Everyone has their “white whale” game. The game that you’ve been dying to play but for one reason or another, it hasn’t happened. For me, that game was Odin Sphere. I saw a trailer years ago on IGN and I thought anime style Norse mythology where do I sign up? Unfortunately for me, it was a limited release PS2 game and I was never able to find a copy. Fast forward 5 years and it arrived on PS3 as a PS2 classic and for one reason or another, it still didn’t happen. Vanillaware must have been reading my mind because last year they announced an HD remake titled Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. That remake has finally arrived and it’s better than I could’ve ever imagined.
Odin Sphere’s story follows five protagonists as they interact during the days leading up to the Norse end of days also known as Ragnarok. Gwendolyn is a Valkyrie and the daughter of King Odin. Cornelius is the Prince of a neighboring country, Titania, who finds himself transformed into an anthropomorphic rabbit known as a Pooka due to a mysterious curse. Mercedes is a young fairy who after the untimely death of her mother finds herself becoming the queen of the fairies. Oswald is the shadow knight who is under the employ of the fairies who raised him since he was a baby. Velvet is the princess of the fallen kingdom of Valentine who finds herself at the center of the conflict due to her unique connection to the Crystallization Cauldron, the central object of conflict in Odin Sphere. Anyone familiar with the movie Pulp Fiction will understand how the story is structured. Each character’s chapter is told from their perspective and at times will overlap with the stories of other characters. Through the course of the game, you will get a full picture of the story by seeing it from multiple perspectives.
Odin Sphere is a side scrolling RPG. You complete combos attacks against enemies as you clear stages on multiple maps. Throughout the map, you will be rewarded with clearing each stage with specific items which vary from consumables to equipment to quest items required to reach the final boss. There are 8 different maps each with their own unique set of stages and enemies so there is a ton of variety in the game which was a common complaint in its original incarnation. Each character plays slightly so you have to adopt a specific strategy for each character. For example, Valkyrie uses a spear and has sweeping attacks. She also has the ability to glide across the stage. Mercedes, on the other hand, uses a crossbow and is capable of sustained flight. It’s recommended that she be used from long range. Also, she has to manually reload while on the ground which leaves her vulnerable for a few seconds.
Being that that Odin Sphere is an RPG there are two major ways to level up your character, experience from killing enemies and consumables. The cool thing about consumables is the sort of crafting system in place. Rather than just picking up edible items in the field and at the vendor you also have the ability to combine different ingredients to make dishes that give you a much greater leveling boost. Also the more dishes you find and consume the more different recipes you have at your disposal. While using consumables is completely optional you’ll definitely find yourself under powered when it comes time to fight the final boss of each map. Through the use of recipes and consumables, I was able to keep my characters at a minimum 3 levels above any of the bosses.
Flying in the face of virtually all of its contemporaries, Vanillaware has stuck to its guns in regards to 2D sprites. Games like Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained, and even King of Fighters have abandoned their 2D sprite roots in favor of a more cost-effective 2.5D alternative by using 3D models on a 2D backdrop. Vanillaware employs some really high-resolution sprites and backgrounds throughout the entire game which gives it a beautiful cross between anime and stylized art. All the characters pop and their animations are incredibly smooth. Performance on PS4 is smooth never dropping below the coveted 60fps. The vita version, on the other hand, does frequently dip below that when the enemy count is too high or when there are too many attack animations going off at once. I played a bulk of the game on Vita so I can say it was never a problem that really ruined my experience with the game. Honestly, whether you play it on consoles or on Vita you’ll enjoy it. It’s also cross save so you can buy both versions if you’re so inclined.
Outside of some minor performance hitches on Vita, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is as close as you’ll ever get to a perfect remake/remaster as you’re going to get. It brings its graphics into the HD era. It addresses the complaints leveled at the original while also adding its own spin on it. It also scales perfectly to every platform. If all those things weren’t good enough you can even play the original version with the newly remastered graphics (including the 4:3 aspect ratio of the original). Combine those with a very slick presentation and you have the makings of a classic well worth the price of admission.