game, are the visuals. Vanillaware are known for their hand-painted artwork in their games, and Odin Sphere really does look as gorgeous as can be. A beautiful use of colour and an incredible smoothness bring the world of Erion to life. From the cut scenes and backdrops, through to the main characters and even the adversaries that they will encounter along the way, everything in the game is lovely to look at. It also runs smoothly for the most part, an issue that apparently plagued the original game, but has been rectified by the more powerful current gen consoles. Odin Sphere is a feast for the eyes.
So Odin Sphere hits the nail on the head with both the visuals and the story, but these mean very little without enjoyable gameplay. Fortunately, Odin Sphere doesn’t do too bad in this aspect either.
As a 2D side-scrolling action RPG, the game lends itself well to a brawling style of gameplay, easily accessible to the button mashers out there. Using the attack, dodge, jump and special button, players can quite happily bash their way through most encounters. However, once again, there is hidden depth here and combining button presses with directions can bring forth impressive combos that lead to better rewards. The enemies are varied and any repetition in the brawling is lessened by tough mini bosses and truly epic end of level meanies.
There are quite a few systems to deal with in Odin Sphere, however, which may put off the more traditional brawler gamer. But these systems are very well integrated into the game, making them worth the investment in time. There are multiple ways to improve and upgrade the characters through their journey, from impressively expansive skill trees to equipping items that have been picked up along the way. Then there is a fairly solid crafting system in place to further add variety to the gameplay. There is certainly a lot to look at in the game, but it does a great job of not being overwhelming.
There is very little not to like in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. There is a certain amount of backtracking in the massive levels, and repetition often rears its head. But the things that the game does right, such as the gorgeous visuals, involving story and enjoyable gameplay, easily push any minor issues to the background.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a game that makes me glad for remakes and remasters. It is a hidden gem that I would never have played had it not been improved and re-released for PS4 and Vita. With brawling roots, Odin Sphere is easy to pick up but has enough depth that players can go deeper as they progress through the game. If you were lucky enough to play the original, the improvements in this new version will make it well worth dipping into again. For everyone who missed out the first time around, don’t let Odin Sphere pass you by again.