Odins Sphere Leifthrasir
Release Date: 06/07/2016
When Odin Sphere was originally released in 2007 on the PlayStation 2, I was excited from the moment it was announced and followed its development consistently all the way through to its final release. When it came out I dove right in, and I found it to be a fun, beautiful, well designed and executed experience, despite some slow-down issues. Partly because of that experience, putting it in the PlayStation 4 today feels kind of weird. It still looks amazing and plays well, and in fact lives up to the rose colored memories I have of it, but at the same time, it feels very old, and certain design choices stand out more now than they did during its original release.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a 2D, side-scrolling action RPG with a heavy emphasis on swords and sorcery with a Norse twist. There are five playable characters (Gwendolyn, Cornelius, Mercedes, Oswald, and Velvet), and each has their own story that intersects with the others, which must be played in a set order. Each character has their own skill trees and experience levels as well, so by the end you may be a bit tired of the upgrade grind. Combat is combo heavy, mixing strikes done with various uses of directions, presses and holds of the square button as well as your elevation, as combat can take place on the ground or in the air. Magic gets thrown in via menu or binding spells to the circle button. You can rack up combos in the hundreds, if the enemies stay alive long enough. Four of the characters have melee weapons, while the last has a magic crossbow.
The biggest draw of Odin Sphere, both now and then, is that it is a number one stunner visually, with outstanding hand draw characters and animation that is a feast for the eyes. Framed animation cells from this game would look right at home on your wall. While the music won’t be stuck in your head, it is perfect in the moment. There are some great sound effects, and most of the voice acting is top notch, though some has weird after effects on them making it sound a bit out of place.
The controls all work and are buttery smooth; you run, jump, attack, use magic and more with a slick, immediate feeling to the actions as you perform them. When you press the button, it happens in screen lightning quick. I do wish it felt more like attacks had impact. When your lance or sword strikes it just feels kind of weightless: I like a little more thump in my melee attacks. The way you run or fly has a very fast and sleek feeling to it and it can be fun to just run from screen to screen. The original release featured a lot of slow-down, which has been almost entirely eliminated, and I… kind of miss it. It is like playing Mega Man without the slow-down and sprite-flicker, it just does not feel right when you are used to the old way.
Also, be prepared for menu screens, just so very many menu screens. It feels like 70% of the game is spent in menus. You have menus for inventory, magic, upgrades, and more. Luckily some magic can be bound to the circle button plus various directions, making it so you won’t have to stop the action every time you want to make it rain ice. Also steel yourself for all the inventory management. You can get backpacks to carry more goodies (potions, seeds, equipment, etc…) but the expansions always seem to come about a little too late. You will all-to-often find yourself putting things in your storage or just selling it.
All of the characters will be seeing the same basic levels and bosses, just in a different order and sometimes in different places. The game could also stand to let you select the character you want from the start and play their campaigns in any order. The game would have been a great candidate to be released episodically.
Playing the Odin Sphere is fun, but I don’t feel much drive to move forward. RPG elements usually inspire me, but between growing plants, eating food, and fighting, it feels like a lot of work without much reward. Maybe if new powers were due to level-ups and not from finding them in the world.
Short Attention Span Summary
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is interesting in that it made quite a few updates that make if feel and play much better but those improvements make it line up with the memories you had of it and not what it actually was. It is now a much better game, but still feels a tad bit antiquated. It is gorgeous and has fantastic art design along with some great music, and generally tight controls. Despite this, it can feel a bit soulless at times, especially during Gwendolyn’s campaign, but when it all lines up it is a very satisfying game with many outstanding qualities.