Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is the reworking of Odin Sphere which originally launched back on the PS2 and essentially put Vanillaware on the map. They’ve made other titles but even with those and Dragon’s Crown, Odin Sphere was a classic that can now be re-visited with improved visuals, combat, and inventory management.
For those never having played this is a great place to start as in regards to the story things remain the same. For everyone else returning and wondering exactly what the original was like again, Leifthrasir comes as both the new and the original version packaged together. Switching between the two can be easily done through the main menu and each contain wholly different save files. Forgetting some of the minor points I did load the original version as it had been years and the effort but into Leifthrasir is as clear as night and day. While “easier” could be used because of the difference in designs, I think it’s safer to say polished instead as these could be two wholly separate titles based on gameplay alone.
Odin Sphere is the tale of a little girl named Alice sitting up in an attic with her cat Socrates as she reads through the adventures of five different but intertwined people. Save one which becomes royalty through marriage, these books tell the adventures of Princes, Princesses, and of a Princess turned Queen as they fight with and against each other through unravelling events that spawn from the greed and selfishness of a few from the generation past. Each having their own points of view through different points in the tale, it could be hard to keep track of but that’s what Socrates is there for. An archive of the events and how they all relate to one another. Who says adorable black cats aren’t useful?
Once Alice has picked up a book then it’s back to her oversized chair in order to read it. Unfolding more as a play then a novel, each book brings about six chapters that play out in acts. Diving into the role of the chosen character, the first act is the hub, the second is the story, the third is the stage in which exploration and combat are played out, the fourth story before the boss, the fifth is the battle, and the sixth is the epilogue of that chapter. This keeps things rather easy to keep track of as most of the gameplay is done in the third act.
This interconnected tale is all abouts points of view and in such is presented one piece at a time for a total of five stories and differentiating gameplay. Starting it all off is the Valkyrie and Princess of the Aesir Gwendolyn followed by the Human Prince cursed into the form of a Pooka (Rabbit like race) Cornelius. Filling in even more details comes the tale of Princess Mercedes’ accent to the throne followed by her cousin’s adopted son Oswald and the only one of the five who is not a noble by birth. Wrapping up all the missing details and filling in the blanks comes Princess Velvet of the fallen kingdom of Valentine and her attempts to stop her grandfather and father from causing more pain and suffering. Each of these characters and those involved only ever paint a clearer picture as the acts and the chapters are completed and the next book picked up and passed through.
Each character is broken down into “eight” chapters. Each starts off with a prelude which works as a tutorial for that character and goes over any particularities that they may have to their style. This chapter is short and sweet and is then followed by six others before diving into the epilogue that lets the player know that the end of this particular tale is near. This makes it easy to get ready for the next character as it comes as no surprise. If anything is missed it is not something to worry about as chapters can be replayed and even once a character is done, Alice can always pick that book back up in order to go back over everything.
Being the biggest part of gameplay, the third act can be short or as long as a player wishes it to be. There are no real straight paths as the map branches off and reconnects in different manners depending upon where it is located in the world. It should be noted that of the five characters there are a few that may not quite visit the same places but this switches only between one of two forested areas. If Odin Sphere would have any weak point it would be that the areas are basically all reused for every character which while fits in story wise can seem a bit repetitive especially is going through each character one right after another which should clock in around five to six hours with all their abilities acquired.
Combat, especially when compared to its original version, is a pleasure to experience.* Playing as a side-scrolling brawler players can move from flat horizontal exploration zones which may have some enemies into specifically dedicated circular battle maps that must be cleared before moving forward. Attacking enemies can seem a bit odd at first as there is only one button to do so. This quickly becomes a good thing as attacking can be done straight on, by sliding under an enemies’ guard, or by jumping above and coming crashing back down.
Normal attacks are followed by two sets of special moves that can be learnt by obtaining Psyphers that are hidden throughout the lands. The first of these uses a percentage of the POW meter that replenishes itself automatically when not being use. The second are done by spending Phozon Points (PP) which can be absorbed after defeating an enemy. These can be either selected from their menu or set to shortcuts involving the left stick or d-pad and the “O” button. With jumping with “X” and attacking with “Square”, triangle is not to be left out and has the same use inside and outside of combat. It opens up the character’s inventory.
Inside or outside of combat the use of the item menu pauses time. Accessible either through a wheel format or a box which shows exactly what is in it with more viewable space (the two hold the same amount regardless of visual appearances), characters can make, throw, or drink potions or food as they need to. If foes are being a bit troublesome, then alchemy can be quickly used in order to launch a cyclone in their direction or perhaps a wave of fire or a toxic cloud. With these options and special abilities it became a good thing that attacking was simply done with one button. With all of the combat though character’s don’t quite level up in the traditional sense.
Taking out enemies and bosses while giving experience doesn’t give enough in order to soar through the levels that required in order to finish any of the character’s stories. Be warned as this is VERY important. Make sure that you are not hungry before leveling as most of the experience gained is going to be done by eating both fruits grown on the field or through restaurant prepared meals. The dishes honestly look and sound awesome. Habanero Shrimp? Yes Please.
Eating in restaurants is perhaps the easier of the two as it uses a currency that is designed solely for that purpose. The rest of your money will go towards buying goods from merchants. The other restaurant comes from a traveling chef named Maury that can be found at rest points in a character’s travels and will prepare any recipe that is known by all the characters in exchange for nothing more than the ingredients required. The reason that more time will be spend in this manner is that it is much easier to amass what he needs versus the coins that are easily spent on very expensive dishes for loads of experience points. The other reason is that for the first three times that a dish is prepared there is bonus experience that comes along with it as a thank you for ordering it.
This may seem a bit strange but it does work out well as leveling by eating serves a secondary purpose. Each meal, fruit, meat shank, or take out that is enjoyed increases a character’s max hit points. As spending this much time eating would take forever the animations for meals can be skipped however eating out on the field has to be done one point at a time. As this has to be done one point at a time a queue can be set in order to have multiple items devoured instead of having to play the menu game for each.
Finally comes the usage of Phozons that are picked up on the field. Food still serves it’s original purpose by increasing the character’s level and maximum hit points. Unlike food, Phozons no longer follow their original pattern in which they simply increased a character’s attack power through its own separate level. Instead, Phozons are used to either make plants grow by releasing them into planted seeds or used by spending them in a character’s owned Psyphers.
Psyphers grant each character abilities to use in combat or passive abilities to aid them such as faster movement speeds, recharge rates, or even sometimes abilities that can be joined on the back of others such as Velvet leaving firebombs while pressing down as she dodges. Each of these upgrades increases the default attack and makes an ability better. Finding some of these out in the fields is worth it as maybe about sixty-percent are handed to you by completing battle stages and finishing up chapters. The rest require a bit of searching though not to worry as each one gives a clue as to where it is located both in terms of which chapter and where it can possibly be found within that chapter.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a very good, or damned near perfect, example of what a remake / remaster should be. Already being an amazing title in its own right, this tale of five individuals only got better with the enhancements made to it almost ten years later. For everything that it does, Odin Sphere was only made better by having a clear format for the telling of its story through cutscenes and gameplay in a specific sequence that makes it that one never overshadows the other.
*Combat, especially when compared to its original version, is a pleasure to experience unless you are poor Richard in which something may have been off for him with the unnatural rate in which his characters were stunned. I say unnatural because wow he really didn’t have an easy time of it in which I may have laughed more than I should have while watching him after I had gone through.
Article by Pierre-Yves