Much has been made of the graphics of Odin Sphere, and chances are that if youâ€™ve heard of the game it was probably in connection with its stunning visuals. And it is, as Lyn of Tawa would say, â€˜a visual symphony,â€™ with rich, vibrant colours and a stunning use of effects. The characters are cute and quirky and the settings are elaborate yet charming.
Graphics alone, however, do not make a game, so it is fortunate that Odin Sphere has other redeeming features. The story, loosely based on Norse mythology, is about the battle between Odin and the Fairy Queen for a magical cauldron that creates incredibly powerful weapons. The story is told in â€˜chapters,â€™ and different characters tell their story in them, so you get to play a variety of different roles - which is always fun.
Each character has two kinds of stats: Psypher and Health. Psypher is your weaponâ€™s power, which it gains through absorbing defeated enemyâ€™s souls. And as weapons level up they gain new, and more powerful, Psypher moves. Your characterâ€™s Health is raised by eating food, and hereâ€™s where Odin Sphere reveals just how innovative it really is. Not only do you have to find food, but you also have to grow some of it. And once your plants are fully grown a restaurant must be found where they can be added with other ingredients and cooked.
Growing and cooking food is a nice introduction to the alchemy system, which seems to be the main focus of Odin Sphere. Alchemy is basically the combination of materials and alchemy recipes to alter something for the better, or to make something new. And from alchemic mixings you gain an item as well as bonus Phozons to power up your weapon.
Combat, a big part of any game, is, however, where Odin Sphere appears to fall down badly. For instance, â€˜hitâ€™ and â€˜blockâ€™ are the same button. A very bad idea! Another bad idea is that you cannot break an enemyâ€™s combo. So once youâ€™ve been slugged and are being juggled in the air youâ€™re in for the duration. Unfortunately the non-breaking of a combo doesnâ€™t go both ways. Yes, yours can be broken at any time. If thatâ€™s not bad enough, your character has a â€˜POWâ€™ meter which is drained when you attack. That means if you donâ€™t plan your attacks well you will simply run out of power, which leaves you standing there, stunned. But thereâ€™s still more bad news. Because the combat stage is a loop, an arrow fired by an enemy off-screen can deal damage to you. But on the bright side, because the upper part of the screen is a radar-type set-up showing where enemies are and which way theyâ€™re facing, it also means that you can sneak up on them. And it also means, if youâ€™re looking out for arrows from off-screen, you can avoid them â€“ hopefully. On the good side, when you die - and you will die frequently - the game restarts at your last battle.
Odin Sphere is really a mixed bag, with spectacular graphics, quirky characters, a mediocre story and a flawed combat system. Despite that, or maybe because of it, Odin Sphere will be a â€˜love itâ€™ or â€˜hate itâ€™ type of game. And both sides will argue vehemently that their â€˜sideâ€™ is right.
The Good: Odinâ€™s Sphere is gob-smackingly gorgeous to look at.
The Bad: Combat is daunting at its best and down-right awful at its worst.
The Ugly: A 2D side-scrolling beat â€˜em up and an Action-RPG make odd bed-fellows, but somehow it works.