Odin Sphere will, without a doubt, polarize its players. Youâ€™ll either love it or youâ€™ll hate it, but ambivalent about it you will never be. There are many things about Odin Sphere that are excellent and there are a few things that are mediocre, but there is nothing about this game that is truly awful.
Odin Sphere tells the stories of five characters and their adventures in the mythical world of Erion during the â€˜Cauldron Wars.â€™ Itâ€™s told thorough the eyes of a young girl reading chapters from a large book in an over-padded chair. The Wars began when several kingdoms tried to lay claim to a powerful magical artifact â€“ the Crystallization Cauldron â€“ that was unearthed following the destruction of a kingdom. The main protagonists are Ringford, the kingdom of the fairies, and Ragnanival, lead by the demon king Odin. What remains unknown, however, is that possession of the Cauldron could lead to a worldwide holocaust.
Without a doubt OS is gorgeous to look at. The fabulously colourful 2D graphics grab and hold your eye from the very first second that the game begins. Although the artwork isnâ€™t meticulously detailed, itâ€™s elaborate enough without being â€˜fussyâ€™ and itâ€™s enough for you to want more. The rich and vibrant use of colour is where itâ€™s all happening; in fact the scenery looks more like a surrealist painting than a video game background. The character designs are superb with, again, the use of rich colouring, but with slightly more detail than the backgrounds so that the characters stand out well in contrast.
Odin Sphere takes its name from its combat settings, which are spherical â€“ or tubular. Monsters will appear in the 2D side-scrolling sphere in such a way that if you keep running away from the head of an enemy youâ€™ll eventually come back at him from the rear. Killing all the monsters in the sphere unlocks all the exits, and as the spheres branch out from each other you can choose which way youâ€™d like to go. When the map is found (as â€˜treasureâ€™ in one of the spheres) youâ€™ll be able to see exactly what is where, as the spheres are colour-coded â€“ blue for mini-bosses and reddish for bosses â€“ as well as showing the location of shops, and there is a star ratings to show the level of difficulty. Your potential rankings for completing the section is also shown; rankings from â€˜Sâ€™ - the best - to â€˜Dâ€™ - the worst - are awarded depending on the time it took to complete the section and how much damage you took. Fortunately, if youâ€™re not happy with your score you can repeat a section, or even the entire level â€“ and you get to keep the score youâ€™ve already earned (in case you donâ€™t do better) as well as all the goodies.
Although there are no cosmetic changes to your weapons throughout the game, your weapons, or Psyphers, gain strength by â€˜ingestingâ€™ Phozons that are released by dying enemies. As the Psyphers gain Phozons they level up, giving stronger attacks and gaining new skills and spells. But while the weapons gain strength from released Phozons, the characters do not; they instead gain xp and healing from the food your characters will find to eat. Later in the game a restaurant will open, but until then thereâ€™s no shortage of food, as fruit, berries and even sheep â€“ yes, sheep! â€“ can be grown from seeds, which are planted on the battlefield and grow fairly quickly by taking in Phozons and then harvested, and can either be stored in your inventory for later or eaten on the spot. The ingredients for more exotic dishes - herb roasted shrimp, chicken au gratin, gnocchi, vichyssoise - are removed from your inventory at the restaurant where they are prepared for your consumption, and such dishes can gain you 100+hp in a single meal.
Odin Sphereâ€™s combat is a bit of a real-time mixed bag; if youâ€™re inventive youâ€™ll find it challenging and fun but if youâ€™re not youâ€™ll find it boringly repetitive and frustrating. Attacks are performed using a combination of the â€˜squareâ€™ button and direction pad or left analogue stick - push the stick up and your character performs an overhead attack, push it down and the resulting piercing attack may break through an enemyâ€™s defence. And repeated use of the â€˜squareâ€™ button will see your character perform combos. Unfortunately the same button is also used to defend, and unless youâ€™re careful you might find your character attacking when you need to be defending and defending when an attack would be better. In a bid to stop button-mashing, OS has a â€˜POWâ€™ meter, which limits your attacks. Every attack uses POW points and each characterâ€™s â€˜special attackâ€™ uses extra POW points. If, however, the POW meter is drained completely your character becomes immobilised and is unable to attack until the meter refills â€“ which it does simply by the character standing still. Tossing a bomb or a piece of rotten fruit at the enemy doesnâ€™t drain the POW meter at all, so quickly becoming inventive in order to save your POW meter from draining at an horrendous rate is a good idea.
Odin Sphereâ€™s soundtrack is interesting and pleasant; unfortunately it can become a little repetitive as much of the music is reused in certain stages of the game. When music is needed to stress a point or to create atmosphere at particular times, however, the soundtrack rises to the occasion beautifully. OSâ€™s sound effects are interesting and are humorously spot on. The voice acting is, on whole, adequate, but there are several characters that are just flat out â€˜cheesyâ€™ and their stilted voice acting detracts from the on screen action.
All in all Odin Sphere is a delightful little hack nâ€™ slash rpg despite, or maybe because of, its flaws. Itâ€™s a relatively short game, coming in at under 30 hours for a complete run-through. The stunning visuals will give you a thrill from the opening to the closing credits, and with its relatively easy to listen to soundtrack youâ€™ll be totally transported to the little girlsâ€™ attic, eager for her to sit down and open a book so you can become lost in the make-believe world once more.