Review by OutOfRange

"Graphically It's Better Than Most 3D Games But Suffers From One Major Problem... It's Kinda Dull"

This game has been given so much hype, mainly based on the graphics. The game goes to prove that graphics don't need to be 3D in order to be good, and tries to show that 2D games can be just as good if not better. Personally, I don't believe that the future of games lies in ultra realistic graphics, and I was happier playing 2D games of old than I have been with the recent 3D releases. However, just as with 3D games, pretty graphics do not excuse rubbish gameplay, so does Odinsphere fall in this trap? Kind of…

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Storyline (6/10)
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The game is presented in the form of a fairytale, literally, since when you start a new game you control a small girl to pick up a book and start reading it. After you have finished the first story, you get given another book to read and so on, thus is acts as a sort of character select screen. The stories all take place in the same country, and all the different character's stories intertwine, but with the limited amount of locations on offer, they kind of have to.

Many reviews have praised how original the storyline is, and how beautifully told it is, but then compare it to a traditional fairytale. The fact is that very little about the storyline is original, as a great deal is borrowed from folklore, and the rest are just generic stories of love or a struggle. For all the hype about this game, I have to say it was disappointing to play through, mainly because the characters are so easy to predict, there were some attempts at plot twists, but they were incredibly easy to see from miles off. It plods along at a decent, if not a little slow pace, but that's mainly because it's broken up; you start the chapter with long laborious cutscenes, go to the new dungeon spend ages going through it, get a short but still dull cutscene, fight the boss, more cutscenes, end the chapter and repeat. It's this pattern that completely ruins the game since it never progresses in a way that shocks or even makes you sit up and pay attention, you know when everything's coming, and as said, see the way the rest of the chapter is going to unfold in the first five seconds of it.

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Gameplay (5/10)
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This game starts off very slow, and since there is very little to do other than go to the maps and fight around the levels it can get very repetitive very quickly. Basically, for each chapter, you're given a new location to go to, or if available you can go to earlier levels you already finished, and inside you're given a map of tiny levels and you go to each one and fight some enemies. You're timed as you fight these enemies and depending on how the battle goes, you get given a grade, and then a treasure chest appears with it's contents depending on what grade you received. This is a problem evident from the beginning of the game, you can finish levels in under ten seconds, and others without even being hit and still be given a “C”, which is pretty annoying since there is nothing you can do to improve there. Each map consists of about ten of these stages, most of which just contain more enemies, whereas a couple have shops and a few have sub-bosses. The whole point is to make it to the main boss sphere to activate a cutscene and then fight the end of chapter boss, some of which are easier than the normal cannon fodder enemies. It's a very repetitive action, and since all the stages, regardless of the environment all pretty much play the same, it's very easy to get tired, since the battle system doesn't allow for much variation.

The battle system presented side on, so you're limited to moving left and right, with jumping thrown in for good measure. While you are pretty much limited to hammering the attack button, the game does offer some spells, which allows for some use of tactics, and due to the level layout of being able to run in a circle around the level it allows for running up behind enemies or retreating while you heal. I've read a lot saying the controls are responsive, however, I constantly found I had to press jump multiple times before the move was actually carried out. As you attack, it lowers your “POW” meter, which when depleted means you have to wait a couple of seconds for it to refill, leaving you completely open for attack. It can be recharged by not attacking, so it's rarely a problem, but that along with the health bar are tiny and in the top left corner of the screen. It sounds strange, but I've died so many times because I haven't noticed how low my health/POW levels are, simply because they're so tiny in comparison to the rest of the games graphics. However, the main problem with the game is the unforgivable lag, which many have said can be lived with and only occurs in boss battles, however this is far from the truth. It occurs in pretty much any battle with more than five characters, which is quite a few, and gets worse when you start attacking, at which point it basically starts skipping. This ruins the entire flow of the battle, and can result in dying quite often simply because you can't play the game as the controls just start to ignore you. In a game that's supposed to be all about fast paced battles, how something like this can simply be ignored is beyond me, since it basically cripples the game.

The game's use of alchemy is something that's supposed to detract from this negative and make up for it. Basically, it involves using an item called “material”, which can have levels from 0 - 99, in conjunction with another item. When used with most items, when combined it will simply increase the level of the material, but when used on mandragoras or certain other items, it will result in the creation of a potion and the release of phozons, more on those later. Mandragoras can be found during battle on nearly all stages and are unearthed by listening out for a quiet rattle as you run around the stage then jumping on the place you hear it, which will bring it out and then you simply attack it once and put it in your inventory. It's a nifty idea in a way, but takes up far too much of your pretty limited inventory room, and thus creates an annoying crisis of what to take with you and what you can live without.

Phozons are released whenever you kill an enemy or create a potion, or later in the game you learn a skill called phozon release. These can be absorbed to level up your weapon, and thus your attack power, or you can plant a seed, which will absorb them and use the power to grow and eventually spawn fruits that can be harvested. These fruits are the game's main source of HP recovery, and when eaten give experience to your HP, which when you level up increases the max HP. It does distract from the tiresome battles, but it can take so long to grow the seeds that it becomes just as repetitive. You can also find them in treasure chests and as with most other things can be sold at the shops, but not for very much. Money as with inventory space always seems to be at a lack in this game, and while you can visit previous areas to collect more and sell them on, it's really not worth the time and effort and is a poor way of trying to increase longevity.

It is different to some extent, but it doesn't really succeed, and since this is the whole selling point of the game, graphics aside, it has to be considered a bit of a failure. Where the game tries to be different there just isn't enough done to it and feels a bit unfinished since there's very little depth to it, for example, while there are a lot of potions to create most are useless. The battle system is alright, but considering it has been done in other games, and better, I really don't feel that it's anything special. Above all else, considering so many other reviews endlessly praise it for this, I was incredibly disappointed with the storyline. It's bland and the characters whine so much it made me cringe, and want to stop playing the game. It's not groundbreaking, and in all honesty is better than a lot of recent games, but that doesn't mean it's good.

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Graphics (9/10)
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This is obviously where a good portion of the budget went and it does show. While there are very little gameplay differences between the levels, they do look very different. The characters all have a great level of detail and are really well animated. This is actually a far better visual feast than most recent 3D games have offered including FFXII. The only thing stopping this getting a ten is the fact that the special attacks don't look very special, and there is a pretty limited variety of enemies, about three - four per stage. It's also another problem of just going to the same areas over and over with different characters; you're fighting the same enemies over and over, just in a different order, so it ends up feeling like the same old thing.

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Sounds (7/10)
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While the English voice acting is good enough, a problem exists in that there are unnatural pauses between every sentence, and thus nothing flows properly. The little noise you get whenever your HP or POW levels are low is also extremely annoying since you hear it so much. The battle music is alright, but considering you hear it so much, it can get dull, it just depends if you like it or not. However, I had to deduct a point for the main title song, simply because it's so damn loud that I have to put the game on mute until it's loaded the save up and it's not that nice a song. Everything else however seems to at least fit in with the game alright and there's nothing that bad really other than some over use of the same sentence every five seconds, ie; “Oswald!” - Gwendolyn.

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Lifespan (6/10)
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It depends really, since very little changes the more you play, it depends if you end up liking it from the beginning or not. Personally, I got bored of the game half way through Gwendolyn's story, but persevered and in the end didn't really feel rewarded since I was doing the same old thing again and again. Despite offering different characters, they all play very similar, and the differences they do have aren't enough to provide a completely different experience. The game takes a while to beat, but it's not really an enjoyable experience all the way through, and considering it's all the same, after about an hour you've seen most of what the game has to offer.

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Summary (6/10)
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Underneath the gorgeous graphics lies a game that's incredibly bland. While the storyline isn't that original, at least it doesn't really lose track of itself, but maybe that's because each story is so short. It offers a different experience to a lot of other RPGs that have recently been released, at least for the PS2, but it's not one that is entirely positive. It's somewhat annoying that so many people are willing to overlook game-crippling problems in a game when it's presented with flashy graphics. If you are as well, then you'll probably love this game, but if not then approach this game with caution, or at least wait and see if it goes down in price. I also want to say this game got a six simply because I haven't enjoyed it nearly as much as other games I gave a seven, however I do believe it to be far better than FFXII and at least tried to do something a little different. With some slight changes and a battle system that worked all the time I'd be able to overlook the storyline, maybe for Odinsphere 2…


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/14/07


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