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!

odin-sphere-leifthrasir-ps-vita
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.

 

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