Review by Chaos_Rayquaza
"A completely awesome game marred by some EXTREMELY frustrating bosses."
Ah, Odin Sphere. Considered by many reviewers a crown jewel of 2D games. But is this true or not? Let's dissect this game, shall we?
Let's start with the plot. The plot itself is based off of characters (and scenarios) from Norse mythology, like what Okami did with Japanese mythology, and revolves around five playable characters armed with extremely powerful weapons called "Psyphers". Instead of bouncing from one character to another, the game pulls a Sonic Adventure (but does it way better) and entirely separates the storylines of the five characters. You go through the storylines of these five characters in a specific order, allowing the game to feed you tidbits of information that add up to a cohesive whole (and if you can't keep track of all of the ends, there's a cutscene archive plus a timeline in the game itself that you can access anytime) after the first story, which is basically the skeletal framework for the whole thing.
Now, the plot's contents. The separation of the storylines allow the player to see the different viewpoints of the characters. What's cool about this is that a specific non-playable character like, say, Odin, can be seen as a father and overall good guy in one story and seen as a completely evil villain in another. Things like this allow different sides to be revealed, fleshing out the plot and the minor characters. The plot as a whole is extremely interesting and epic, and you feel a sense of satisfaction as a character says or does something in one of the later stories that makes you go "ah-ha!" and allows you to suddenly get the whole plot point that was only partially revealed in one of the earlier stories. When the game reaches its conclusion, your brain will hardly be able to process it (mine was only able to by saying "HOLY CRAP!" every two minutes) as all of the loose ends in the plot lead to the final scene of the game.
The playable characters are likeable (and even the non-playable ones...those that aren't villains, anyways), and will make you cry in the conclusion of the game. Yes, they will, because you will have cared about them so much after beating their respective stories that you can't stand seeing them finally coming to the ends of their respective stories.
In other words, the plot owns. It's one of the main reasons why you should get this game.
I know some people on the internet out there (not saying any names) that believe that a 2D game equals low production values and thus sucks. Not so with Odin Sphere. The 2D graphics take your eyeballs and forces them to look at the screen. The animation is fantasic, and even sprites that take up a quarter of the screen have insane detail. The backgrounds of the stages are wonderful, their colors rich. The bosses, a la Metroid, are HUGE and are beautifully animated and detailed. The game is a feast for the eyes. The only problems come when a bunch of enemies or objects are on the screen at once, causing insane slowdown, but it's rather easy to deal with and doesn't make the game unplayable. The graphics are yet another reason why this game should be bought.
The score is wonderful, always giving you goosebumps at the right moments and is especially memorable. While I myself haven't heard the English voices, I've played the entire game solely with Japanese voices and found them to be entirely adequate for the huge plot and scale. The English text translation, while not 100% exact, still gets the job done and provides the same meaning as the Japanese dialogue.
The meat of the game and this review! Yay! Here's how it works: in a battle, you're in a circular stage and you basically have to kill all of the enemies in it to move on to the next stage till you get to the big, evil, hulking boss. Sounds boring? It isn't. I personally find it incredibly satisfying to mow down ten enemies in a stage at once with a giant tornado or by my own hands. The amount of the enemies in a stage depends on the difficulty level of the stage; one-star stages will have maybe five enemies, whereas a five-star stage could have as many as three waves of ten or fifteen enemies. Sometimes the stage will have one or two difficult mini-bosses, but more on that later.
As we all know by now, there are five playable characters. While you tackle the same areas and thus the same enemies (and the same bosses) as each character, each character plays differently. I found myself devising different strategies for the same levels with the different characters, whether it was due to a technique I could make use of or the number of items. The variety of playing styles between the characters keeps the entire game fresh.
Here's where I found the back of the game case misleading, however. It claims that each of the five playable characters have their own attacks and spells. While the "attacks" part is true, the "spells" part isn't. Each character has the same spells with a few exceptions (specifically, TWO characters have one spell exclusive to them), and they all learn them in a different order. Which basically means that all of the characters have the same five or six spells, some more useful than others, such as calling up a huge tornado or becoming invisible and intangible. I didn't find myself using them too often except when fighting the bosses (more on that later).
Another nitpick: the inventory system. The interface isn't bad, nor is it clunky. It's just that there simply isn't enough room; before I was able to buy more bags to carry things in, I had to leave things on the battlefield (and I hate doing that, I obsess about it afterwards) or consume items in the game's alchemy system. Even after you've bought all of the inventory space you could possibly get, it still didn't seem enough.
The alchemy system, while nice in terms of bringing you useful items (Healing Tonics come to mind), is extremely slow and tedious when attempting to get some of the harder-to-get items (such as Fire Spirits), plus it's hard to utilize in the middle of battle. The game's in-game tutorial also does a poor job of teaching you how to use it effectively. But, useful items! Yay! While I'm at it, I should also say that the "planting trees" aspect of the gameplay, while useful in getting HP recovery items, is also hard to utilize in the heat of battle.
My biggest problem with the gameplay in this game (and what lowered it from a 9.5 to an 8) was the bosses. Simply put, they are incredibly frustrating, even on the "easy" setting. Let me set this straight, right now: I am no chump. I beat Gears of War in four three-hour periods and it was my first ever shooter. I've beaten the final boss of the first Ratchet and Clank game with only four hit points. Yet the bosses in this game are so frustrating that I found myself avoiding the game because I was afraid of playing it for another HOUR fighting the same damn boss over and over (and over and over) again . Even the minibosses in the later stories are incredibly frustrating. The problem with these bosses is not that they're challenging, it's that they're, in traditional 2D fashion, incredibly cheap. As in, one-hit-and-you're-dead cheap. Even the minibosses possess one-hit KO attacks. The developers need to learn that players do NOT like to fight the same dragon with the same freaking sorcerer over and over again for HOURS at a time because the player finds themselves getting half of their hit points being taken away within the first twenty seconds. It's the biggest flaw of this game and it's what kept the experience from being perfect.
Gameplay (Basic): 8
Gameplay (Specific [includes bosses and lesser features]): 7
Overall: 8 (no, this isn't an average)
Despite my nitpicks, this is still an excellent game. If you can overlook the extremely hard bosses, you'll find an extremely entertaining and fun game that will reside in your brain for a long, long while. Get it, the developers deserve the money.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 02/19/08
Game Release: Odin Sphere (US, 05/22/07)
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