REVIEW / Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4)

 

It’s not often that I plop down the cash for a brand new title without knowing anything about it first, but the box art and brief description of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir prompted me to do just that. This is the gorgeous remake of Vanillaware’s 2007 sidescrolling action RPG of the same name. While I had never played the original (and somehow managed to miss it entirely), I was immediately struck by the remake’s trailer.

 

 

Set in the time of the Cauldron War are five characters with differing strengths, weaknesses, demons, and motivations. They will cross paths and eventually unite with a common goal, leaving you to decide which to play as and fill in the story gaps. The story is being played out as is it read by a young girl and her gigantic cat in an attic – an adorable little detail that works itself in perfectly.

The very first thing that caught my affection in the game are the graphics, beautifully remastered in 1080p and running at a velvety-smooth 60FPS framerate. This comes in handy when the screen starts to fill up with screeching enemies or you run into the unexpected miniboss. It also means that loading times are almost non-existent, so you are never taken out of the world experience.

 

Odin Sphere world

 

Beyond this, the character and environment art is quite often breathtaking. Bold colors and smooth lines create a flowing gown, lush fields with bursts of colorful flowers, and even sunset-hued mountain ranges make up the world of Erion. It’s almost a shame that there isn’t more time to just hang out and enjoy the view, even if it is at times depressingly war-ravaged.

Make no mistake, you’re in the middle of a war. Leifthrasir has a very active combat system, and at times it can feel like your entire purpose is just to stand on the assembly line and beat things up (while hopefully avoiding beat downs of your own). However, the controls are fairly easy to master and quickly become second nature – allowing you to unleash all sorts of flashy and devastating combo attacks on your foes. This keeps things interesting and even became a bit of an addiction for me.

 

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If all of that’s not enough, each character can also switch from their normal weapons to their action skills or phozon skills. Action skills boost your attacks in specific ways, like being able to hit harder or faster. Phozon skills are magic abilities that allow you to wreck enemies with spells, and replenish by picking up spheres from fallen enemies.

Even still, you can blow things up by creating an item cocktail using the alchemy system. The destruction style is entirely up to you. This keeps you from even noticing that you are on your third story loop and basically just level-grinding.

 

Odin Sphere Level

 

Exploration of the map uses some very interesting mechanics as well. Warp points make getting around more convenient, and being able to shrink down to a pixie and explore between wall cracks and find otherwise inaccessible treasure. Even if the graphics weren’t beautiful, this unique way of exploring would keep me doing so well into the night.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir weaves its story from several points of view, causing you to often question whether your enemies are the evil scum you originally thought. Mixing up a grim background of world-ending war with bright spots of fun and comedy, you quickly begin to connect with the various characters. I found it difficult to even choose a favorite. The game also masterfully reminds you from time to time that the world in which your characters live is still going on – from brightly colored restaurants to side conversations and bustling marketplaces, there are plenty of reasons to actually care about the heroes’ quest to save this place.

 

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Being a history geek, I also found it interesting that the game pulls a lot of inspiration from Norse mythology. Fun fact about the word Leifthrasir: it’s a masculine name that means “lover of life,” among other things. It’s yet another example of how beautiful detailed and richly layered a world Vanillaware has created, and yet another reason why Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir gets very high marks in my book.

 

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