By Michael Wells
Welcome to the February 2016 edition of Games to get Excited About! This month, we’re looking at an upcoming release for the Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Playstation Vita game, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. Hold on, you may be thinking, haven’t I heard of this before? Yes! Odin Sphere was originally released for the PS2 back in May of 2007. That’s right, the game is almost ten years old! So, why are we talking about it in our upcoming release column? Because Odin Sphere is coming back! Leifthrasir is an updated version of the original game with new features and upgraded graphics to better showcase the original game’s outstanding art style.
The original game was certainly no slouch in the visual department.
Leifthrasir has been upgraded to higher native resolution and been expanded to widescreen format to take better advantage of modern tvs.
The visual upgrades include HD spritework, native widescreen, 60fps (frames per second) gameplay, all of which combine to make an already gorgeous game pop off the screen with buttery smooth animation and action.
OK, so the game looks pretty, why else should you care? So glad you asked! Odin Sphere is from Vanillaware, a Japanese developer with a distinctive art style and almost unparalleled sprite work. Their most recent game was Dragon’s Crown, which was widely praised for its deep brawler gameplay and lush visual style. Odin’s Sphere is an action RPG, and is a throwback to the Princess Crown game which released on the Sega Saturn in the ’90s. Gameplay takes place in a series of interlocking 2D stages that loop, allowing you to come at your enemies from ahead or behind depending on how you approach them.
The game follows five playable characters through an interlocking narrative that combines a fairytale aesthetic with a story inspired by both Norse mythology and European folklore. As each character, you will level up, craft food to boost your stats, fight screen-filling bosses and uncover the pieces of how all their tragic stories fit together. The protagonists are amusingly diverse in both design and gameplay. Gwendolyn is a Valkyrie and fights up close with a spear, while Mercedes is an elfin Princess who uses her speed and crossbow to keep enemies at bay (Yuri Lowenthal voices a prince who has been turned into a rabbit-like creature).
What if you already played Odin Sphere way back when? Is there anything here besides a new coat of paint? Unfortunately, the game does not add any new story scenarios to tempt you back, but it does add a New Game + mode that allows you to carry your characters over to a new playthrough with all of their stats and bonuses intact. New Game + also ups the difficulty of the enemies you’ll face to give you a sterner challenge while you continue with your powered up characters. If that’s not enough challenge, the game also includes a new difficulty called Hell. Hell difficulty ups the strength and HP of all enemies and permanently locks your characters at their starting HP value of 200, so you’ll need to keep on your toes if you want to get through it. The final addition for Leifthrasir is a Boss Rush mode. This is a fairly typical mode but it does throw you into a gauntlet of all 50 (50!) of the games mini-bosses and bosses.
The game has also been overhauled quite a bit under the hood. In addition to getting it running at 60fps, the developers at Vanillaware incorporated a lot of the mechanics that they fine-tuned in Dragon’s Crown to make for a more robust brawler-RPG hybrid than the original game was capable of. If you prefer the original style, never fear! Leifthrasir includes the option to play in either the new style or using the classic mechanics so you can find the style that fits what you’re looking for.
All in all, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir promises to be a good value and a great reason to try out an older game you may have missed upon its original release. The game’s fantastic art style and character design would be enough to make this worth experiencing in HD, but they have also tuned the gameplay and added modes to bring it more in line with the content expected of a modern action-RPG.
The Japanese release was preceded by a demo for the Playstation 4. ATLUS USA had not yet announced if the demo will be made available in America prior to the game’s release on June 7th. As mentioned above, the game will be getting physical and digital releases for the PS4, PS3, and PSV. As a Vita owner, I’m always glad to see a physical release for Sony’s handheld powerhouse. If you’re the collecting type, ATLUS has also announced the Storybook Edition for the Playstation 4 version of the game. The Storybook edition includes a hardcover art book, an art print, a t-shirt, and a steelbook case for the game itself.
Vanillaware also created an 8-bit throwback browser game to promote the game in Japan. The game is in Japanese, but it’s easy enough to figure out if you want to give it a try while waiting for the real thing. You can find it here. It’s a simple score attack game – X to attack and Z to jump – straightforward, but fun to kill a few minutes.
Odin Sphere promises a lot for gamers that like tight mechanics and beautiful art. It’s definitely a game to get excited about!