Originally released on the PS2 half a year after the PS3 came out, Odin Sphere launched with much fanfare. It’s music, art direction, and gameplay was just what everyone needed at the time. 2D beat-em-ups had all but gone the way of the dodo, but Vanillaware showed us that we needed them in our lives. With all of it’s beautiful environments and colorful characters, the game was a success with the niche market, and even got some positive mainstream press. Much of that praise came from lead designer George Kamitani’s animation decisions. I’ve always enjoyed his art style as well as his animation techniques.
Using multi-sprite bosses where each body part was made of different sprites, they were able to animate the characters in a fairly unique way. Castlevania used this same technique for their larger bosses, but Kamitani was a bit of a pioneer in using this technique almost exclusively in his games. Each character, NPC, enemy, boss, and item is made of multiple “pieces”. This allows them to cheaply animate everything anyway they choose to without having to draw each frame of animation. In effect, it works a lot like animating 3D models. With the remake of Odin Sphere, the technique looks better than ever before. When you play the original mode, it looks almost as fantastic as the hi-res version, which goes to show that good 2D sprites continue to show the test of time.
With all the praise the first game got, there were bad things about the game. Things like the way game mechanics were introduced were less than ideal. The menu system, which some love, was a bit confusing for others. The combo system was a bit rigid, and had limitations. It’s amazing what a decade of experience and game mechanics can do for a classic. If you played the original ten years ago and were an instant Vanillaware follower because of it, you can stop reading now. If you haven’t already picked it up, I can assure you that it’s worth your hard earned coinage. There are many updates including frame-rate fixes, graphics, skills, and extra modes upon completion. The Vita version does have some frame-rate drops, but never does it get as bad as it was on the PS2; unless you’re playing classic mode which seems to emulate all the flaws of the original quite well. For those who have never played it and might be on the fence, there’s a demo for both the Vita and the PS4. If you want to know a little more about the game, continue reading.
Vanillaware games almost always feature their own take on Norse mythology. As such, you begin the game as a Valkyrie named Gwendolyn. Ragnanival, lead by Odin, has invaded the realm of the faries, Ringford. He seeks an item that will allow him to create Psypher crystals which would basically give him the ability to make magic weapons. When Gwen’s sister, Griselda, is slain in battle, Odin gives Gwen her sister’s spear which is equipped with a Psypher crystal. Gwen is constantly trying to gain her father, Odin’s, approval. As her story pans out, she finds her true purpose in life. There are 4 other characters with intertwined stories, and once you finish Gwen’s story, you can play other characters, seeing some of the previous events from different perspectives. Overall, it’s a good story that seems extremely odd at first, but once everything comes together, you’re left wishing there were more.
The game plays much like a combo-based side-scroller with beautiful and bright visuals. There are RPG elements such as those in the “Metrovania” games. The way you gain experience is different. By eating food, you gain both HP and XP, usually more XP than HP. You also gain XP from fighting, but nowhere near as much as you do from eating. Anyone who knows Vanillaware knows they have some of the most delicious looking food in their games, and always make eating some kind of important mechanic in their games. It’s recommended that you eat before playing these games. As you play, you will gain phozons which can be used to both plant seeds that grow into food/ingredients, and to level up your various skills. Eating food will level you up while increasing the power of your skills will grant certain bonuses such as more PP, POW, or HP. Another way to get food is by spending your earned coins at a Pooka café later in the game. In the classic version, each of the characters have very similar skills, but this build of the game has gone above and beyond, creating unique skills that fit each character’s style much better than the classic mode.
Unlike many “HD” remakes, Leiftrasir goes beyond porting an upscaled version of the game to next gen consoles. There is so much new content here, it warrants a purchase from even the hardest to please gamers. Purists have an updated version that they loved on the PS2 while those that want something that has a bit more meat on its bones can play the enhanced version.