Odin Sphere Review

Usually at the end of a console’s lifespan, most of the games coming out are either bargain bound, or sequels to a once popular series. Every now and then, though, a game comes along and surprises us, showing that just because a console may be dying (or dead, depending on your definition), it’s not down for the count. Odin Sphere is one of those games.

Whenever someone asked me what I was playing when they walked by, I found it almost impossible to explain. "Well, it’s a 2D sidescrolling action-RPG platforming type game," I’d tell them as they sat down to figure out what concoction of alcohol was coursing through my system. After a few minutes of watching, however, they seemed to understand, and became instantly hooked.

Odin Sphere is a rare game that manages to capture a wide audience. With hand-drawn graphics and a fantastic score by Hitoshi Sakimoto, it just looks and sounds cool. This late in the PS2’s cycle, it’s refreshing to see a game use the old-school visual approach rather than try to pump out as much graphical power as it can.

Even though the graphics look old-school, they are a bit deceiving. The art is drawn in a way that moves extremely fluidly from attack to attack, and the animations could not have been pulled off as well on an older piece of hardware. It may look like it’s from the SNES, but it’s obviously built on the PS2. Sadly, that doesn’t stop some very noticeable slowdown when a bunch of enemies are onscreen at once. (I like to pretend that they coded it to happen on purpose to feel more old-school…but then again, I like to pretend a lot of things.)

Sure the game looks cool and sounds great, but how does it play? That’s where things get a little confusing, as Odin Sphere borrows so much from so many sources. At its core, it’s a sidescrolling 2D beat ’em up game. Each mission is laid out like a sphere (get it?!), and you can walk completely around said sphere beating up whatever enemies are spawned. Using a quick attack and a stronger but slower attack, you thin the horde, and when everyone is dead the mission is cleared. Thrown into the mix are boss fights in every area, and sub-boss fights. These fights can take a lot of careful attacking and well-planned strategy to beat, and the monsters themselves are incredibly cool looking, and often huge.

Throughout your journeys, you’ll gather a ton of items. In Odin Sphere, using items is really the key to most victories, as you’ll easily be swamped in later stages without some help. From potions (which tend to be overpowered) to seeds which grow things ranging from apple-like fruit to sheep, there’s a wide assortment to choose from. Unfortunately, a vast majority of them are ultimately useless, as you’ll end up usually using a few damage potions and healing items for most of your limited spaces.

While collecting and purchasing items is important, the game also tosses alchemy into the mix. Using material and a variety of items, you can craft the overpowered potions by following recipes you’ll find on your travels. This helps save some bag space, as you’re essentially using two items to make a stronger single item. It really is a hassle most of the time to create things, though.

Perhaps the best part about Odin Sphere is just the setting it evokes. Playing the game is really like watching an animated fairy tale or myth. The overarching story is told via a little girl reading chapters out of a book, and other than the initial Valkyrie chapter you start out with, they’re all stellar. (The Valkyrie chapter isn’t a total waste, it’s just the least involving of the available ones.) If you think the game is starting off a little too slow for your tastes, do yourself a favor and play through at least the first two chapters rather than giving up when Gwendolyn gets on your nerves.

As I mentioned previously, the musical score is fantastic. It really sets the mood, and the areas just sound as if they were composed for a film rather than a sidescrolling video game. To go along with the music, the game’s dialog is entirely spoken. Not only is the dialog and script engaging to read, but for the most part the voice actors did a tremendous job of capturing what I considered the characters’ personalities.

When it’s all over and you’ve beaten the game, you really do feel depressed that there wasn’t more. Odin Sphere is a very fun title, and a throwback for us old-school gamers. It’s nice to see people taking chances with the PS2 dying down, and thanks to the fact that quality new releases are scarce, this game may see the success it deserves. (Poor Okami…) Vanilla Ware did a fantastic job on Odin Sphere, and with what I’ve experienced so far with GrimGrimoire, all I can say is keep an eye on them.

For fans of video games, fairy tales, or mythology, Odin Sphere is a great ride. Even if you aren’t entirely captivated by any of those things, it’s still fun to watch. Just ask the people who slacked off from doing their jobs to sit down and watch me play it.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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