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Retrospective: Odin Sphere (PS2)

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2007 was an interesting year for video games. The Xbox 360 was in its second year, the PlayStation 3 had just started its first year in the gaming market… and yet despite the hype surrounding High Definition gaming and next-gen visuals, the PlayStation 2 was still performing strongly despite its (by then) dated hardware. The interesting thing about the PS2 was that despite it launching before its immediate competition, it outlasted the clearly superior Xbox and GameCube. Not only that, it was barely phased by the presence of far superior competition in the Xbox 360 or even by its replacement in the PS3.

Even as a gamer back then, and having an Xbox 360 with the likes of Blue Dragon in my hands, my PS2 was still getting plenty of usage. Instead of being placed in a closet as soon as I got my shiny new Xbox 360, I actually found myself getting more enjoyment out of a last generation system that year than I did from my new next-gen system. I wasn’t even compelled to jump on the PS3 and its promising Blu-Ray technology either, because the PS2 was still stronger than ever even with its humble DVDs and standard definition output (I actually finally bought a PS3 in 2016). I mean how could any sane gamer unplug their PS2 in 2007 when there were games like Rogue Galaxy, Dawn of Mana, Soul Nomad, Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Job System (its remaster revealed for the PS4 at E3 this year) and yes, Odin Sphere. When the PS2 went out, it went out with the biggest bang possible while still on top of the world.

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Odin Sphere was released for North America in 2007, which was the version I got my hands on. Unfortunately, the European/Australian release didn’t happen until 2008. Such was the time gap between North American and European/Australian releases back in those days, a time gap that used to be a year and has now shortened to a month or two in this day and age.

What was remarkable about Odin Sphere was that despite gaming moving towards processing millions and millions of polygons to generate hyper realistic visuals and massive game worlds, Vanillaware emerged out of nowhere to deliver a game that went against trends, as they created the most technically proficient and graphically advanced 2D game that no one could possibly have imagined, and that game was Odin Sphere. See, Vanillaware showed the gaming industry and audience that 2D was not a thing of the past.

I reviewed Odin Sphere back in 2007 for a little paper that no longer exists. I’m going to quote what I said about the unique visuals of the game back then.

“Odin Sphere shows that 2D is anything but dead and game developers can still make fantastic and  beautiful games using just sprites. Looks like there may be room for 2D on next-generation consoles after all”

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Odin Sphere on PS2 was truly ahead of its time, in fact the PS2 struggled to run the game as there was heavy and frequent slowdown (not enough to ruin the game), but it certainly was a testament to how 2D can showcase raw power of console hardware just as convincingly as any big budget 3D production.

As a game, Odin Sphere was a tight and polished 2D action game involving epic boss battles and interesting RPG elements. With unique playable characters, a breathtaking art style, a rich setting inspired by Norse mythology, and an amazing English localisation, Odin Sphere on PS2 was truly one of the best games on the system that was destined stand the test of time. To again quote that little old review I wrote back in 2007.

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“A beautiful game which will certainly become a timeless classic, you’d be a fool to miss out on this one.”

Nearly 10 years later, Odin Sphere has been remastered for the PS4, Vita, and PS3 as Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. The visuals haven’t aged a day, with the remaster making the game look far more amazing than any 2D game we’ve seen in the last few years. While you can still find the original PS2 release on PSN for a low price, what’s great is that Odin Sphere Leifthrasir contains the PS2 game in its entirety as Classic Mode, this time running at a higher resolution with none of the framerate issues.

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