I hope you didn't pack up your PS2 after finishing God of War 2 because there is yet another reason to put your hands on the old dual shock controller. That reason is Odin Sphere. This game can really be described in four simple words: Breath of fresh air. Thatâ€™s how I feel when I sit down to play Odin Sphere. While a lot of the game's concepts arenâ€™t entirely revolutionary, they are done right. That mixed with the awesome 2D graphics and twisting story keeps me firmly on the couch.
Odin Sphere's gameplay primarily consists of 2D hack and slash sequences with story bits between levels and before boss fights. The levels are split up into many nodes which consist of standard monster encounters with mobs of enemies to dispatch, vendors, and boss fights. These nodes are connected in different ways forcing you to plan your route through the level. There are also dead ends which often have a unique or useful item to offer incentive to fight all the way out there. Each node is a circular area that loops, so for example if youâ€™re fighting a boss monster who is facing left, and you run to the left long enough you will eventually come upon the monsters backside. Itâ€™s and interesting system which I didnâ€™t really care for at first but I have come to terms with it and now donâ€™t mind it at all. The only real downside to level navigation is that there is a load time between each node. Each time you beat a node you will get ranked on your proficiency in dispatching the enemies. Your rating will determine how much loot you receive.
Speaking of loot, there is a really cool alchemy system in place, which allows players to turn items they have into items they want. It works pretty well for the most part and is fun to try. Support items play a huge roll in combat and can really save you in the oftentimes very tough boss battles. The characters' hit points actually level up based on how much food you eat, so eat up! One downside to loot is the inordinate number of items in the game. The items you can pick up and the amount of inventory space you have seems very misproportioned. It gets to the point where I really donâ€™t care what rankings I get on levels because I probably wonâ€™t pick up any of the reward items anyway. There are bags you can get to extend your inventory, but itâ€™s still not enough, and quite a hassle.
Character customization, something I hoped for and expected, is severely lacking. The weapon and armor you get at the beginning of the game is the same youâ€™ll have at the end. You can only equip your character with one item at a time. This made me very sad because I just love hunting for loot and acquiring near game-breaking weapons at the expense of way too much time. I suppose itâ€™s just the game's action elements showing through.
The combat is really simple to get into with lots of button mashing but defiantly has some finesse involved as well. Some of the battles, especially the boss fights can be very challenging, forcing the player to use precision control to avoid obstacles of all types. The player also has a spell system and lots of damage items like napalm at the ready to supplement the big combo attacks with a melee weapon.
The 2D graphics in this game are simply stunning; I really wish every 2D game looked this good. Hopefully this will be an inspiration to developers everywhere, showing that 2D is not dead! The monsters are HUGE and detailed, the animation is fluid, and the backgrounds seem to stretch on forever. Words canâ€™t really do justice to the looks of Odin Sphere and I urge you to look at some screenshots and enjoy the illustration-like style and detail for yourself. While this game does show off just how good the PS2 can look, I cannot help but want this on a next gen console for a true HD experience, but we canâ€™t have everything.
The sound is also quite good, although sometimes the environmental effects in the dialogue end up sounding weird. For example, when someone is talking in a stone building, they come just short of capturing that and instead it sounds like itâ€™s someone in the bathtub. I have no such complaint about the sound effects which I think are right on track. The translation is pretty good, and the game comes with the option to have Japanese dialogue and English subtitles if you prefer to have the original voices.
I didnâ€™t really touch on the story much but I'll say it has lots of twists, betrayal and allows you to play as 4 characters showing different sides of the same story. About 40 hours of game play spanning all types of landscapes should keep you busy for a while.
Odin sphere is a great game that Iâ€™m really enjoying and I think anyone with any interest in RPG's, action RPG's, or things from Japan in general will really enjoy this game. Go pick it up, your PS2 will thank you.