Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir - Review  

Dance Me to the End of Love
by Sam Wachter

20-40 Hours
+ Interesting story and presentation
+ Beautiful soundtrack
+ Fixes a lot of the vanilla version's issues
- Too much repetition
- Clunky inventory system
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   I have bought the original Odin Sphere twice, but never really gotten very far in it. It was a game widely praised for its originality and visual prowess, yet its known technical issues on the PlayStation 2 made it challenging to recommend. With the HD release of Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir, Vanillaware managed to remaster its beloved gem into a game fit for PlayStation 4 and Vita royalty. This new version of Odin Sphere is worth the investment, especially for those whom the prior technical issues were large drawbacks.

   Odin Sphere's story is split into five narratives of destiny, each with a hero or heroine seeking love, redemption, and acceptance. Those individual stories are further divided into seven chapters, each telling a tale of impending Ragnarok, and it's a compelling narrative throughout. From Cornelius' transformation into a bunny-like Pooka and his quest to still be with his lady love, to Gwendolyn's expulsion and need for approval from her father, King Odin, each character's story is an emotional journey, and how the game converges the plotlines together is quite impressive in its own right. The story does an amazing job of giving the player bits and pieces of information as they progress through each narrative, and it never gives away too much at a time, making for many "aha" moments. Odin Sphere's story consistently stays gripping from beginning to end.

   The problem in Odin Sphere, however, lies in the game's repetitive structure. While each character has seven chapters in their storyline, they must traverse the exact same areas, fighting the same sets of bosses, and after two plotlines, this becomes apparent and quite grating. Even though the game is circular in narrative and 2D presentation, it makes one wish that there were more areas to explore and additional bosses to face, just to provide a greater variety. There's also a lot of backtracking involved in each area because there's so much to gather and battle, but fights begin to feel samey quickly. Every area, character, and boss is beautiful in appearance, but after twenty hours of the same fights with different characters, it makes for an uninspired structure.

Pooka Power Up! Pooka Power Up!

   That being said, each character comes with his or her own unique playstyle, and all of them are easy to manoeuvre. Some characters such as Gwendolyn and Velvet are quite balanced in playstyle, while Cornelius and Oswald are much quicker to control. Mercedes features a play style that resembles a sh'mup more than anything else. She can shoot enemies while flying around the screen, but doing so takes power, so she has to rest in order for her power gauge to replenish. Power potions no longer exist in this version of the game, as killing enemies or resting usually suffices for all other characters.

   Combat plays out as a side-scroller, where characters have quick attacks and, depending on the direction pointed using the D-Pad, can also execute longer-lasting combos. As players kill enemies, they can collect Phozons and Phozon Prisms to enhance and unlock new combat skills. Leveling up can be done in two different ways, with slaughtering enemies being the more traditional method. The other comes from growing and eating food, which allows the player to gain specific amounts of experience. Items do not carry over between storylines, so it's best to use every little tidbit to one's immediate advantage.

   The combat system is great for those who love to hack and slash, but much like the game's structure, the repetition does kick in and battles can start to drag on when fighting the same enemies and bosses over and over again. Fights play out quickly, but the combat system does suffer from needing more variety to keep things interesting and less stale. Thankfully, chapters do not take too long to complete. Long load times and slowdown during combat might have been a great detriment to the original Odin Sphere, however, the remake runs perfectly, with combat now moving at a swift pace without any glaring framerate issues. The remake, however, runs perfectly, and combat now moves at a swift pace without glaring framerate issues. The game also sports an adjustable difficulty level, initially offering Easy, Normal, and Hard options with Heroic difficulty unlocked upon completing the game. However, players can also choose to play the game's Classic Mode, which is the vanilla PlayStation 2 game without any of the bells or whistles that the remake provides.

Velvet knows how to get the job done. Velvet knows how to get the job done.

   An issue that is still present is the limited inventory system, which requires players to seek out purses to expand one's bag in order to hold more items. This gets very frustrating given that there are so many items to collect from combat spoils to treasure chests. While most items can be used in alchemy to create new potions or items, they never truly leave the inventory. After eating food the character will put the napple cores and grape bunches back into their inventory, and while they can be synthesized, they still tend to take up more space rather than be a completely consumed item. If a vendor isn't found in the level, players have to spend time dropping more useless items or hoping to find a storage chest because there just never feels like there is enough space.

   Odin Sphere has a gorgeous soundtrack, with tracks that do a fantastic job enhancing the atmosphere and tension that plagues the world of Erion. From the beautiful, melancholy opening theme to the daunting boss themes, the music does a great job evoking the emotional state of the characters and the story. Leifthrasir also has a completely revamped localization, with the original English voice cast returning, and the voice work is well done. In terms of the game's visuals, they are Vanillaware at its finest, touched up for HD audiences. Traversing through areas feels like moving through a painting, and there's a lot of unique style present in each location.

   I am finally happy that I managed to complete this updated PlayStation 2 era gem. The remake does an amazing job of appealing to both newcomers and veterans by offering two versions of the game. Those who were bothered by the technical issues in the original version can enjoy the remake with all its new features, while those who want more of a challenge can still enjoy the no-frills Classic Mode. For all its repetition, it's hard not to get emotionally invested in the world of Odin Sphere.

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