Odin Sphere came into being during the later stages of the PS2, wowing its players with its beautiful art style and interesting gameplay, a defiant piece of 2D gaming in a sea of developers trying to make use of polygons. It has gone on to be a hidden gem to most PS2 enthusiasts, but now Atlus has brought Vanillaware back in to rework the entire game for a new generation. Not only is coming to the Playstation 4, but it’ll also be playable on the Vita and even the Playstation 3. Atlus are really going out of their way to give this game the attention it deserves, adding a 64 page softcover art book for preordering.
Not only that, but hardcore fans can even pick up the Storybook Edition (only on the PS4), which has a hardcover version of the art book, a special Potion Recipe t-shirt, a metal slipcase for the game, an art print, and premium outer packaging. Essentially one of the coolest collector’s edition in a while, which you can see below. In case you missed out on this wonderful gem on the PS2, let’s go over the general plot and gameplay, as well as meet some of the characters driving the opera-like narrative.
Odin Sphere was a beat-em up action game that centered around Gwendolyn, a princess of Ragnanival who wielded a “Psypher” spear with great agility and strength. Action happened on a 2D plane that was built in circles, with the exits to each circle making up the world. The maps ended up looking more like constellations, instead of the rigid square structures of most fantasy games. Combos and magic attacks were abundant, each utilizing the Odin Sphere’s iconic visuals to the fullest, making it one of the most gorgeous games on the PS2. There was also a complex crafting system that let Gwendolyn create potions to aid her in battle. She needed all the help she could get to face off against the game’s bosses, most of which utilized the game’s sense of scale in interesting and powerful ways. Some bosses took up most of the screen, colossal adversaries that posed plenty of challenge.
Looking at the remake, Leifthrasir (good thing this isn’t a video preview, I have no idea how to pronounce the subtitle) looks to make use of the new Playstation systems’ superior processors. The PS2 original did have some trouble with the game slowing down during complex fights, making optimization one of the obvious goals for this remake. Visually the game was pushing the boundaries of the PS2, so as a remake this is a great time to bring Odin Sphere back. To truly understand the game’s visuals, simply watch the general trailer.
One of the coolest features about Odin Sphere is the multiple characters that make up the game’s story. Odin Sphere is what’s known as a frame narrative, or a story within a story. The tale begins with Alice who’s reading old books in her attic. After completing each character’s story, she moves on to another book, which focuses on a new character. The first one she reads is called “Valkyrie”, Gwendolyn’s tale.
Gwendolyn is the youngest daughter of the Demon Lord Odin, a powerful giant of a man who is amidst a power struggle between kingdoms. Gwendolyn wields a powerful Psypher spear that lets her drain phozons from her foes after defeating them, which are similar to souls in the Dark Souls series. Gwendolyn is caught amidst the violence of her father’s pursuit of a Cauldron that can create Psypher weapons. Her struggles between the love for her father and the deaths he’s caused brings a lot of turmoil to Gwendolyn’s character, especially when Oswald becomes involved as a romantic element. Her story becomes even more complex as she meets the other characters, especially Oswald, the Shadow Knight.
Hailing from Titania, Cornelius is a love-stricken swordsman who wants only to be with Princess Velvet. Unfortunately for Cornelius, he is attacked while getting together with Velvet, transforming him into a rabbit-looking critter called a Pooka. To be with his love, Cornelius battles through the monsters of the underworld, using his Psypher sword in furious combos. He goes on to become the representative of all of the cursed Pookas, searching for a way to change them back to their old selves.
Princess Mercedes is a fairy of Ringford, a country being invaded by the Demon Lord Odin. She wields a Psypher crossbow to defend her people, learning the ins and outs of being a leader throughout her journey. Mercedes’ battle style is more akin to the bullet hell arcade games, as she fires magic bolts out of her crossbow to take out her foes. Her story revolves around the conflict between Ringford and Ragnanival in which the location of a Psypher blacksmith could change the tide of battle.
Next up is Oswald, the Shadow Knight, an orphan who was adopted by the Queen of Ringford and Mercedes’ mother. Oswald’s story is one of redemption, betrayal, and the pursuit of Gwendolyn’s hand. He is known as a powerful warrior, slashing away at anything in his path with his Psypher tipped sword. Oswald is the berserker of Odin Sphere, capable of dealing massive damage with a flurry of attacks while enraged. Oswald searches for peace in his heart, but will winning his own castle, Gwendolyn’s spear, and her hand bring him that peace?
The last main character is the apple of Cornelius’ eye, Princess Velvet. Velvet is one of only two in the kingdom of Valentine who wasn’t cursed by the Pooka form. Velvet’s calling in life is to prevent the cataclysmic Armageddon, following prophecies and seeking to uproot their influences on history. She is also conflicted with her love for Cornelius and wanting to be with him, but having to answer her duty instead. She wields chains with two Psypher crystal weights at the end. Her fighting style is fast, furious, and elegant, a testament to her struggle against fate and her character’s poise. We’ll be updating this post when the trailer happens to be released from Atlus
Each character has their own complexities with intertwining connections to the whole cast that aren’t revealed right away. Alice will also find other books other than the five for each character, but I won’t reveal their general plot points, even for a game that’s been out almost ten years. There’s much to love in Odin Sphere; its almost like an interactive, Shakespearean painting. The remake is refining this work, repackaging it, celebrating it as a moment in gaming history, and making it available to a wider audience.
I will admit that I’ve never played Odin Sphere on the PS2, it was a game that came out at a strange time and it had gone under my radar. I saw the reviews for it on X-Play (one of my favorite game journalism shows) and told myself that if I ever ran into it second hand I’d give it a try. While, I’m ignorant of the true intricacies of the story, I did recently find a sealed copy of the original Odin Sphere at a retro gaming store in Hopewell, PA. Soon after this post goes live, I’ll be breaking that seal to experience the game in its original form, to give a better comparison when the remake is available.
Until then, stay up to date with us here at Marooners’ Rock, as well as Atlus USA. Atlus has been releasing these character intros, showing off artwork, and much more periodically. Their website is also a wealth of basic information on the game, and its presented in a way that compliments the artwork of Vanillaware’s iconic work.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is coming to the Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and the Playstation Vita on June 7th. The game originally launched in Japan last January. Pre-orders are available through major gaming retailers as well as through Atlus’ website.