Written by Twisted Ideas
Originally I wanted to write about Muramasa The Demon’s Blade/Rebirth, a beautiful looking Vanillaware game. Then I started to realize how little there was to say about Muramasa. So I’ve shifted my focus to the first Vanillaware game I’ve played and my personal favorite: Odin Sphere for the Playstation 2 and available as a PS2 Classic on PSN.
Platform: Playstation 2
What is it?
Odin Sphere is loosely based around Norse mythology and is the story of five people from five nations whose actions and happenings unknowingly fulfill the prophecies for Armageddon (Ragnarok). You play through each character’s story one at a time. These stories are parallel and at times intersect. Their actions will determine their fates during Armageddon.
Odin Sphere is a 2D action game. Each region is divided into several sections. The unique feature of these areas is that each one fully wraps around. There are no walls or corners so you, the enemy and objects can fully circle the area.
The combat uses a standard single button system with magic attacks to aid in combat. Each character has unique traits that suits their character design and differentiate them gameplay-wise. Most areas in a level need to be cleared of enemies before you can progress. The speed and amount of damage taken determines the rewards received after combat. Defeated enemies drop Phozons which can be absorbed into your weapon for experience, to grow seeds and to cast magic skills. During story levels each area will contain a boss fight who is usually much larger than you and summons allies to fight you.
The game has two leveling systems. Psypher levels are gained when absorbing Phozons, increasing strength and eventually learning new skills. The second leveling is your HP level which is gained by eating food and meals. In between levels you go the alchemy lab to craft equipment and items for your benefit.
Odin Sphere has a beautiful presentation in visuals, music and story. The climax of the game is probably one of the most emotional experiences in gaming, especially the bad endings. Despite the good, Odin Sphere is not without its flaws. The game suffers from severe lag when too many enemies, objects and/or large bosses are on screen. The frame rate takes a hit but it’s still playable, just really slow. The game is also quite long and difficult. Each story of the five stories can last around 5-8 hours, depending on how much you level grind. Some bosses are very difficult so level grinding is almost necessary.
A friend of mine and forum posts I’ve read complained about the voice acting. It’s spoken in olde English and sound like an amateur theatre play. While it comes off as stilted with strange reverb, I wasn’t bothered by it. There has definitely been worse voice acting in more recent games. The writing is strong enough that strange voice acting won’t distract you if your immersed in the story.
Why should you get it?
Odin Sphere was a hidden gem on the PS2 and easily one of, if not the best Vanillaware game. The game may be simple but it’s enjoyable and challenging. While it takes some liberties when dealing with Norse Mythology, it is well-intentioned and tells stories worthy of the lore. If you can get past the performance issues and the overall length, you will be rewarded with an affecting story.