Review by MStango

"Simply the greatest gaming experience of my life"

I have played well over a thousand games and beat most of them, I'm a gamer, it's what I do, heck I design games as a hobby. You'd think I'd seen it all, yet after only two minutes I was completely mesmerized, this is the best game I've ever played, period, there's no room for honorable mentions. Odin Sphere blows every thing else out of the sky, water, or where ever you like it. Some one poured there soul into this game. The gorgeous anime style graphics of Odin Sphere may give off the feeling of a kiddy game, but astonishingly it's any thing but; it just may be the most finely tuned adult gamming experience of my life. By that I mean it feels like this game is the natural progressions of a life time of playing action/adventure RPGs, it's stunningly beautiful, yet sophisticated in it's delivery, it's fun to play, but far from easy and the writing and character design is nothing short of brilliant. Odin Sphere is the ultimate Action RPG, if you grew up on games like Alundra, Castlevania and the Mana series, you may cry, it's that good.

Graphics: 10
The stuff of Legends
As long as you can tell what your looking at the artist has done his/her job, many people have forgotten this counting graphics as the most crucial element in a video game, even above game play and story. Good graphics should be the final concern of the designers and as hard as it is to believe, that IS the case here. Odin Sphere is prove positive that 2D is not dead, in fact it looks far better than any Hi-def, next gen, revolutionary 60+ dollar 3D game that came out this year, last year and probably next year. Every thing looks hand drawn and it trades in the super deformed anime style for a decidedly more artistic feel, at NO point will you look at something and say "I can't tell what that is" no, every shot, every frame is ment to be seen and gazed at with awe, like a master artists exhibition. There is also something really amazing about how every little thing has its own animation. Though its position in the industry has been elevated with this new generation of powerful systems, graphics have never been the end all and be all of good gaming, but as time has proven great graphics eventually show there age, great art does not, this game will never grow old.

Sound: 10
From Epic scores to light cheery bits
The music and sound effects are top notch. The opening score will drop your jaw as much as the symphonies that comes with the end credits (especially the symphonies that comes with the end credits). The music for each area is quite different and yet you're not going to be left wanting in terms of intense battle music and epic boss scores. The sound effects are also well place and there's defiantly no shortage of different sounds for different items/actions, but what really stands out is the brilliant voice actors, weather you're listening to it in Japanese or English you won't find your self laughing at what is in fact a pure drama that would turn Billy Shakespeare green.

Difficulty: 10.9
Casual gamers need not apply
In all fairness if you classify your self as a casual gamer or cringe at the thought of old school level game difficulty, this game may not be for you. Though many of the enemies in the game may seem easy at first, but it won't last. Basic enemies will stay relatively easy for the first haft of the game or so, but bosses and min-bosses will start and stay difficult, some will even border on ludicrous. The leveling system is unique and hard to master, your attack power, spell list and Psypher Gage will increases as you gather Phozons while your HP goes up when you eat. Strangely this is a game where grinding will not necessarily save you, as your maximum energy will never increase and you gain no new combos or attacks melee from leveling. There is also no armor system to speak of, you can equip a single piece of Jewry, but it will only protect you from a single type of attack or increases one of your abilities to a small degree. On top of that negative status effects will always do a preset amount of damage or require you to perform certain button presses to brake free. In Odin Sphere you need to keep one eye on your energy bar, it empties when you fight and refills when you stand still, but if it ever completely empties your left stunned, completely helpless for several seconds, this is often the kiss of death as battle is very fast pace. The only way to seriously buff your character is the temporary boosts you get from potions and spells, short yet amazingly effective when well used at just the right time, but you can't just carry a ton of potions as your inventory space is very limited and though you can buy more bags, you'll still have to be selective with what you carry. Arguably the hardest thing about the game is that healing items and potions can't just be bought, there hard to find and the money system is very tight, so to get by you will have to grow fruit, scare up vegetables, raise livestock, then brew your own potions and with rare exception this all must be done mid battle. Finally, at the end of each battle you will be rated on how fast you won, how much you got hit, the lavishness of your technique, ext, if you do well you'll leave with a victory treasure trove of seeds, money, formulas and other useful items, if not you may get only a single item. This games battle system is all about strategy, learn the enemies patterns and master each characters most advanced techniques or die with increasingly greater frequency. In places this games difficulty is a little over the top, if they wanted to offset that and incidentally appeal to a large audience a simple armor system would have been beneficial. Still if you're looking for a gaming challenge for your hand eye coordination and your mind alike then this is the Omega, charging in head first, haftcocked and blades-a-blazing will get you killed almost ever time.

Game Play: 10
Rock Solid
As you play through the game with all five characters the game will become dramatically more difficult, even though each character levels independently; the enemies become tougher and trickier, though your playing through the same period of time, in the same world they're experiences are decidedly different, expect surprises. The play style for each character is also remarkably different, the first two characters can block enemy attacks with ease, one can glide long distances and has some very balances stats, the next is similar, but also smaller and faster, yet the third has only long range attacks and can fly, but does not get stunned from an empty energy gauge, the forth is incredibly fast, almost fast enough to be a liability, his special abilities make him a walking bomb, using him correctly is an art form. The final character runs out of energy quite fast and has no defense to speak of, but used correctly she has the widest range of abilities and can deal the most damage with a single strike. Though it takes skill and timing to pull off all of the different special attacks it is much more effective then just swinging your weapon into enemy lines, especially since most enemies will get in at least a parting blow if you don't keep an eye on them and you can do so through the impressive double mini-map system. The main screen will show the area around you in great detail, the upper mini map will show you every thing within site in silhouette, allowing you to move in and cut down enemies not yet on the screen and spot dangers coming, the lower mini-map showing your position in relation to the area map. The controls are actually very well plotted, though the attack button and block button are one in the same you won't actually find your self stuttering to attack or unable to block, though you will occasional block an attack without trying. The games biggest and incidentally only problem is the occasional slow down, mostly during time when there's a lot of stuff going on, yet this will sometimes save you or even make an attack sequence go into slow motion and look very cool, but it actually can get on your nerves, you can tell the PS2's processor is really under strain trying to run this game. Ultimately really nothing negative about the control scheme, though gaining more attacks as you leveled would have defiantly added to the sheer fun factor.

Story: 10
You've never seen a Fairy Tail like this
Executions, patricide, regicide, genocide, armageddon, this tail is not for the kiddies. The most stunning thing about this game has to be the epic story, as you play through each character you'll see events unfolding through there eyes, though you'll be astonished how much has yet to be told as you begin anew with each hero/heron. The writers didn't try to be to lighten the mood or take the story out of it's element to pander to its audience. This game is pure underrated drama of the highest caliber, flawlessly orchestrated without a bit of thought given to losing the heavy stuff or toning it down, this is story telling evolved. Good luck unlocking the Wheel of Fate.

Conclusion
A truly surprising thing about Odin Sphere is that it is only on the PS2, not only is it a system approaching the end of it's life span, but statistically it seems unlikely that such a system could handle a game like this. The story is so powerful and moving that it's actually almost as much fun to watch as to play, the game play is flawless and incredibly challenging, even to an action RPG addicted, if you think you can handle a beautiful, intellectual, profoundly difficult game then try Odin Sphere.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/14/08

Game Release: Odin Sphere (US, 05/22/07)


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