Even though Vanillaware made an honest effort, the PlayStation 2 didn't provide the most suitable home for this 2007 Vanillaware RPG.
And, way back then, I made an equally honest effort to like it. Without a doubt, Odin Sphere remains one of the PS2's most gorgeous games—which stands as both a blessing and a curse. Offhand, it's hard to think of a game from that era with better 2D visuals, but the beauty of Odin Sphere came at a tremendous cost. My memories of the original release stretch up until the end of the first character's segment, when a massive—and impressive—screen-filling boss throttled the frame rate to what felt like single digits. The fact that Odin Sphere soon makes you fight this same boss all over again with a new character put the kibosh on any enthusiasm to press on. (To be honest, I feared my PlayStation 2 was at risk of belching flames out of its backside.)
What a difference two hardware generations make. Earlier this week, I had the chance to see the PlayStation 4's Odin Sphere Leifthrasir in action, and, based on my half-hour experience, Vanillaware seems to finally be delivering on the promise the original release failed to achieve. The same amazing art direction is there—brought to a more respectable resolution—but this time around, those beautiful and meticulously detailed 2D assets move around the screen without a hitch. That's to be expected, of course, but it's still great to see an older game once plagued with technical problems finally redeem itself.
If you've ever played a Vanillaware game, you should know the basics of how Odin Sphere plays out. Like most of their work, it amounts to a surprisingly complex brawler with some light RPG elements added for good measure. And, in keeping with the Vanillaware tradition, Odin Sphere places a huge emphasis on food—mouth-wateringly rendered food at that. While these core elements haven't left Leifthrasir, Vanillaware has used this second chance to make this HD version a little more interesting. Mid-bosses now break up the flow of fighting hordes of enemies, and expanded skill trees have been added for every character, giving them a variety of passive abilities, active abilities, and new moves in battle—which can be assigned to Street Fighter-style inputs if that's you're thing.
In our age of constant HD remakes, it's refreshing to see one with a purpose greater than simply selling the same game again. Leifthrasir actually reminds me a lot of last years Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin: Sure, it's a bit prettier, but also contains plenty of smart additions made with the power of hindsight. And especially in the case of Leifthrasir, we're seeing an update to a formerly flawed game that should finally deliver the experience its developers intended all along. In any case, we'll find out when Odin Sphere Leifthrasir launches for both the PlayStation 4 and Vita on June 7th.