Review by VagrantChild24
"A visual feast that delivers in content as well"
Odin Sphere a stunning masterwork of visual beauty. Many people will immediately discard the game solely because it is a 2-D action game and therefore cannot be considered a graphical masterpiece. Sadly it is perceptions like this that will keep the game from garnering the status and following it rightfully deserves. Let's break down what the game has to offer a bit shall we?
It's fairly rare to find a side scrolling action game with great stories nowadays, but Odin Sphere delivers. Whereas most games of the genre give you a text scroll at the beginning of the game and nothing else (let alone a short blurb in the manual) Odin Sphere crafts an amazing story from multiple angles, only to increase the complexity and depth as well as overall enjoyability. With 5 playable characters each telling the story from their own vantage point as they all struggle in the same time line of events. I really don't want to spoil too much, but you can never go wrong with complex tales involving valkyrie's, dragons, fairies, the netherworld, and so on and so forth. Not to mention the story is technically being read by a little girl named Alice as you play.
There is nothing I can say about the graphics in Odin Sphere that will truly do them justice. It is a masterwork and a feast for the eyes. Many people have dismissed the 2-D genre as being dead (try telling Atlus and Nippon Ichi that) and this game proves what a capable and talented team of artists and developers can accomplish. This game pushes the PS2 to a visual aesthetic that I can't recall seeing before. There is so much detail to every character, enemy, boss, and background. The animation is so fluid and even the smallest of details are included (chest heaving as characters breathe, in synch mouth movements, and so on) that have never been done on a 2-D sprite before. Throw in the vivid colors and spell effects and you are in a realm that games seldom ever reach. Sadly, because it doesn't strive for photo-realism many people will just shove the game by the wayside and miss one of the most visually stunning works of this generation.
While many people will call this game a hack & slash, that isn't entirely true. While there is a certain element of that available, to really excel at the game you have to make use of your items and magic efficiently. The level maps are essentially circular loops that you will keep traversing repetitively as you continue in one direction. While not my favorite layout, it works with the map system as there will be multiple exists to take to visit new areas. At the top of the screen you will have what is basically a radar that shows you enemies (ground, flying, bosses), dropped items and so on. The basic concept it simple, defeat all the enemies and move to the next area. This is done by utilizing offensive and defensive items (especially against some tough bosses), 4 hit combos, and special magic techniques. Magic is accumulated by absorbing orbs that are released by defeated enemies (think souls from Onimusha) and when you have enough, you can cast spells. You can't just hack away either as continuous attacking will drain your characters strength and stun you temporarily. Therefore you have to balance your attacks and be a bit strategic to do well. Based on how well you do in each level you get different ranks at the end which result in more money and items.
The only gameplay gripes I have are pretty minor really. The first being that occasionally during battles (mostly boss fights) there can be moments of lag and frame rate loss. It isn't extremely surprising given the level of amazing detail given to everything on the screen and the fact that the sprites are huge (your character is often 1/4 to 1/3 the height of the screen and bosses are enormous). Another minor gripe being the circular layout of the fields. I would have preferred a bit more of a platformer set-up personally but it is something that you can adapt to easily. Lastly, the game could have used a few more item slots as you will quite quickly find yourself with too many items in your inventory.
There are a couple other things that I feel the need to mention that help make this game so entertaining. One of which being the fact that Atlus included both the English and original Japanese voice track. I haven't listened to the English yet but with the Japanese audio the sprites mouth movements mirror that audio and are very well synched. Also, every level is replayable as enemies will spawn again allowing you to shoot for high scores and that perfect S ranking. Lastly, there is a bit of an old-school feeling that many gamers my age (20+) are bound to feel based on the abundance of great 2-D action games there have been in the past that I know I loved so much.
Graphics: 10/10 (I'd give more if I could)
Overall (not average): 8/10 (9/10 if you grew up on games like this and know that 2-D is not dead!)
While it does pain me to give the game an 8 for the average consumer (I'm an Atlus junky so it deserves better in my mind) I wanted to be realistic in what most people would think in their comments on the game. While 3-D may be more appealing, you cannot deny the games visual beauty. Fans of 3-D action games may get bored of the circular maps and as such I knocked a few points off.
While the game is certainly deserving of a vast audience that can appreciate its grandeur, odds are pretty slim of that happening as many will not even lift a finger at it. In a world of 3-D and photo-realism, Odin Sphere proves that you can have one of the most pleasing adventures without trying to copy the styles of others, but instead by going out and creating something that has not been done before in this day and age. All the while excelling at it and making one of the best action/RPG hybrids of all time.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 05/29/07
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