Review by evilmonkey0115

"Odin Sphere merges different genres together to create a unique gaming experience."

Introduction
Atlus is a Japanese game company known for their RPG's such as the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series and Etrian Odyssey while these games added something new the RPG genre they still stick close to the traditional RPG formula. Published by Atlus and developed by Vanilla Ware Odin Sphere, while still a RPG, strays away from the generic RPG formula by merging gameplay elements from different genres and an interesting story (if a little confusing) to create something unique.

Story
The story of Odin Sphere takes place in Erion which is in the middle of a war between the world's four kingdoms. Endephia, the neverworld ruled by Odette the undead queen who also can't leave her kingdom, Ringford, the fairy forest ruled by Elfaria the fairy queen (it's nowhere near as childish as it sounds), Ragnanival, the home of the demon lord Odin and Volkenon, the fire kingdom ruled by the inferno king Onyx. Each Kingdom provides different points of views on the war which keeps interest in the story as no kingdom is stereotyped as the ‘evil one'. The story is told through ‘books' (six in total). You control a girl who picks up (selects) one of these books with each one following one of the games characters (these are covered later on in the review) completing one unlocks the next and so on. This is a basically covering the main menu but is an interesting way to do so and adds to story book charm of the game. There are five characters to play as in the game, Gwendolyn, a Valkrie who is a daughter of Odin, Cornelius, a prince turned into a Polka (one of the games many quirky creatures), Mercedes, a fairy princess of the before mentioned kingdom Elfaria, Oswald, a mysterious dark knight and Velvet, the forest witch. As mentioned before each character has their own book which follows their personal story. The characters have distinct and likeable personalities, helped by the good voice acting, which by the end of the game you care about what happens to them and their personal obstacles. Gwendolyn for example is torn between obeying her farther, Odin, when she thinks his invasions of other kingdoms is wrong or rebelling and helping the other kingdoms, while Mercedes has to deal with the death of her mother and the stress of becoming the new queen. The characters stories cross with each other which makes keeping up with the games timeline quite tricky. This problem is helped by the in-game timeline, which details each character's events and how long they took, this becomes very valuable later in the game when more plot twists and characters are reviled.

Gameplay
Odin Sphere at first glance looks like a general 2D side scrolling action game. If you look beneath this you'll find a deep and, if a little repetitive, fun action RPG. The player controls one of the five characters mentioned above. Each character has the same basic combo with a melee weapon (minus Mercedes who I'll talk about later) and the same low level spells however the characters have unique abilities, moves and weakness's that force the player to change their strategy for each character. For example Gwendolyn can jump then use her spear to home in on an enemy which with her glide ability makes her ideal for quickly jumping into combat then retreating to a safe distance. While Mercedes has the ability to fly for a limited time and uses a crossbow (the only ranged weapon in the game) which needs recharging after a certain number of shots which leaves Mercedes venerable to enemy attacks meaning you have to take into account how many shots you have left and if your safe enough to recharge. The stages of Odin Sphere take place on a 2D plane which is on a sphere so if you keep running left from the starting point you'll eventually come back to it. There are five levels for each character set out in stages. In these stages you need to defeat a certain number of enemies to progress to the next stage and so on until you find the end of level boss. There's multiple routes through the level which a full of extra items, money and sub boss's. The boss's in the game provide a good challenge, even on the lowest difficulty setting, however some boss's attacks feel quite cheap and un-fair which can take away the fun and make it frustrating. Also quite a few bosses are repeated for each character which gets repetitive. Odin sphere also (like many of Atlus's RPG's) has a big focus on item synthesis. Once you've found or brought a recipe you can go into the inventory to choose ingredients that you've either found or grown and merge them together to create a new item, raging from hot buns to incendiary potions. This is quite fun and gives you something else to do besides combat however it can get very tedious towards the later levels as some ingredients are only obtainable through synthesis, meaning you have to find some items to make a item then use that to make an other and so on.

Graphics/Music
Visually Odin Sphere looks stunning. The character sprites for both main characters and enemies are bright, colourful, filled with detail and unique (how many games with lance wielding armoured unicorn knights have you seen?). The hand drawn environments look just as good. These range from the undead fields of the underworld, icy mountain peaks, lush forests and the fiery kingdom of Volkenon. Each location is done with a great amount of detail making a believable fantasy environment. Unfortunately during some stages when there are too many enemies or a boss on screen the game suffers some really bad slowdown, in some cases it can make the level unplayable. Also each environment is reused for every character which again makes the game repetitive. The music in Odin Sphere (composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto who composed Final Fantasy 12's music) is done well with each piece fitting their environments perfectly.

Conclusion

To sum up Odin Sphere is fun and unique action RPG that breaks away from the conventional RPG formula (and side scroller formula). This with a compelling, multi-layered story and a stunning art design has created a new and fresh gaming experience slightly let down by slowdowns and repetition.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/02/10

Game Release: Odin Sphere (EU, 03/14/08)


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