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Odin Sphere Leifthrasir: A Good Game Aims for Greatness

Vanillaware's gorgeous action RPG returns with more than just pretty looks.

Preview by Jeremy Parish, .

Remakes and remasters have become terribly common in video gaming in recent years, but they don't always have to be a cynical affair. Sure, sometimes you end up with a cheap reissue of a fairly recent game that offers no major improvements besides being able to run on current consoles (R.I.P. built-in backward compatibility, A.D. 1998-2013), but every once in a while a remake comes along that goes above and beyond the bounds of obligation to truly excel.

After playing the E3 demo of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir at Tokyo Game Show, I'm quite confident this Atlus-published PS4/Vita remake will fall into the latter category. This is no mere visual touch-up — though its graphical overhaul is certainly nothing to sneeze at. The original Odin Sphere, which arrived fairly late in the PlayStation 2's life, introduced Americans to the work of George Kamitani and Vanillaware. The studio's works universally share a common art style based directly on Kamitani's detailed artwork, using a variety of visual tricks to create a look wholly unique in video games: Paintings come to life. Several of Vanillaware's projects have made their way to HD systems, including Muramasa and Dragon's Crown, but until now Odin Sphere has been trapped in the comparatively low-resolution framework of the PS2.

Unsurprisingly, Kamitani's illustrations translate beautifully to PlayStation 4. Sure, you can see through some of the visual tricks at this resolution, and watching portions of a character sprite wrinkle and deform as she moves through the snow slightly gives away the magic of Vanillaware's art if you want to be nitpicky... though, honestly, once the action begins, it's difficult to be too critical.

It's here that Odin Sphere truly shines. The game offers five playable characters (if not more), each with their own style and skills. I demoed Gwendolyn, the valkyrie who ostensibly plays the role of main character, and she controlled even better than I remember in the original version of the game. Gwendolyn commands a huge array of physical attacks with her spear — downward area-of-effect skills, direct front-to-back stabs, and upward thrusts — all of which neatly combo into one another. If anything, the demo was entirely too easy thanks to Gwendolyn's ability to chain attacks together and juggle weak, nearly helpless foes.

I didn't demo the cooking portions at TGS, but you better believe Kamitani's obsession with food will be presented front-and-center in Leifthrasir. It's the only thing he loves more than buxom ladies.

The overall flow of combat also felt faster and more fluid than I recall it originally being. There's less of a stutter when you land a strong attack, and I found myself dancing around enemies to dodge their attacks before flinging them into the air in no time at all. The demo levels seemed a lot more varied than I remember as well. Odin Sphere made heavy use of a ring motif, with stages broken into self-contained battlegrounds that looped infinitely; an interesting idea, but eventually somewhat tedious as the sub-levels tended to offer very little in the way of geographic variety. The Leifthrasir demo, on the other hand, featured several stages that broke from the flat circle format. True Detective jokes aside, the addition of tiered structures and even a cliffside to scale go a long way toward adding some variety to the action, and not just in terms of giving you more to do with your jump button than set up air juggles. It also adds a new dimension to combat, pitting you against enemies at multiple levels more frequently than in the PS2 version.

At least, that's my impression. Maybe there was more to the original game than I'm remembering (it's been nearly a decade), but memory tells me that Odin Sphere coasted by somewhat with repetitive play propped up by sheer visual spectacle. Leifthrasir certainly feels more ambitious and varied than I recall, and isn't the point of a remake to make a game as good as or better than it was the first time around? I suppose it's only fitting for a game based so heavily on the concepts of rings and cycles to reappear, better than before.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #1 chaoticBeat 2 years ago
    I loved this game on ps2, slow down blemishes and all. This is one of those special games with it's own unique style and world that just sucks you in if you're open to it. In that way, it's similar to a game like Gun Valkyrie on xbox. That game had such a unique vision and quality to it that any deficiencies it supposedly had (slightly awkward boost controls) were easy to overlook for me. I know I will be picking up Odin Sphere on both consoles on release day. Art design and unique vision> AAA production values everyday.
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  • Avatar for Elliot-Gay #2 Elliot-Gay 2 years ago
    Just seeing the game move with a stable, smooth framerate was enough to sell me on the idea of rebuilding it, but I'm also pleased to see that adjustments have been made to the combat system. New skills, slightly more complicated maps. Odin Sphere just needed a little bit of a push, and I'm pleased as punch to see it might be getting just that.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #3 NateDizzy 2 years ago
    When this remaster is released, it will be the 3rd time I've bought this game. No regrets.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #4 himuradrew 2 years ago
    Oh good. I missed this game on the PS2 (my unit died on me) and I can't wait to grab this on the Vita. I loved Muramasa and Dragon's Crown.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    Completely sold on this too. Missed it on PS2, but I was absolutely captivated by Dragon's Crown recently. If anything, I think the art in Odin Sphere looks even better!
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  • Avatar for Mookie-Thomas #6 Mookie-Thomas 2 years ago
    It was actually you, Jeremy, who first turned me on to Odin Sphere back in the day, through watching my very first episode of The 1up Show as you tried to explain to the others on the back porch just what made it so special and unique.

    And boy was it.

    I haven't really played it since then, so I cannot wait for this version to come out, so I can relive those warm fuzzy memories.
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  • Avatar for Kirinn #7 Kirinn 2 years ago
    I really wanted to love the original, but things like trying to (literally) farm resources mid-combat and the finicky potion-combining system kept me from ever getting very far into it. I wonder if those systems are streamlined any in the remake.
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  • Avatar for SevenBones #8 SevenBones 2 years ago
    Odin Sphere is one of my favorite games despite the repetition and slowdown. I already bought it twice and looking forward to purchasing this remastered version for both my Vita and PS3. While I can't wait to see what gameplay improvements Vanillaware incorporated into the game I'm just excited to play this game on the go like Muramasa Rebirth and Dragon's Crown before it. Hopefully we'll also see Vanillaware's latest game as well so my Vita can truly be a Vanillaware system.
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  • Avatar for aldofraga #9 aldofraga 2 years ago
    The demo levels seemed a lot more varied than I remember as well. Odin Sphere made heavy use of a ring motif, with stages broken into self-contained battlegrounds that looped infinitely deals with gold an interesting idea, but eventually somewhat tedious as the sub-levels tended to offer very little in the way of geographic variety.Edited 7 times. Last edited May 2016 by aldofraga
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