Vanillaware is, by far, one of the most respected studios on the planet. With the 2D masterpieces of Muramasa and Dragon’s Crown released last gen and receiving almost exclusive critical acclaim for the polish and beauty of the games, it is hard to not look forward to their next endeavor. When it was announced that Odin Sphere would be getting an HD treatment, it was not hard to be skeptical as the game already look stunning two console generations ago, but could benefit from some remastering. The art has been re-drawn, the combat system has been reworked, as has the leveling system, and there is the addition of mid-bosses in areas where there wasn’t before. It is basically Odin Sphere + or Odin Sphere as it was always meant to be.
The effort that was placed into the art assets itself cannot be understated. Every character, from the most forgettable peon enemy to the largest boss encounter, all feel full of life and purpose—hand drawn with a reason for being and place in the world around them. Possibly the greatest achievement of all is the fact that the foreground mixes with the back, and the action simply seems to be taking place in a world that exists in some amazingly well realized and painfully and artistically drawn habitations.
Of those living in the world, the five that story is based around are all interestingly balanced in terms of combat as well, interestingly enough that no two play exactly alike; it never feels like you need to relearn the game when starting a new character. There is a depth to the brawling, and I am sure that if one was to dive deeply enough into it they could even find a form of amazingly complex elegance. That, of course, is perfectly lost the moment the easy juggles are discovered and the baddies in the game can simply be cared all over the map as if they were a bag caught in the wind. While this isn’t always possible, with say bosses, it does become the standard and expected course of action while engaging the masses.
Interestingly enough, the flow of the game has changed since first release enough to re-engage those that may have stepped away for extended periods. New mid-bosses have been introduced in some levels, and the overall arch of the game has been smoothed so there isn’t so much grinding involved either (which is nice when transitioning from a character arch to another used to cause odd difficulty spikes in the game), and the rebalancing of the combat—which can’t be mentioned enough. As most people probably fall into the category that haven’t played since it first came out, all of these should be considered fantastic and neat additions for being a fan.
The only real complaint that one can level against Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is that it is a meaty game, and sometimes sitting down for a session with it can feel like an obligation instead of a method to relax. A wonderful and amazing duty that should be performed, but something that needs to be bitten into and chewed on. It isn’t something that is snacked on and forgotten about, like cotton candy, but instead more like a full meal that you need to sit down and experience and allow time to digest. For some that is an amazing feat that all games should strive for, for others it is simply difficult to find time in their day to plan around that.
There are those out there that missed Odin Sphere when it first launched close to a decade ago, which is a shame because it was one of the most beloved gems on the PS2. That is important to keep in mind when purchasing the game, because it has been released on pretty much every other Sony system out that did not receive it the first time around. Hopefully this time it will be able to step more out of the hidden jewel line of things and more into the forefront of mainstream acceptance where people can openly love and admire one of the better titles to come out in recent memory, again.
Also available on PS3 and PS Vita.