The New Voltron Show Is Pretty Sweet

I’ll be honest, I’m more of a passing fan when it comes to the mecha series known as “Voltron”. I grew up with the 90s Voltron show, but not the original 80s series. I loved that CGI 90s show, even though it had a fair bit of problems. And it’s cool to see Voltron coming back with animation done by an anime studio once more. I watched the first few episodes, and it was great! Getting to see the old Voltron crew with new animation while riding redesigned robot lions is freaking cool! I think this is series that everyone needs to see and I highly reccomend you guys all check it out.

Sweet As Syrup: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

When it comes to video-game companies nowadays, it’s hard to find one that I 100% trust. Most major game companies are run by out-of-touch executives who care more about leaching money off the consumers using unfair and unethical business practices. Now, I’m not saying all video-games are like this, just a large amount of them are. It seems like nowadays the only game companies I can count on for unparalleled quality and fair business practices are companies that make Indie games. However, there’s one company that I can count on for consistently quality games: Vanillaware.

It’s hard to put into words how much I love Vanillaware, they are by far my favorite game company in the world today. They produce beautiful artistic games, with fun action-packed game play, all wrapped in fascinating worlds filled with all kinds of perilous dangers. And it may be hard to believe, but Vanillaware has only been around as a company for nine years. Sure, the company is made up of people who have been around in the industry for years, but Vanillaware has only been a company proper for less than a decade.

I have never been disappointed with a single game this company has put out, and this rings true for their recent release: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. The game acts as a remake of the original Odin Sphere, but goes on beyond just updating the sound and visuals. Leifthrasir adds a wealth of new content that includes mini-bosses, new special encounters, an improved leveling system, and more! So, I’ve decided to talk with you all about how much I loved this game and give you my honest thoughts on this amazing game.

Keep in mind that I have not played the original, so I can’t give an honest comparison between the old version and the new version. While it is true that the original version is packaged with the game, I made a vow to myself to play the new version before going through the old one. I do plan on tackling the original at some point, but it will be more of “compare and contrast” kind of review. For now, I just want to cover my experiences with the remade version. Also, please keep in mind that I will be reviewing the PS Vita version of this game and not the PS4 one. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

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Just try to pronounce that subtitle, you know you can’t! (Image property of Vanillaware and Sony)

Need To Know Information

Odin Sphere was originally released in 2007 for the Playstation 2 by the game company known as “Vanillaware”. Vanillaware also put out another game called GrimGrimoire that was set in the same fictional fantasy universe, but was unconnected in terms of plot or setting. Drawing heavily from Norse Mythology, Odin Sphere is an action RPG with a distinctly classical flavoring. While garnering good reviews at the time, many reviewers noted the lack of diversity in gameplay and a few technical flaws here and there. Still, Odin Sphere became a classic and sold a ton of copies, making Vanillaware a hug success.

Odin Sphere helped put Vanillaware on the map and lead to a legacy of great games. The game is a spiritual sequel to a game called “Princess Crown” made by the same team who worked on Odin Sphere, prior to becoming Vanillaware. Both games combing the elements of action-RPGs and side-scrolling beat-em-ups into a singular gameplay experience.

Story

The most interesting thing about this game is that the game has 5 different playable characters, each with their own story mode. Each story mode intertwines with the other stories, but take place during different parts of the story. For example, most of Cornelius’ story takes place before Gwendolyn’s introductory level. The timeline for these five stories for this game can get a bit convoluted, but luckily the game has an archive mode that puts each cut-scene in the proper order.

Each individual story takes place in a different kingdom in the fantasy land of Erion, a mystical land-mass that draws upon Norse mythology and legend. The stories revolve around our heroes having to deal with some kind of tragedy that pulls them along on their quest. Along the way, they learn more about an evil plot involving three power-mad wizards, as well as deal with many powerful dragons and corrupt villains. All of the stories take place within books being read by a young girl named Alice. Alice has little to no bearing on the plot, she’s mainly there to represent the player who is experiencing these stories as she reads them.

Upon beating the five main stories, you unlock a sixth story mode which acts as a finale. All in all, I felt the story wrapped up pretty nicely and the characters were all like-able. Each character had something unique about them, there were no re-skins in this game! From the adorable rabbit-like “Pooka Prince” known as Cornelius, to the powerful dark knight Oswald, all of the characters bring something unique and interesting to the table. This game had one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced in a game, which is rather impressive.

Gameplay

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir plays like a side-scrolling beat-em-up, yet offers RPG elements for added depth. While some of the characters may play similar to one another, almost of them have something unique about them that makes them fun to play. For example, Mercedes attacks from a distance with her magical bow, while Cornelius is able to do quick and speedy attacks with his sword. There’s enough variety in these five characters to never bore me, even when the gameplay started to get repetitive. In fact, the repetition may be my only serious gripe about the gameplay. There was a bit too much hacking-and-slashing, and a lot of times it felt like I didn’t need any particular strategy to bring down most foes. Luckily, there was enough variety to keep the gameplay engaging throughout most of the story.

All characters have regular attacks, but can also assign special attacks to another button. All of these special attacks are very flashy and can be upgraded to more powerful forms, which is a plus. Each character has a large upgrade tree full of abilities and skills you can upgrade. Each ability can be upgraded using “Phozons”, which are the souls of enemies you have defeated. Collecting enough of these can allow you to upgrade your abilities on the fly. Heck, you can even upgrade your abilities in mid-combat! You get most of the abilities as you play through the campaign, but some are only obtainable if you venture off the beaten path. Each level you go to is a connected series of areas for you to explore. All kinds of treasures and secrets scatter these areas, so it is rather foolhardy to simply run through an entire area while playing this game!

The game boasts a wide selection of bosses, mini-bosses, and monsters for you tackle. Most battles can get rather heated, especially when the screen gets filled with all sorts of bad guys. Luckily, I never found myself getting too overwhelmed and the gameplay remained fair most of the way through. I played this game on Normal difficulty and never found myself sweating, not even once! I think this was mainly due to another feature of the game: Alchemy. Yep, you can brew up your own potions in this game. I swear, I felt like a badass sorcerer every time I brewed up a powerful planet-rending potion. The alchemy system is easy to use and you can create some truly awesome potions using it. The downside is that the potions felt a bit too overpowering at times. Heck, when I can easily brew a singular potion that poisons a mini-boss for half of the fight, you know things have gotten a little crazy.

Leveling-up in this game is a rather unique experience, to say the least. Sure, you can level up the normal way by beating monsters, but this is much slower than in other games. The true way to level up is by eating fruit, ingredients, and food. Eating food grants you much more experience points than simply clobbering enemies. You can even plant seeds and offer up Phozons to grow them into fruit-bearing trees. In terms of gameplay, the game is immensely solid. It’s fun, easy to get a hold, difficult to master, and immensely entertaining.

Visual Stimuli

I probably don’t need to say this, but this game looks freaking beautiful! Each character is hand-drawn and looks like a painting brought to life. Backgrounds are rendered in glorious HD and have a tendency to trick me into believing I’m experiencing an animated film as opposed to a videogame. Characters are well-designed and almost all of them have a unique appearance to them. The interface and UI is very well-designed and easy to use.

If there’s any complaint to be made about the artwork, it’s that the cover of the game is extremely disappointing, when compared to other Vanillaware games. It’s just a bunch of the game’s main characters standing there, with all of the beautiful color of the game drained out of the picture. There’s no dynamic poses, cool lighting, or anything visceral or attention grabbing. Heck, there’s not even anything on it that I found all that enticing! I may not have even bought the game if I didn’t know it was a Vanillaware game beforehand. I know I usually don’t talk about game covers, but I found myself disliking this particular cover so much that I knew I had to talk about it.

The game’s music is a joy to listen to, and it really captures the tone of the game and the lands you visit.Each distinctive track was a joy to listen to and kept me entertaining throughout the entire game. On top of this, the game boasts a great voice-acting team for both the Japanese and American versions. Props go out to my main man Yuri Lowenthal as Cornelius, he really sold the character to me. Despite the good voice-acting, the lips of the characters never seem to actually match what they are saying. The best thing about this game is that it managed to maintain a good 60 frames per second. I experienced zero glitches or bugs and had a smooth experience from beginning to end. In short, the presentation for this game is top-notch and sets a precedent for how 2D games should be made in this day and age.

In Summation

I cannot stop singing my praises about this game! It has fantastic gameplay, amazing graphics, a gorgeous soundtrack, and an overall great presentation. My only complaints is that the game felt repetitive at times, the potion system can sometimes make the player a bit too overpowered, the story could be a bit hard to follow at times, and the characters lips never quite matched what they said. However, these are all small gripes that never take away from the main game.

Vanillaware did something that most companies wish they could accomplish with a remake: They made it a million times better than the original, which was already a fantastic game. They didn’t just polish a gem, they made it shine brighter than it ever did before! That’s why I can say that without a doubt, this game is sweeter than syrup. If I were to give this game a score, I’d rate it at a 9.5/10. It is so close to being a perfect game, at least in my books. Few games have come close to enticing me in quite the same way as Odin Sphere has. It is so good, it makes me to go back and play through my other Vanillaware games again. Kudos on the good work, Vanillaware, and I look forward to seeing you deliver another classic with your new title: 13 Sentinels! And with that, I wish you all a good day and I highly reccomend you pick up this game if you have the cash.

 

I’m Back, Everyone!

I apologize for the lack of update the past few weeks, I was dealing with a bit of a computer issue. The fan on my laptop became unclogged, so I had my uncle take care of it. The man is a whiz with computers, unlike me. He took care of it in a few days and now I’m back! I’m going to get back into my regular update schedule tomorrow, keep it real guys!

Sweet As Syrup: Omikron The Nomad Soul Review

When it comes to music, I’d say I’m a connoisseur. I’m willing to listen to any kind of song, as long as it’s catchy. That’s not so say that there aren’t genres of music that I don’t hold in higher regard, which there are. One genre that I hold in high-esteem would have to be rock ‘n’ roll. To me, there was a singular individual who defined this genre: David Bowie. Sure, there were tons of great singers and bands in this genre, some of which were more prolific than David Bowie. However, Bowie was a musician who was willing to experiment, more so than other performers. I don’t mean just experimenting with music, but experimenting with all kinds of different media.

Despite being gone now, David Bowie is often remember for the classic that is “Labyrinth”, but that’s not all he has been involved in. Back in 1999, David Bowie created the soundtrack for a game called “Omikron”; as well as appearing as two different characters in-game. I want to talk about this game today and give my honest opinion on it. Omikron is certainly a game with a lot of jank to it and it has certainly not aged well. Does that make it a bad game? Well, let’s discuss this game in-depth and see!

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You got a little something in your eye… (Cover image property of Quantic Dream and Square Enix)

Need To Know Information

This game was developed by Quantic Dream in the year 1999, released for both PC and Dreamcast. Most of the music for the game was composed by David Bowie, who also lent his vocal talents to some of the characters in the game. The game was unique for its time, breaking the forth wall constantly and deconstructing the many genre elements associated with videogames. A couple of sequels were planned for Omikron, but have either been shelved or cancelled outright. To date, Omikron is the only game in its series and the only game of its kind. The game blended RPG, puzzle, adventure, and fighting game mechanics to form something unique. The developers have to referred to it as a “Soul-Playing Game”.

Plot

The game opens in a very meta way, having a game character directly address you, the player. This character is Kayl, and he needs your help. Demons have begun manifesting his reality, and you are the only one who can stop them. Your soul is sent into Kayl’s body, as you take over both his body and personality. You, the player, have now replaced Kayl and must solve a murder-plot which goes much deeper than you thought. At the same time, you must stop demons from claiming your soul.

I found it to be a very intriguing plot, especially the way it blended a cyberpunk plot with a meta-narrative. Unfortunately, I found the lore and setting to be a bit confusing at times. A good example of this is the demons you fight in the game. I was under the impression that all demons were after your soul, but things became a little muddled when I entered the tournament arena. In this arena, you fight these strange hairy-legged demons that don’t steal your soul when you lose. Maybe these demons were just different, but I was left thoroughly confused. Still, I found the plot to be very enjoyable overall, despite some minor lore hiccups.

Gameplay

Omikron flounders a bit in the gameplay development. Actually, a bit would be an understatement. Omikron’s gameplay is one of the things that keeps stopping me from getting fully immersed in the experience. The game focuses on fusing gameplay from five different game genres: Adventure, puzzle, fighting, open-world RPG, and first-person shooting. I’ll start with the gameplay types I found to be the most enjoyable. I liked the adventure aspects of the game. It was fun getting to run around an open-world, a bizarre futuristic city-scape. The controls are a bit wonky for the adventure part of the game, though. For some odd reason, the game uses tank controls. I found this to be annoying and cumbersome, especially when the game asked me to do platforming sections. Yeah, tank controls were not meant for platforming, even if the platforming parts were few and far between.

The puzzle aspects of the game were also very fun, at least in my opinion. Some of the solutions to puzzles were rather interesting, and some required some creative thinking. A puzzle may require you getting sleeping pills, so you can drug the chief of police and rummage through her office for precious info. Combining items as well as finding clever solutions is the name of the game here. Sometimes, a puzzle may have two different solutions which lead to two completely different results. I never found myself being stuck on a puzzle for too long, though the answers to some of them felt a bit obtuse. One such puzzle has you looking for a “secret” rock concert.

The instructions are very clear on where you need to go, yet still somewhat obtuse. For example, it tells you to look for an “antennae”. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, you’re actually supposed to follow the directions and find a satellite. Then why not just say satellite? Satellite and antennae do go hand in hand, but this game is set in a world which is meant to be foreign to the player. How is a common player supposed to know that an antennae is just a satellite, especially when everything else in the game is filled with strange and foreign concepts? I get that the puzzle can’t tell you the exact answer, but if you’re giving someone directions you kind of have to be a bit clearer than that. To be fair, that puzzle is completely optional. Other than that minor annoyance, I found most puzzles to be serviceable.

You know what isn’t serviceable, though? The first-person-shooter segments. Moving and shooting becomes an annoyance, mainly due to the computer controls. Luckily, I used a USB controller and a mod that helped out considerably. Despite this, I still found myself having to use both the controller and my keyboard at the same time in order to shoot manually. Most of the shooter segments just involve you trying to shoot a group of enemies until they die, or trying to wipe out a boss and his cronies. I never found these segments to be particularly enjoyable. My character just felt too floaty when in combat and most enemies can shoot you with perfect range as soon as they spot you. It doesn`t help that most FPS segments fail to result in a gameover screen. Most of these parts will just slap you on the wrist, unless it is a battle against a demon. Because of this, most FPS segments feel pointless since losing isn`t a big deal.

The RPG segments are pretty good, kind of. It`s cool getting to upgrade my character and make him/her stronger, but it feels a bit too grind-y. And do not get me started on that awkward inventory system that requires you to switch out an upwards of 20-30 items from you bank per chapter. In order to get stronger, you have to train by doing FPS or fighting game segments. You do this by entering combat tournaments or VR training. The tournaments always annoyed me, as they made it way too easy to make a ton of cash easy. The VR training was especially annoying, as I would have to run through one of those terrible first-person segments just to touch a post and then run back, all without getting shot at. The controls really prevented the VR training from being all that entertaining, as I found myself pivoting around awkwardly on a consistent basis.

Finally, we have the fighting game segments. These are actually kind of fun, I enjoyed them a lot! It’s your typical Virtua Fighter / Tekken type set-up. You have various kicks, punches, and combos you can pull off. This seems pretty simple, until you realize that blocking an attack is completely random. Sure, you can increase the chance of blocking an attack by levelling up your defence, but you’ll find that enemies seem to block more attacks than you no matter how strong you get. I’ve engaged in fights in the game that take a super long time, mainly due to how many of my attacks were being blocked.

Besides the various gameplay types, the game also lets you jump into other bodies. You see, if your body perishes in a fight with someone who isn’t a demon, you can simply jump to another body. You can also possess other bodies as well, once you get further into the game. This is a cool dynamic, but all bodies pretty much play the same. The only real difference is the stats associated with them. It’s a cool idea, it just feels like more could have been done with it really. To be fair, it’s really cool getting to hop into the life of a game character and explore their reality. All in all, I’d have to say that the gameplay is a mixed bag. Some gameplay elements are great, but a lot of them crumble under their own weight.

Visual Stimuli

The soundtrack of this game is amazing! Davie Bowie really brought his A-game to this project, and it shows. From the title track “New Angels Of Promise” to the various tracks peppered throughout the game, every single track in this game oozes with personality. There are a few generic tracks in here from time to time, but most of it sounds pretty good. I can’t say the same about the character designs though, which did not age well. Keeping in mind that Shenmue came out the same year and for the same console, it’s a little disheartening that the characters in Omikron look early models from the pilot of Reboot. Character animations are stilted and awkward, and no one moves naturally.

The menus are fairly chaotic, especially the aforementioned inventory system. Thumbing through an inventory has never been this tedious before. The voice-acting is also another detriment to this game. Characters either sound good, passable, or in most cases, absolutely dreadful. David Bowie does a great job as the two characters he’s cast to play, but several characters in the game sound constipated or weird. To be fair, mixed-bag voice acting was common for games at the time. It doesn’t change that the fact that it’s still somewhat disappointing.

In Summation

This is really a hard game to give a final opinion on. It’s an amazing undertaking and a great concept, just wrapped up with bizarre gameplay choices and below-average voice acting. As great as it was hearing the late great David Bowie provide his amazing vocals to this game, it doesn’t save it from being fairly forgettable. This game was also a bit of a pain to get running initially, due to it being so old. I recommend this game if you are interested, though. Keep in mind that this game can be a bit tough to play, as some of the gameplay elements have not aged well at all. This game won’t be for everybody, but if you like cyberpunk stories and David Bowie, it’s definitely worth checking out. I can’t say that this game as sweet as syrup, but it is definitely an 6.5/10. It’s good, but not great. Play it with caution, as this game can be a bit of a nuisance to get properly running. I suggest getting this game when it goes on sale on Steam, if you’re morbidly curious.