Tuesday 28 June 2016

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir Review (PS Vita)

Odin Sphere launched late into the life of the PS2 and along with GrimGrimoir brought a slice of 2D JRPG action to the Sony console. While GrimGrimoir focused more on strategy, Odin Sphere was the action title and offered up a mix of levelling up and bashing things that is now much more common.

Odin Sphere has always been a classic but now it is far more accessible to a wider audience with this remake. This is mainly down to the changes made to the combat system which makes it more fluid and brings it closer to systems found in Muramasa: Rebirth – another gorgeous looking 2D game remade for the Vita. Veterans of the game need not fear though as you can play the original version of the game also (although sadly not with the extra lovely visual overhaul).

Speaking of the visuals they are stunning. The game always looked good but the crisp Vita screen makes everything sing and sparkle in a way that hints at magic beneath the surface of the world just waiting to be released. Characters are highly detailed while lighting and glow effects illuminate beautifully illustrated backgrounds. The story is one of magic and fantasy and the world fits it perfectly.

The structure of the game has you taking control of a number of characters as a story of prophecy and armageddon is told via a girl reading a book. You start with Gwendolyn, Valkyrie daughter of the king and switch to four other characters as you progress. You’ll be with each character for a large period of time though so don’t expect to be switching around every few chapters. It’s very much a case of finishing one story before moving onto the next. It can also be quite jarring after you’ve spent six to eight hours with someone to move to the next character that has a completely different fighting style.

As the different stories are told the protagonists will often clash with each other. This eventually leads to a final book where players must pitch the right characters against the right enemy in order to achieve the ‘happy’ ending and also reveal a final hidden text.

The structure of the game is fairly straight forward. You move to an area and then progress through a series of linked 2D arenas. Some contain battles while others will have rest spaces, treasure or simply be pretty to look at as you run through. Each location is ended with a boss fight and normally has a few smaller bosses along the way as well. You can also explore away from the main areas to find extra items and skills. Skills can then be further leveled up through points gathered from enemies and ‘Phozons’ that are released by butterflies, certain plants and dead monsters.

Aside from bashing things your main focus is on food. You can plant seeds and grow fruit and also collect ingredients to have cooked into meals by wandering chefs for you. Each time you eat you not only recover health but also slightly boost you maximum hit points and also get experience to level up. This makes the eating part of the game key to progressing as without constantly munching you may find yourself too weak for later levels.  There is also an alchemy system at work which lets you mix potions with collected ingredients.

It’s a wonderfully characterful game and there certainly isn’t much out there like it. The high fantasy story isn’t anything particularly knew but it is an interesting tale with a number of decent twists that should keep you occupied through the many hours of gameplay. The change in systems really helps the game to flow and while it certainly seemed to make the game easier that is no bad thing as the original was one of the toughest games we’ve ever played with progress constantly stopped by leveling walls, awkward combat and super powered enemies. We loved it but we certainly won’t be loading up the classic version of the game any time soon when we have this absolute joy to play with.

Overall, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a perfect fit for the Vita. It sits very nicely alongside Muramasa and Dragon’s Crown as a combat heavy RPG while also being an all-round better experience than both of them. The new approach to the combat and revitalised visuals make it feel fresh and relevant and it’s about as essential as any Vita game has been for a very long time. It’s deep, satisfying and gorgeous. It always was a classic and certainly still is.

Overall 9/10

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