One of my favourite gaming genres has to be 2D sidescrolling games. I honestly don’t know what it is that pulls me to these games, but I have played more than I have remembered, and I have definitely enjoyed most of these. The latest game of the genre I have put my hands on is Atlus’ Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and it will be one of the few I will actually remember, and for good reasons too.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, as mentioned before, is a 2D sidescrolling RPG-esque game, in the sense that unlike other platformers, here you level up, get stronger and learn abilities, carry items and equip stuff to help you in your quest. Although one can say that the game consists of one story, there are five actual campaigns to play through Odin Sphere, but since the campaigns recount the events from a different point of view, we may say that they all converge to form one, complete story, which is relatively unexplored in similar titles. To wrap it all up nicely, starting up the game will feature a little girl who sits in a library, awaiting you to visit. You then control the girl to pick up a book and read the story which you will venture in the game and play as the main character in that story.
The first story, for example, features the start of the tale, taking control of Gwendolyn, a Valkyrie and daughter of the Demon King Odin. Upon the death of her sister Griselda, who seemed to benefit of the preference of the King, Gwendolyn inherits the spear that Griselda used to fight with in battle. Gwendolyn was never the favourite of his father, and thus tries her best to make him love her. What follows is a series of events all related to Ragnanival, the realm of Gwendolyn and Odin, and the remnants of the glorious city which was Valentine, and the battle to gain access to the Crystallization Cauldron.
Gameplay in Leifthrasir is easy to learn, but difficult to master properly. This is because even though in combat you merely bash the square button to attack, there is shielding, to obviously block incoming attacks, as well as parrying, which consists of timing an attack with the enemy’s attack to disrupt his attack and get an advantage over him. In combat there is a whole arsenal each character can use, stemming from the skills which you will learn as you progress further down the story. These skills can either be active, meaning you need to activate them, either by setting a hotkey for quick usage, or by pressing L1 and then selecting the one you want to use. Unlike other titles, this skill menu is rather useful and fast, which means that setting a hotkey is not as essential as other titles. It must be mentioned that these skills are not gained at the player’s will. A new skill will be learnt each time you collect Phozon Prisms. Collecting a prism will give your character a new skill, but you will not be choosing this skill. It will instead be given by the game. I do agree with this in part, since this will help the player use all the skills and learn to choose his most useful to his playing style, while just choosing yourself from the get go may result in not even levelling some skills up. These crystals which are scattered around the world, with the majority earned through story progression. There are also a bunch of Prisms which are hidden, with a hint written in the skill tree on the appropriate skill to help the player find the prism quicker.
Apart from these skills, there are also abilities which characters can learn. Conversely to skills, you get to choose when and which abilities to level up, using Ability points earned when levelling up. These ability points are passive bonuses, which may provide that small edge in battle that lets you win with the slightest margin. They are not gamebreaking by any means, but they give you bonuses in practically all parts of the game, which means levelling these abilities up is essential to the game.
Combat truly is crucial to the game, but it is not the single most important thing in the game. This is because Food and Alchemy is just as important, if not more due to the fact that it is Alchemy which may bring you back from certain death. In Odin Sphere, your characters will collect various seeds and “plants”, if you may, called mandragoras. These mandragoras are mixed to create potions. These potions vary depending on the mandragoras and the quantity that are put into these potions, and each combination will yield different potions, all with their own use and power. You can also eat these mandragoras for a small health boost, but it is definitely much more worth it mixing. As for the tubes which you need to mix these mandragoras, called materials, there is no need to worry as you will find loads of these scattered throughout the game. If this is still not enough to contain the alchemist within you, vendors also sell these for cheap so you can mix all the mandragoras you want, or the ones you have anyway.
As what regards food, in the game you will find seeds which you can plant and feed phozons. When the tree grows you will harvest its fruit, and eating such fruit will yield HP and experience points. This exp boost is vital to progression, since when venturing towards tough opponents, it is food which will get you those higher levels much needed in gaining an edge over these enemies. Apart from fruit, you will also be able to eat proper dishes, prepared by Pooka Chefs. These Pooka chefs request that you bring them the recipe and the ingredients, but will then cook you a meal for free. These meals will give you a huge experience boost, making them as essential as combat for level progression.
If the game consisted of the above only, it would still be sufficient for me to recommend it to anyone having money and a PS4, but on top of it all, the visuals of the game are one of the best in the genre. Character design is beautiful, with each individual having his own style and looks, and the animations of each are a work of art. There is minimal frame rate issues, except in extremely crowded areas and with a thousand spells flying from side to side, but this is expected. The environments are also a joy to behold, and will never bore players since there is always something new on the background. The dialogue is also top notch: the lines are brilliant and to the point, and manage to make you empathize with the characters, which is a result of the exceptional voice acting by all of the cast behind the game.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a marvellous remaster of one of the best looking games of the PS2 era, so it is with due happiness that we are all here celebrating it on PS4. It consists in everything a gamer could ask for in a game: fun and addictive gameplay, a good story with great characters, and visuals to stare at for hours on end. Atlus have really nailed it on this game.