Review: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): June 7, 2016
- Release Date (EU): June 24, 2016
- Publisher: ATLUS
- Developer: Vanillaware
- Genres: Action RPG
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- Also For: PlayStation Vita
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
A five act drama!
When Odin Sphere launched on Playstation 2 back in 2007, it pushed the console’s hardware to the limit with its beautiful 2D storybook visuals. And while frame rate issues were abundant and there was an excessive amount of grinding required, the game was well received and praised for its gameplay. Cut to 9 years later, Vanillaware, deciding to utilize the power of Sony’s more recent consoles, has remade Odin Sphere in HD, as Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. Bear in mind that this is no mere “HD port”; dated gameplay mechanics have been refined, combat is less restrictive, new cutscenes have been added, and extra bosses have been put into stages to even out pacing issues from the original. Vanillaware went all-out in order to make Leifthrasir the definitive experience. However, if you're not a fan of all of the new changes that have been made, the game also offers a “Classic Mode”, letting you experience the Odin Sphere in its original form.
The story takes place in the world of Erion, a land in the midst of war, as the demon king Odin battles against the Fairy Kingdom in order to secure the all-powerful crystallization cauldron, said to bring prosperity to whoever owns it. You initially control Gwendolyn, King Odin’s daughter, as she tries to help her father win control of the cauldron. Throughout her story, you'll cross paths with other characters that will have an importance later on in the game, as Odin Sphere is split into five story segments, each starring a separate character. All five playable characters’ narratives intertwine into each other, telling a cohesive tale through the different perspectives of Gwendolyn, Cornelius, Velvet, Mercedes and Oswald. Cutscenes happen in-between levels, and are told with the same flair as if it were a stage opera, which makes sense, seeing as the story itself is loosely based on Norse mythology. Character asides will take place as the screen darkens and a spotlight appears, as their inner thoughts are dramatically revealed. There’s plenty of love, drama, and action, and it’s all very fun to watch. It can be cheesy at times, but that’s part of the charm. The talented english voice cast from the original Odin Sphere retain their roles, and if you prefer the original Japanese voiceovers, Atlus has included it as an option.
As soon as you start up Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, you’ll notice how beautiful the game is. Backgrounds are stunning to look at and character animations are exceptionally fluid, running at a smooth 60fps. Each of the stages, ranging from lush forests, icy tundras, and fiery caverns, were definitely stunning back in 2007, but now that everything has been redrawn in HD, the visuals are so much more vibrant and crisp, and it’s a joy to see it all in action. The soundtrack does a fantastic job of complimenting the game, as well as having several tracks that will stick in your head long after you’ve turned the game off.
Modernizing a classic
If you’ve played through Vanillaware’s other titles such as Muramasa Rebirth, or Dragon’s Crown, you’ll have a semblance on what to expect here. Odin Sphere controls similarly to a beat-em-up styled game. You mow down enemies in 2D side-scrolling rooms in order to proceed throughout the level. Each chapter consists of a large map, filled with small spherical rooms, containing enemies, treasures, secrets, and more. In terms of battle mechanics, you have regular attacks utilizing the square button+the d-pad, special attacks which cost power points, flashy physical attacks which cost POW, and a guard and dodge function. Leifthrasir has removed the limit on regular attacks, letting players rack up insane near-infinite combos that feel so rewarding to pull off correctly. All five characters control differently to one another; Gwendolyn is all-around average, Cornelius’ attacks are more powerful, but at the cost of speed, Velvet can pull off extremely fast low-power combos in combination with fire spells, Oswald has an insanely powerful berserker mode, and Mercedes uses a crossbow to attack enemies from afar. The differentiation of playstyles between each character helps keep the gameplay from getting stale; there’s always some new combo to pull off, making every battle exciting. The five protagonists all wield special weapons called Psyphers. These Psyphers gain power by defeating enemies and obtaining Phozons, which you collect in order to level up your Psypher’s power and special skills. There's a multitude of skills to invest in, but unless you like grinding on enemies from previous chapters for more Phozons, it's best to pick a select few abilities and stick with those.
Every time you complete a fight, you are graded on your performance in battle. Depending on how well you did, you'll be given a treasure chest full of goodies. If you took too long or took too much damage, and get a C Rank, you’ll only be given a few paltry coins. On the other hand, if you get an S Rank, you’ll be generously rewarded with many useful items. This is a great incentive to keep players focused on each and every battle.
While Odin Sphere primarily controls like an action game, it also incorporates RPG elements. Occasionally, you’ll come across seeds, which you can plant in order to obtain fruit that gives EXP when consumed. However, growing the seeds requires Phozons, so it comes down to balancing how many skills you upgrade, with how many seeds you want to grow so you can level up. Growing fruit isn’t your only option for getting EXP, though. You can also find recipes hidden within levels. By taking these recipes and their required ingredients to a chef, you can craft dishes which will net you huge amounts of EXP and increases to your max HP. Lastly, there are the vegetable-like mandragoras. These are used in alchemy, and by combining the correct materials, you can make potions. Such potions can simply restore HP and cure poison, double the amount of EXP or money earned, or can even be thrown as weapons to cause tons of damage to bosses. It's always satisfying to watch an enemy’s health bar sharply drop because of a well timed blaze potion. The crafting system here is well implemented, giving players all sorts of options.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is the prime example of an HD remake done right. It takes the foundation of a nearly decade old game, and builds upon and improves that formula to perfection. For anyone looking to try this game out, it’s well worth your time.
+ Stunningly beautiful backgrounds and art style
+ Addictive and deep gameplay
- There's too much overlap between each character segment; level assets and enemies are frequently reused
This game is a visual masterpiece! From the level design, stunning backgrounds, and beautiful soundtrack, everything here is top-notch. It also helps that the game runs at a stable 1080p/60fps for PS4 users, and delivers a strong performance for PS3 and PS Vita users as well.
Vanillaware has gone above and beyond with fine-tuning Leifhrasir. The controls are very responsive, and the new gameplay mechanics in addition to just how many different attacks, skills, and combos there are makes the game extremely fun to play.
It should take around 35 hours to complete the entire story, but the game also offers a New Game+ feature, as well as multiple levels of difficulty. Between all that, there's plenty of content for players to enjoy. If you're gunning for that elusive Platinum Trophy, be prepared to dedicate a ton of time into mastering the game as well.
out of 10
(not an average)
Leifthrasir is an improvement of the original Odin Sphere in every way imaginable. If you were a fan of the original game, love beat-em-ups, or just want a game with solid combat, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a must-play.