Originally launched on the Wii, the spiritual successor to the beautiful Odin Sphere is set in ancient Japan and follows the journey of two characters. You must pick from either Kisuke, a fugitive swordsman suffering from memory loss or Momohime, a princess possessed by an evil spirit and head out to find the many blades that will aid you to complete the characters respective quests.
The first thing that hits you about the game is that is looks and sounds stunningly beautiful. A 2D side scrolling fighter at heart the environments you explore are simply breath-taking. This is possibly the highest quality 2D art work we have ever seen and it looks magnificent on the Vita screen. From fields to waterfalls to cherry blossom groves the game will have players continually stopping to take screen shots to use as background wallpaper.
Complementing the visuals is a massively impressive soundtrack. Japanese strings and pipes swirl and play to build the atmosphere and create a truly magical environment for our two heroes to explore. In terms of presentation this is out of the top draw, which is a good thing as you're going to be seeing those environments repeatedly and for a fair amount of time.
Gameplay involves your character running through said lovely backdrops left and right and then being stopped by an enemy attack. When this happens a warning flashes up on screen and your character will draw their sword. What follows is normally a very swift and brutal fight against numerous attackers before a result screen is displayed and you move on. The swiftness of the combat manages to capture the samurai style atmosphere brilliantly. Your character never draws their sword unless a fight is about to happen and the swift nature of battles helps to keep momentum and the feeling you are a master swordsman going. As you progress thing get decidedly more difficult and bosses can easily crush players but it’s those fights out in the fields and roads that help build the atmosphere and feeling of ancient Japan perfectly.
Combat itself is flawlessly fluid. You have a mass of different moves available from the start and will need to get used to all of them, especially the blocks and parries, by the end of the game. You can create huge combos by air juggling and darting across the screen to the next foe and also switch between any of your three equipped swords on the fly to change momentum and style.
Swords are what the game is all about and you can collect over a hundred of them, each with different characteristics. You have a sword gauge which when depleted will break the blade, so you need to be careful and quickly switch between them in battle. Swords will also flash and when this happens changing blade will unleash a special attack. A broken sword needs to be returned to their sheath to repair but will return to combat readiness over time.
The catch to this most beautiful looking and sounding game with precise and satisfying combat is repetition. This is a long game and you’re looking at getting into the thirty to forty hour mark to finish both quests properly with a decent amount of blades. It’s not repetition of combat as such but the traveling from one side of the map to the other, often with little happening. This is offset somewhat by the beautiful backdrops but there isn’t much to find or that many people to talk to within the environments. As you wander through screen three or four of the same forest you’ll begin to want to just get on with it. It’s not a major issue as your characters move pretty swiftly but after a few hours you’ll want that quick travel option to open up as soon as possible.
It’s a fairly minor point in what is in the most part a stunning game. If you can look past the trudging back and forth you’ll find a game quite unlike any other with a unique look and style all of its own. It’s a game that looks like it was born to fit the Vita and the controls are far superior to those present in the Wii version. It’s a beautiful and dark Japanese folktale come to life and even though there are flaws we can’t help but love it for its fluid combat, magical sound and gorgeous visuals.