Odin Sphere

Review

posted 7/5/2007 by Matt Mirkovich
other articles by Matt Mirkovich
One Page Platforms: PS2
So I recently had a review posted for Grim Grimoire which I thought was an excellent little RTS-wannabe that was fun and original. The second title to recently come out from developer Vanillaware was handled by Atlus, and it is called Odin Sphere. You might have heard of it and you might not have until now. Either way this is a game that you should add to your collection immediately. Odin Sphere goes down with God of War 2, Final Fantasy XII, and a few other games as the titles that have proved to me that Next-Gen isn’t necessarily the way to go yet. And like Grim Grimoire it’ll probably be one of those games that hold a strong market value well after the life of the PS2 comes to an end.
 
Odin Sphere’s biggest draw is as everyone else has said; its strong graphical presentation. Easily the best looking 2-D game I have ever had the joy to lay eyes upon. And it’s funny because they use some truly archaic techniques in this game. How many of you readers out there know what parallax scrolling is these days? This truly brings me back to the glory days of the SNES, when every brawler out there aspired to be Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Character sprites are huge and detailed, and it looks like they are animated at the joints, a la Rumble Fish (Japanese fighter that will sadly never see the light of day in the US), which results in fluid movements. The only downside to this powerful display is the slowdown that comes with it. At first I didn’t think that it was going to be that big an issue, but then I realized before the game came out, that Atlus was being awful selective of their choice in footage to show of the game and now I see why.
 
This game has a number of frame-rate issues. A lot of them come during specific points in the game. They are usually triggered by ridiculously huge sprites or by simply having too many things on screen. As someone who has gamed in eras past I know how common it is to have slowdown in a game, and in this day in age, it’s almost a grave sin to commit. However, I have also found a lot of times where the slowdown only heightens a moment, where you’re about to get thrashed and you pull out a move that sends everyone flying. I do wish the game ran a little better because there are just some boss fights where it is nothing but slowdown and those moments are where this is truly unacceptable. The most grave offender are fights against Odette, Queen of the Dead, once you reach those fights it’s a struggle to get through, especially if you are prone to dying because that just makes the fight take ages to complete.
 
Audio for this game is also very strong. Hitoshi Sakimoto has come up with a stellar soundtrack that fits this game to a T. He is also responsible for some of the other great soundtracks in games. His biggest accomplishments come in the form of Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy XII. His efforts here in Odin Sphere are nothing short of spectacular. His theme song for the game, “The Fate you have Accepted” is a great piece that really captures how epic this story is. Couple the strong efforts from Sakimoto with the surprisingly good voice acting and you have a one-two punch of audio bliss. And for those who need to get your Japanese fix in for a game like this, Odin Sphere lets you change the language on the fly (well almost, there is a short load time). But honestly the English cast is so good that there isn’t that much of a need to switch to Japanese. I only wish Atlus would get this strong a cast for every game that they do.
 
I must say I don’t understand what the developers were going for with the story in Odin Sphere. You have five characters who are rushing to stop the end of the world, and each of these takes place in a different book (read by the adorable Alice in what has to be one of the coolest menus ever). What throws me off is how events conflict, the stories don’t always match up, and considering that this is supposed to be a persistent world where all the characters exist I was kind of disappointed. But aside from that the story is excellent, each of the characters have a great deal of personality and growth that they experience. The Shakespearian style of writing also is a strength to this game as it is particularly well done. Especially when you read a line and say to yourself, “that sounds all kinds of wrong,” but then you realize it makes sense and was just written in a very intricate manner.
 
So I’ll be honest, I never played Princess Crown, and I shouldn’t have expected myself to since it was kind of before my time of imports, so I had no idea what I was getting in to with Odin Sphere. After playing it, the best way I can describe it is a cross between an old Final Fight rip off, mixed with the style of a game like Guilty Gear, with an old Capcom arcade brawler’s leveling up aspects mixed in for good measure. This game really is nothing more than a very glorified beat-em-up that takes place on circular maps, hence the Sphere in Odin Sphere. This is a double edged sword for the game, because on one hand it is very easy to pick up and play, but on the other hand in large doses this game can get tiresome. And when you’re fighting a boss you’ve fought with a previous character it tends to get old, especially when the game takes around forty hours to complete. A few of the recycled bosses the game really could have done without. So the short of it is, a whole lot of mashing the square button and make stuff die. You’ll also be absorbing the souls (Phozons) of the dead to power the Psypher that each character holds. As you level up the Psypher you’ll increase its power and learn new abilities. Though all of the characters learn the same abilities, except for Mercedes whose ability is slightly different due to her attack style, instead of her learning how to fire a cyclone she just fires a very strong bolt of energy.

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