First off, we’re seeing an awful lot of remakes these days. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but it’s always nice to sort out which developers are making a difference with theirs, while others are merely “phoning it in” to make a quick buck. And secondly, I don’t think I know how to pronounce “Leifthrasir” properly. The way I mutter it, it sounds like a French dish.
But I had hope that Atlus and Vanillaware could do justice with Odin Sphere’s remake on the PS4. Originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2007, Sphere became one of my instant favorites, a side-scrolling action/RPG with combo elements and lots of item assortment that really stood out from the usual game. That, and its art style was breathtaking. So, can the team make it work again in 2016?
Hell yes it can. In fact, I’d have to say that this is the definitive edition of the game, and one of the examples that developers can follow when it comes to porting over its content to a new platform. Odin Sphere doesn’t just nail it out of the park – it nails it off the frickin’ planet.
First, let’s talk about how beautiful the game is. You think the original Odin Sphere was something? Leifthrasir features beautifully refined visuals with nary a hint of slowdown, running at a breathtaking 60 frames per second – even when the screen is loaded with baddies or a boss that fills nearly every inch of the screen. For that matter, the weapon effects look better than ever, especially once your alchemic potions come into play. It’s like the screen lights up in sheer delight.
As for the map design, well, you can pretty much figure everything out by running to the left or right, or paying attention to the overlay that appears in the upper corner. That’s not to say it’s shallow, though. In fact, the system is much easier to use than your typical RPG, and that’s something that will draw more players in than the usual “so where do I go?” sort of player.
Keeping up with the visuals is the sound, and it’s wonderful. The voice acting within the game isn’t always on target, but it mostly is, and that certainly counts for something as you stop and chat with others. Furthermore, the music is excellent, with a fresh amount of it taken from the original release and restored with hardly any flaws whatsoever. You may even fall in love with the soundtrack.
But where the game hits most of all is with its gameplay. While the idea of building up beat-em-up combos may not appeal to every RPG fan, give it a chance. Once you do, you’ll find that plenty of attacks really come into play nicely, along with special techniques like Needle Strike and Ice Shot that enter your arsenal as you proceed through the game. Incorporating these into your attacks – especially against complex enemies that require a greater deal of strategy – is incredible.
Furthermore, there’s a wonderful combat system at play here, where the higher your rankings get, the better stuff you’ll score for your character. You can also put this to use right away, such as growing fruit that will help you level up and utilizing items to show just how much of a bad-ass you are. There’s also a solid defensive system, which can take some getting used to, but pays off as you face tougher foes down the road.
There’s so much to explore here, too. If you’re not transfixed by the many weird people you meet on your journey, which will take several hours to complete. Some may feel that the combat has run its course in this timeframe, but the more you stick with it, the deeper feeling you get with your character, and the better the adventure gets. The story’s beautifully structured, with plenty of surprises and good-hearted fun that will keep you going into the next battle.
Count how many RPG’s over the last few years have managed to do that – and this is one from 2007.
Overall, Odin Sphere is somehow better than its earlier counterpart, thanks to refined visuals, a story that holds up over time, a combat system that will appeal to more than just hardcore RPG fans (seriously – action lovers will be right at home here) and plenty of deep elements to keep you coming back and tweaking your combat techniques. This, folks, is how you handle an HD revision. And here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of them from Vanillaware and Atlus. A port of Muramasa HD would build an unmatchable amount of steam alongside this gem.