Review by Loopmeister
Odin Sphere was a game that was highly hyped by the gaming community for its pretty pictures. Of course the main elements of this fan base are the same people who malign other franchises for being shallow with either complete focus on gameplay or graphics, but who cares? The point is that while Odin Sphere is very pretty, its...not very good.
I'll start off with the good. The story is told wonderfully, with tons of psychological ambiguity in each character's actions as well as very little spelled out in the story's background that allows for much imagination and speculation as to the world's nature. In short it lets the player think rather than have the story spelled out for them. The same applies to the characters and their motivations in what they do and their various actions. True the story does follow the routine formula of the world on its way to destruction but who cares? The way a story is told, not its elements, are what make a story good and Odin Sphere succeeds here.
The graphics are beautiful. Hardly a surprise but its not just the quality of the graphics that succeeds but also the actual designs that are used. There are weird unicorn knights, oversized half naked warlords who like to get drunk in battle, demented reapers and the list could go on. Furthermore, some characters and creatures look like they actually breathe. The same positives apply for the actual background graphics too as they are highly original and look like something out of a beatific fairytale.
The music is good as is expected, being composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto. While some complain that his compositions have been lacking as of late, whether one will find that true here is irrelevant as his compositions have always had a sort of regal quality to them. It is fitting in a fantasy oriented game like this with the extremely beautiful animations.
Unfortunately this is where the good ends...
The gameplay is ultimately what kills this game. The game is your standard beat em up style like Final Fight and Streets of Rage only without the beat em up element intact. Sure you can go ahead and get right into the fighting but you'll probably get killed by the ridiculousness in how enemies are not only quick to gang up on you but also how quickly you can get killed. It adds for realism but it also detracts from getting into the fight and killing everything in sight which is the appeal of games like these. Furthermore a lot of the enemies are ridiculously cheap with single moves that will reduce you to half your health. The final insult is that throughout many of the characters' stories in this game, you will ultimately fight the same enemies over and over again and while each of the five characters has a different playing style, its not enough to add variety to the monotony of fighting the same enemies over and over again.
Another problem is the power bar idea, which is attacking several times, you have to recover or you'll become dizzy from exhaustion. This is not only detrimental to the genre this game is in but also is more of an annoyance than anything else. Another problem is that speaking of the dizzy element, it applies only to you and never to the enemies. Also there are many stages that will have some permanent side effect unless you buy items beforehand to counteract this problem. It seems like the game was grasping at straws to be difficult by cheating you out of your money.
The biggest problem in this game is next to the cheap difficulty, the item management system. Your inventory is very small but the game places much importance on items. The game places so much importance on items that it practically forces you to backtrack to previous levels just to find the most insignificant items to be used for recipes, which increase your HP, or your alchemy to be used in devastating formulas to attack your enemies. Given how hard the game becomes, alchemy becomes a must because of the game's insistence that you stay out of the fight and recipes become a must too because in time recipes are the only thing that can help your HP go up.
In the end, Odin Sphere is a game that applies to pasty nerds who dedicate their lives to posting gaming videos on Youtube for internet glory simply because of all that needs to be done just to win in the game. While it is possible to avoid all the backtracking and use constant strategy to defeat bosses, its usually too troublesome just doing hit and run attacks in fear of the enemy getting in a one kill lucky strike in a game part of a genre where you go and beat the crap out of things.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 07/02/07
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