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Review: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

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Fixes everything but the grind

There are very few games that grab me based on the box art, but I can recall digging Odin Sphere out of a bargain bin (!) so many years back, both my wife and I's mouths agape after picking it up.

A Valkyrie, a brooding warrior, a bunny, a fairy, and an enchantress? We were in right away. Collectively as our first ever Vanillware game, we were drawn into the world and subsequently lost to it, as we spent the next entire week digging in.

I felt that same joy all over again with Leifthrasir.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Vita)
Developer: Vanillaware

Publisher: Atlus
Released: January 14, 2016 (Japan), June 7, 2016 (US), June 24, 2016 (EU)
MSRP: $39.99 (Vita), $49.99 (PS3), $59.99 (PS4)

Odin Sphere revels in its ability to create larger-than-life characters that actually feel formidable and complex, yet easy to connect with. Set to the backdrop of the Cauldron War, five (playable) strangers will all interact with one another and eventually unite under a common goal, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. The framing for this story is perhaps the most endearing part of all -- a young girl and her cat Socrates are following along in a storybook in her attic, NeverEnding Story style. Adorable.

With an excellent voice cast (both English and Japanese) and a story that explores every facet of the game's world and its characters' motivations, no stone is left unturned. If a question is posed at some point, Odin Sphere will probably answer it, even if it's 20 hours later. The staggered method of storytelling across five perspectives only elevates its effectiveness, and even with a few repeated locales and overlapped boss fights, little moments like getting downtime with NPCs makes it all worth it.

That's to say nothing of the beautiful visuals, which deserve to be in the conversation of the greatest of all time. The team only needed to merely touch them up and present them in 1080p with an enhanced, stable frame rate (arguably the biggest issue with the original, which would chug on bosses). That's exactly what they did. I've only tested the remake on the PS4, but I have absolutely no complaints.

So what else is new? Well, the team reworked combat and just about every other mechanic to make things a bit smoother. The action is less clunky, and is more akin to a 2D fighter with easier combo initiators (square doesn't just block now; you can hit a direction to trigger a directional attack) and a streamlined ability system. You can slide to break guards, glide, double-jump, air dash, evade, block, and initiate aerial launchers and raves. If it sounds like I'm just listing mechanics, you'd be right -- if you can think of it, it's probably there. Odin Sphere basically gives you full control of your character, as well as the HUD (you can turn nearly everything off, and the remake gives you more of a zoomed-out view).

Inventory management, which could be a nightmare in the past, is now separated by handy tabs, and players can use Phozons (more on that in a moment) manually to grow plants. New mini-bosses have also been worked in to make levels a tad more interesting, which are somewhere in the neighborhood of filler but not quite as disappointing (they're similar tactically, but all stand out aesthetically). All of the tweaks do make the game easier (provided that one doesn't jack up the difficulty from the get-go), but they seek to make it less frustrating overall. If you're somehow really pissed off at this attempt at meddling with the classic formula, you can opt for a completely original experience with a separate menu option, which hosts its own incompatible save files.

But with all my praise, the flow of the game is still somewhat muddled by grinding. There's repetition despite the enhancements, complete with backtracking through stages and environments, and a lack of variety when it comes to enemy types in some zones. The main issue stems from one of the core ways to level-up -- eating food. First, one needs to obtain a seed, feed it, grow the plant, harvest it, then eat it manually to gain large chunks of XP.

It's an obtuse system mid- to late-game when bosses start ramping up, and the option to return to later levels starts to become more and more of a necessity. Plus, even with the new backpack system, there's still a ton of clutter involved, as the RPG elements sometimes overpower the action core. It's a small concession to make if you've immersed yourself in games filled to the brim with meters and numbers all your life, but it's a turn-off for everyone else. Just be prepared to do some thinking if you're not playing on easy.

Beyond the roughly 40-hour story there's a true ending that hosts its own boss battle and additional scenes to uncover, left intact from the original. Leifthrasir also includes its own New Game+ mode that allows players to tackle a higher difficulty (including the new "200 HP cap" Hell setting) and a boss rush caps it all off.

I never thought we'd see Odin Sphere again, but here we are with Leifthrasir. Even if it kept all of the classic frustrations as is it would still be worth checking out, but Vanillaware and Atlus have somehow managed to cater to both crowds with the remake. This game is required reading, and now is the time to curl up and see what you've been missing.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. This piece was originally published on June 1, 2016.]

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Odin Sphere Leifthrasir reviewed by Chris Carter

9.5

SUPERB

A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 


 


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