Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4 Review)
We can all agree that the phrase “HD Remaster” creeps up far too often in the slightest hope for appraisal as developers bring your dearest and beloved games back from the dark recesses of the video game graveyard. I’m not opposed to the idea of HD Remasters, especially if there’s demand for them. Above all I think that these “re-vamps” of past games hinder the evolution and innovation that we so earnestly want in today’s developers and the gaming industry in general. There are a few of these “HD Remaster”games that make me eat my own words and Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is one of them. Developed by Vanillaware in 2007 the original Odins Sphere was a game that I had never heard of and probably would never have picked up; It’s style of gameplay would never have peaked my interest back in the day. With my overall attitude towards some games shifting due to the vastly differing genres of games at our disposal todaye has urged me to reconsider my past transgressions and explore worlds I’d never thought to before. And I do not regret it.
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir starts with a very unique introduction in which players control a little girl as she decides which enchanting storybook to indulge her curiosity. At the beginning only one book is present, but later the collection expands to 5 representing each character available in this lengthy story; Valkyrie, Prince, Fairy, Knight and Witch. Each book takes the player on a journey through the world of Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir as that particular hero, conveying their role in the land of Erion and their fate. From time to time characters will intersect within their respective storylines, giving players a bit of background information and overall disposition of the character in these events before the player takes their reins. Largely, the storylines of these spirited souls aren’t entirely coherent – at least in terms of structure- as events will usually befall your character for you to overcome them like you’d probably expect. However, some events will skip forward an inordinate amount of time, leaving you wondering what happened and where you now stand in the world.
The lands of Erion are all equally measurable in strength as the foes you come face to face with have you in awe of their might. Enemies are all very well varied in design ranging from you’re generic goblins, elves and even cute little bears to the more fearsome bosses, plated in armour, magic barriers and are heavily fortified. These troublesome obstacles are only bothersome for a small amount of time as you begin to grow as a character and player. Leveling up your character is unconventional to say the least. In most games you gain Exp points from defeating foes and completing quests where as in Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir you’ll need to farm for your Exp points…literally. Only through consuming fruit, veg, and the occasional home cooked meal will you gain those precious points to level up. You’ll be planting seeds and fine dining to no end come your time with each character and it’s not as dull as it may sound; it’s weirdly engrossing. You can still gain the odd experience point here or there through combat, but it’s negligible in comparison. The only benefit in defeating enemies is the Phozon orbs they drop which you can spend to level up your characters abilities and improve their effectiveness. The real reward in combat, is the combat itself. The combo/juggling mechanic is something akin to Devil May Cry where you can simply combine moves, abilities and items to keep combos going indefinitely. All culminating in a ranking score achieved at the end of each individual segment of a stage.
The letter grading system only apply to combat segments of stages, where you can achieve various rankings giving various rewards for each letter grade. Granted you do well and achieve as high grade you’ll be rewarded with special coins used to purchase extremely worthwhile meals (High in Exp gain) at a place called Pooka Village that can be visited outwidth stages and occasionally during. The individual segments of each stage aren’t anything to phone home about, they’re usually straight lines with very little to no depth about them. Some will contain secrets that require a keen eye to pick out and some areas simply act as rest points to gather your thoughts and trade items with questionable vendors.
When comparing original versions of games to their counterpart HD remasters, more often than not, you can’t really notice a significant difference in visual fidelity – at least I can’t anyway. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is the same in that regard. Visually both Odin Sphere and Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir look marginally the same, but I’m not complaining. The overall art design and anime-esque characters mixed with the fairytale backdrops and worlds make Odin Sphere stand out strikingly amongst the crowd, regardless of the generation it was released in; why change something that was already perfect to begin with.
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir doesn’t just upscale graphics and change the approach, it also preserves the original game in its “Classic” mode that allows players to experience the original game. When comparing the two, personally I prefer the mechanical changes made to the Leifthrasir, making juggles and combos more effective and negating the use of stamina to perform moves make the combos even more spectacular. Farming was also a lot harder since you couldn’t simply expend Phozon orbs to make seeds grow, but Exp points did come more naturally through fighting. This may just be my skewed viewpoint as I never did play the original version first and settled with the a much more polished and superior one.
Giving that I have been on a bit of a JRPG spree of late in my spare time with games like Grand Kingdom, Witch and the Hundred Knight, and now Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir, I’m happy to say that I’m opening up more to genre’s that may have turned me off originally. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is certainly one of the best JRPG’s – not exclusive to my most recent experiences- that have had the HD makeover with a few gameplay tweaks that still holds up well in today’s generation of video games. Jumping into this seemingly immaculate world and thrashing my way through waves and waves of enemies, feeling the adrenaline rush of the ever soaring combo meter, battling larger than and more aggressive bosses as the game proceeds to its inevitable conclusion. It was a masterfully crafted experience. My time with Odin Sphere:Leifthrasir is one I will not forget and hopefully who ever reads this review will find just cause to pick it up and play it for themselves. You won’t regret it.