Review by WishingTikal

"'Tis only a fleeting fantasy"

How not to be attracted by Odin Sphere? Its unique artstyle will charm anyone at first glance, or at the least catch your eye. Fans of RPGs are yearning for little gems like this, but those games only rarely make it here. It's rather surprising Odin Sphere did, considering its 2D perspective and very Japanese presentation, but it's definitely something to rejoice about. Part RPG, part Beat'em up, Odin Sphere has a lot to offer, but it unfortunately doesn't deliver exactly everything you expect, if you expect anything.

Set in the land of Erion, where nations are at war over the Cauldron, a powerful artifact, five heroes of the various kingdoms pursue their own quest, but what they don't know is that their destinies are intertwined and the end of their world is nearing. In the game, you control each of these five characters, all possessing different fighting methods. You don't play with them all at the same time however, as you first start the game with the Valkyrie Gwendolyn, then once her storyline is beaten, it unlocks the next character, and so on. The story stays the same for all characters, but their quests are slightly different and it allows you to view the storyline under different angles and perspectives depending on the character. I found it interesting how at first some characters are presented like enemies as you play with Gwendolyn, but then become your allies when playing as another character.

Seen this way, it may appear as you'd eventually get sick of always undergoing the same storyline, but in Odin Sphere's case, it's all the contrary. There's so much to the game's script that if it were an actual book, I'd read it. The world of Erion, all its background history and engaging characters, everything inhabiting it is so deeply thought that it makes it believable despite all the fantasy. I usually don't like story-driven games, but Odin Sphere's presentation is just so appealing that I still would play through it even if it had horrible gameplay, just so I could get to watch the ending. It's that engrossing. Another strong point with the story is that you can listen to the dialogues in Japanese, if you're into staying close to the original version. The VAs aren't bad either, though a bit over the edge. The pieces of music accompanying the cutscenes all very beautiful and fitting as well for Odin Sphere's fantasy world, immersing you even more.

Just like the story, the world of Erion all together is seizing. The world map locations are pretty limited (only eight different levels), but what little landscape there is to see is a pleasure for the eyes. The hand-drawn graphics are really beautiful and as vivid as paintings. Sadly, the repetitiveness of the backgrounds brings down the awe very quickly. During each character's quest, you will revisit the same eight areas every time. Not even the enemies or bosses change, and in fact nothing changes, except for the novelty of controlling a different character. Each location is divided in stages that all look the exact same, and since the stages go in loop, you always see and do the same thing. It's worth going through the first character's quest, but some people might get discouraged at the thought of going through all five. Odin Sphere is best played in small doses.

The game plays similar to an old-school 2D sidescrolling Beat ‘em up (Viewtiful Joe would be the closest thing), but with RPG elements. For the most part all you'll be doing is some button mashing and beating up the enemies on screen, but thankfully there is another level of depth to some parts of the gameplay. The addition of Alchemy, which has you mixing different ingredients to make your own potions, is pretty interesting, though limited. The item management takes a large place in the game. Throughout the quest, you'll find various items like eggs and seeds. You'll need to grow the seeds to obtain fruits, which can be used to cook recipes. You can also raise chickens for the dishes, but nothing of all I mentioned is very complicated or elaborate. When you defeat enemies, they release Phozon, which you can absorb with your weapon to increase its strength (whereas food increases your health). Phozon can also be used to grow the seeds, and the seeds to raise the chickens.

That's about all there is to the game, but Odin Sphere is quality over quantity. The main quest is quite short, it can go from around 6 to 10 hours for each character (if you decide to try them all), so about 30-40 hours to complete it fully. You can select the difficulty level, but even at easy Odin Sphere is a fairly challenging game. The controls work well for the most part, but consist mainly of pressing the same button over and over. It's a shame however that the action packed screens are occasionally plagued by slowdown, which makes important boss fights a real mess, and not to mention the frequent loading times between each screen.

Everything blends in together to make Odin Sphere unique and charming, with its eye-catching presentation: huge detailed sprites, beautiful graphics and music score – there is no denying Odin Sphere has its own style. The problem however is that within the gorgeous package the game is, there isn't enough gameplay to keep you mesmerised by it for very long. Hardcore Jap fans will love the game I'm sure, yet the repetitiveness of the levels and combat system will loose other players along the way. It lacks the depth of a real fantasy, but still, Odin Sphere is a game that is totally worth having in your game collection, at least to play once in a while. Above all and what really matters, the game is a lot of fun. It's just too bad there isn't more meat around the bone.

7.5/10

Pros
-beautiful hand-drawn graphics, impressive sprites
-epic musical score, artistic fantasy presentation
-captivating storyline, deep characters
-easy to pick up and play, fun adventure

Cons
-repetitive all around, not a lot of variety
-becomes dull after a while, meagre replay value
-occasional slowdown, frequent loading times


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/26/07, Updated 06/26/07


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