Sunday, April 4, 2021

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir


One of the last RPGs to release on the Sony PlayStation 2 was developer Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere, which, while receiving positive reception, did garner criticism for issues such as inventory management and slowdown that affected the gameplay. A little under a decade later, they developed a rerelease of the game with improved mechanics, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, releasing it on the PlayStation Vita and PS4, easily being the definitive version of the game, with the differences between it and the original version being a clear as day and night, and proving a worthwhile experience.

The core storyline remains largely the same as in the initial incarnation of Odin Sphere, following the perspectives of five different characters from various walks of life whose paths ultimately intersect as they deal with events that lead to Armageddon, with a heavy Norse influence. The narrative is still well-told, with the primary protagonists being likeable, and the player able to view cutscenes they’ve watched before, perfect for those who wish to see them chronologically. Granted, the narrative still feels somewhat forced down the player’s throat, given the unskippable voiced dialogue during story scenes, and the translation, while solid, still has literal portions like “Demon King Odin.”

The biggest improvements in Leifthrasir are with the gameplay, the different playstyles of the five playable protagonists keeping the experience perpetually fresh still, along with many refinements to the core mechanics. Whereas the original version had separate levels for attack power and health, the upgraded port has singular experience levels for each character, with more stats that increase as allies level. There are still elements from the original incarnation’s gameplay such as the food system, with the consumption of food now increasing standard experience levels whilst increasing maximum health, although there are plentiful other changes such as characters now able to equip three accessories, which now provide increases to defense.

Moreover, while characters in the original Odin Sphere had limits as to how many standard attacks they could chain against enemies given the POW system, all characters, except Mercedes, can now attack endlessly without consumption of stamina, the fairy queen still needing to reload when exhausting her ammunition, although even her offensive style flows more smoothly than before. As each character advances through their storyline, they unlock various active and passive skills, the former consuming either a percentage of their POW meter (which quickly refills when a character isn’t attacking), or Psypher Points, players able to assign four shortcuts for their skills.

Other improvements include the separation of currency used to purchase items from shops and the special coins necessary to purchase food from the Pooka kitchen and café, both of which no longer require ingredients to purchase. At rest areas in the levels, the player may be able to summon Maury’s Touring Restaurant, where they can use food ingredients to cook dishes either for instant consumption or takeout, with no money necessary. Generally, the game mechanics work incredibly well, with excessive grinding, at least on the easiest difficult (which is significantly more forgiving than in the original version), hardly necessary, and are a joy to experience.

Even the queen of the dead struggles with anorexia.

Leifthrasir largely maintains the same gameplay structure as the initial incarnation, although the stages have more variety instead of recycling the same chambers. As with before, there’s pretty much no getting lost, given the relative linearity, and inventory space is more generous, players able to store excess items in a box that, after completion of all characters’ chapters, becomes shared among them, and occasional additional inventory space obtained through satchels acquired from the levels. Granted, there is still a bit of inventory management necessary at times, and voiced cutscene dialogue is still unskippable, but otherwise, the game interfaces well with players.

Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata’s soundtrack is as good as it was in the original version, with a number of new tracks, at least one per each of the game’s levels, and the voice acting, though forced down the player’s throat during cutscenes, is above average.

Save for far more diversity in the chambers of each level, the visuals are more or less the same as they were in the original version, the game’s beauty feeling somewhat less superficial, although the visual style still suffers from lazy areas such as leftward and rightward-facing sprites being mirrored and having inconsistent handedness, but otherwise, Leifthrasir is far from an eyesore.

Finally, I managed to clear the rerelease in a little over a day’s worth of playtime, skipping the cutscenes given the relative lack of changes to the narrative, and the trophies and new game mode add plentiful lasting appeal.

Overall, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is definitely one of the more-refined videogame remakes in recent time, given the multitude of improvements to aspects such as its gameplay mechanics, lower emphasis upon inventory management, the narrative still being solid, the excellent soundtrack and voicework, beautiful art direction, and plenty reasons to come back for more. Granted, it still suffers from a few of the same issues that its prior incarnation had, such as the continued unskippability of voiced cutscene dialogue, the at-times-literal localization, and some rushed aspects of the graphics, but otherwise, it’s very much the defining experience of the game.

This review is based on a playthrough on the Easy difficulty setting of a copy digitally downloaded by the reviewer.

The Good:
+Smooth, fast, fun refined combat.
+More generous inventory space.
+Same good story as before.
+Excellent soundtrack with some new tracks.
+Good voice acting.
+Pretty graphics, with more diverse environs.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Cutscene dialogue still unskippable.
-Localization still feels literal at times.
-Some rushed elements of visuals.

The Bottom Line:
The definitive experience of the game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9.0/10
Story: 8.5/10
Localization: 8.0/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 9.5/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 9.0/10

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