Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is the latest by Vanillaware for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita. The title is billed as a remaster of the original Odin Sphere which was released for the PlayStation 2 back in 2007 (2008 in PAL territories). To call Odin Sphere Leifthrasir a mere HD remaster of a nearly 9 year old game is putting it very,very loosely, and it is in fact is a huge disservice to what the game really is. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is more than just a HD update to suit modern TV resolutions, more than just being the very best version of Odin Sphere (dare I say, perfection), and is more than just an expanded and enhanced re-release. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is truly a whole new game altogether. In fact, I feel they could have gotten away with calling it Odin Sphere 2 and no one would have argued otherwise. Whether you’re a fan of the original or a sceptical newcomer who is tired of seeing sloppy HD remasters, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir proves to be a truly a one of a kind experience that even manages to distinguish itself from its predecessor in nearly every way possible. Make no mistake, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is every bit of a landmark video game as any AAA 2016 release.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir actually contains two full games: Refined Mode and Classic Mode. Refined mode essentially represents Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and this review will primarily focus on that. Classic Mode is pretty much the original 2007 Odin Sphere except it has none of the technical issues of the PS2 version, benefiting from the spruced up graphics engine. Now the difference between Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (Refined Mode) and Odin Sphere (Classic Mode) is quite literally night and day. Classic Mode is very much stripped down and raw 2D action game with strong RPG elements, and so you can expect your reflexes to be put to the test and the combat options to be versatile, and yet restrictive, as it encourages you fight with class and tact rather than mashing buttons. The main deliberate handicap in Classic Mode is how every attack, even the normal ones, consume the POW gauge and if you over-exert yourself then your character will gas out for a few seconds… and in a tightly focused 2D action game every moment counts. There’s definitely a raw and old school feel about Classic Mode that’s worth checking out if you’re up for a real challenge.
Now as for how new Refined Mode compares to Classic Mode, well I certainly don’t want to say that one is better than the other because it’s really not about that at all. They’re completely different games, apples and oranges, and depending on who you are you might prefer one over the other or you might find yourself enjoying both for being uniquely different experiences. Since Classic Mode is literally the remaster of the PS2 original, the rest of this review will be focusing on Refined Mode, which is essentially Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, developed for the PS4, PS3, and Vita. A lot of what I will be talking about in terms of features, systems, gameplay mechanics, design, and even presentation aren’t even present in the original Classic Mode. The apples and oranges analogy was no exaggeration, but to put it very broadly: Odin Sphere is a 2D action game with complementing RPG elements, whereas Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a fully-fledged 2D action RPG adventure.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir tells the story of a magical and beautiful land called Erion, comprising of various kingdoms at war over power and control. It borrows heavily from Norse mythology and even incorporates mythological figures in creative ways, such as the warring God Odin, who is depicted as a heartbroken and conflicted father of two… who may also have had an affair with an enemy fairy queen or two. It’s a rich and highly engaging setting with established lore implemented in a way that is fresh and unique. Not only are the plot elements and themes unique and fascinating, but the implementation of these ideas are exceptionally amazing much thanks to the exceptional writing. It is rare that a game of Japanese origin to have an English dub that is tenfold superior to the original script and track.
What makes the English localisation of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir exceptional, more than any Japanese to English localisation in the entire history of video games (bold claim I know, but I’m standing by it), is that it goes above and beyond merely translating a script and instead takes the spirit of the Japanese script to turn it into something that almost feels like the intended/default language. Metal Gear Solid has always seen amazing brilliant English localisations, some of the best, but Odin Sphere Leifthrasir arguably surpasses that even. The writing in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is quite simply worthy of a literary masterpiece distinction, it is just so Shakespearean in its delivery. The English dub cast do an absolutely stellar award-worthy performance in their delivery, thoroughly invested in the identity of the characters and the emotions being portrayed. Even a casual passerby will be in awe at the way the writing and dialogue is delivered.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is an epic and unforgettable tale filled that is far more mature and insightful than most games in the medium. It tells a powerful interwoven story with a cast that you instantly invest in, a story that is filled with passionate romantic yearning, love, betrayal, triumph, heartbreak (one too many), and bittersweet expressions of joy and anguish. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a story that will stay with you longer than the actual gameplay experience itself.
As a game Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a larger than life role playing epic that simply never stops giving. With 5 unique playable characters, six epic chapters each worth 10 hours of engaging gameplay (and secrets beyond) this is an epic that you won’t stop playing even after you’ve clocked the credits at 50 hours or so. Each character in Odin Sphere is backed by an immensely deep skill tree that allows you to do anything from learning new spells and polishing up even the most intricate of gameplay details (for example, increasing damage inflicted to enemies from behind). The gameplay variety simply never lets up, as you can execute a plethora of attack combinations with such ease, freedom, and fluidity that you will never get bored even after a thousand enemy encounters. Whether it’s Gwendolyn’s aerial offence, Mercede’s almost Mega Man esque combat style, Oswald’s relentless a la Devil May Cry relentless combo fury, or even Velvet’s elegant and creative use of chain and whips (Castlevania anyone?), there is an unbelievable amount of variety in the combat system. To complement this combat variety is a huge array of enemies and the most interesting and challenging cast of boss characters in a 2D action game. Large behemoths with defined patterns, awarding sharp precision and reactive play… pure gaming bliss my friends.
Outside the combat there’s still plenty to do, with the deep alchemy system and a strangely detailed emphasis on cooking! The restaurant and cafe menus you find in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir are filled with the finest culinary dishes (mostly French) all of which give a massive EXP boost. The game structure has you explore many rich locales with a node to node progression, each screen typically involving combat but also punctuated by some light platforming and puzzle solving.
Visually Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, much like its writing, is a destined timeless work of art. Every background, and every character sprite that animate with utmost fluidity, virtually every nook and cranny of the visuals and graphics are as perfect as any video game can theoretically possibly be. In 2007 I thought Odin Sphere was visually perfect and timeless, and in 2016 Odin Sphere Leifthrasir has not only validated this but even improved upon. Regardless of how many months, years, and decades pass by, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir will age like a renaissance painting (in fact it visually is a marriage of renaissance and anime like no other). Every screenshot is worthy to be framed, complemented by the fact that the animation is absolutely dreamlike with gorgeous particle effects like icing on cake. The emotional orchestra music shines just as bright, with sweeping scores of haunting instrumentals and sombre melancholic rhythms.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a game that is virtually perfect in my mind, and it’s something isn’t often said or should be said about any video game, but I’m willing to stand by that statement till the grave. If SnapThirty had a higher grade than A+, then Odin Sphere Leifthrasir would be getting it. There’s been many worthy A+ grades here (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) but when you consider the true spirit of gaming, a game like Odin Sphere Leifthrasir deserves to be exalted above a top grade even.