Review by pixielate_com

"Repetative, yet Rewarding"

With the raving success of Disgaea, a score of similar RPG-infused action and tactics games were seen fit to localize by Atlus and other game developers. But success of these hand-drawn, anime-reminiscent, high-fantasy games has been spotty at best. Odin Sphere is a solid action-RPG release, hearkening back to classics like Valkyrie Profile. It's a beautiful, story-rich, side-scrolling crafting game disguised as a battle between fairies and demons.

I say it's a crafting game, since a good 50% of your time will be spent crafting food and potions and otherwise managing your inventory. Your character has two channels for character development: weapon level and hitpoint level. The monsters you kill yield phozons, which you can absorb to level up your weapon. Or you can leave the phozons floating around, and they will be absorbed by seeds you collect and plant. Your planted seeds become fruit (and sheep!) trees. Eating food is the only way to level up your hit points. Later in the game, you can collect different types of food and bring them to the pookas - a rabbit-like people. For a small fee, the pookas will make your food into delicious meals with better stats.

The battles are a little tough, and require some coordination to fight in every point of the 2-d plane. Monsters will come at you in enormous groups and they won't conveniently stop, split up, or take cover. You do have to manage your power - if you attack too frequently, you can run out and become exhausted, which renders you unable to fight or act for a short period of time (and those monsters won't stop coming at you while you're exhausted). Leveling up your weapon gives you new magic skills in addition to making your basic attacks more powerful. You must gather phozons to cast spells, so dedicating all your phozons to growing food isn't a great idea. Battle actions aren't instantaneous, so if you need to heal or gather in the middle of a battle while the monsters are coming at you, it's generally a good idea to run a good ways away first. How well you do in battles determines what treasures drop at the end of each level.

There are 5 main characters in Odin Sphere. All live within the same world and time period, and their stories meld together nicely. Each character has their own special weapon and different kinds of attacks. Every character moves differently, too: some characters have wings, some fight solely in melee range, and some have special jumps. The stories are compelling and grand, though a little humorless. I appreciate that the characters aren't always the most noble or heroic warriors. It's often the case that a boss you fight within one story becomes the next character you play.

The major criticism that can be leveled against Odin Sphere is repetition. For 5 characters and 5 story lines, you visit the same areas with the same monsters over and over again. New game mechanics are not introduced in subsequent characters - you learn them all with your first character. This is a great way to develop cheaply and focus your resources on the story and art. For Odin Sphere, it's pretty obvious that this is where all the time and care went into the game. However, your characters are different enough that the game remains fresh between the stories. You get new food and potion recipes all the time, and the recipes you learn don't vanish when you start playing through another character and story.

The result is that by your second or third character, you know how to control your character and the best way to defeat certain monsters, so the game becomes a kill-and-collect fest, regularly interrupted by stunning art and story. The combat may be a bit too shallow for some. The collection may be too tedious for others. But I appreciate eliminating a screen full of poisonous frogs with my fairy-gun in three seconds flat, and being rewarded with lamb chops and a story of treason, dragons, wizards, and intrigue.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/16/08

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

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