Not too many people remember Odin Sphere for the PS2 – it was released during the latter stages of the console’s lifecycle, and didn’t get the exposure and sales it deserved. Hopefully Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir will set that straight, as it is – in all but name – the ultimate version of the original PS2 game. Here is our review.
We seem to be living in the age of remasters and HD editions, but Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is different. It’s much more than a little upgrade, though not quite a re-imagining either. Instead, it polishes an already good game in a variety of ways to make for a wonderful experience – especially on the Vita, which is the version we’re looking at.
On the Vita, Muramasa Rebirth is considered to be one of the best looking games out there. Just looking at a few screenshots, you’d be forgiven for wondering what the big fuss is about. It doesn’t feature state of the art 3D graphics, and doesn’t even seem to push the Vita to its limits like games such as Killzone or Uncharted do. Instead, Muramasa developer Vanillaware excels through their use of 2D sprites, animation, artwork and color. And Muramasa isn’t just a fluke, because those same qualities shine through in Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir.
Besides a pretty exterior, the game also has an engaging structure in terms of story and campaign development. Playing from the perspective of five different characters, you have five campaigns to complete before reaching one or two final chapters that bring everything together. What’s interesting about this is not just that it offers excellent value – with a playtime of over 25 hours – the individual storylines for the characters also intersect and give you a view of the world around you from different perspectives. The characters themselves are different enough from one another to make each playthrough feel new, but you’ll see a bit of repetition later on when you re-visit locations, characters and even monsters.
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir gives the original game a graphical overhaul, making it look better than ever. Gone are also the bouts of slowdown that plagued the PS2 original, as the game has been optimized for present-day hardware – and it’s great to see the Vita perform all this. The upgrades to Odin Sphere don’t stop there though. The game adds a few new monsters, has a tweaked balance system and an optimized game world map – which helps prevent some of the repetition. If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic then you can disable all these gameplay tweaks and play the game in ‘classic mode’, but note that this isn’t a port of the original game since classic mode retains the upgraded graphics of Leifthrasir.
The story is a mix of fantasy and fairytale, complete with princes, princesses and knights. It gets off to a slow-ish start but once stories start intersecting things get really interesting. At the point where repetition starts to sink in, the sixth and seventh chapters really liven things up again, so it’s a campaign worth seeing through to the end despite its lengthy nature. What helps is that gameplay gets mixed up depending on the character you’re playing with. An action RPG at heart, it makes a big difference if your current character is melee-focused or prefers to fight battles from afar, just to give an example. Being an action RPG, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir sees you gain experience, grow your character, use new weapons and learn new skills. In addition, you’ll have to keep your heroes well fed so that they’re rested for battle.
Voiceovers are offered in English as well as Japanese, and both are well done so your choice here ultimately depends on personal taste. The game’s audio score is further completed with a fitting musical/orchestral as well as a wide array of sounds effects. This makes Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir a real audiovisual treat that’s a must-play for Vita owners. The already excellent Odin Sphere has been improved in many ways, which makes this release more than worth considering even for those who played or maybe still own the original. Highly recommended.