Odin Sphere is a game for the PS2 developed by Vanillaware and released in 2007 for Japan and the US, and 2008 for PAL regions. It was recently re-released via the PSN for North Americans. The game takes ideas from Norse mythology, and is considered to be a spiritual successor to Atlus’ Princess Crown.
The first character introduced in Odin Sphere is a young girl by the name of Alice, who is sitting in her attic at home. She bends down and picks up a book titled Valkyrie; this book is the story of Gwendolyn, one of the main characters of Odin Sphere. There are five playable characters in total, each with their very own book, with a new book being acquired after clearing all the chapters in the latest one.
The game world is inhabited by both humans and Pookas; creatures which resemble a rabbit that has learned to walk on its hind legs. The plot is interesting to take in as it unfolds, as each character has their own motives and perspective; watching relationships develop is great in particular as it is done quite well, especially seeing it from the differing viewpoints of each character. After being viewed once, each cutscene can be seen again at the player’s leisure from an option in the main menu. They are neatly arranged into a timeline.
Every chapter in each of the characters’ books in Odin Sphere has a home base, where you can chat to the people standing around and purchase wares from a merchant. There is always a required destination, although sometimes it is possible to head back to a stage that has already been cleared in that book. Each stage consists of several circular areas; if you keep running in one direction, you will find yourself back where you started in a short amount of time. You can acquire a map for each stage, which will tell you what the reward is for clearing any area, as well as what to expect within the area.
The game is played out in 2D. During battle, the top-left corner of the screen will show the current character’s HP, Psypher Gauge, HP level and weapon level. Next to it is a strip that stretches across most of the top of the screen, showing all the enemies currently present on the battlefield. A ‘POW’ bar gets depleted with every attack the main character uses, with different attacks making it drop by different amounts. It refills automatically when you’re not attacking. If it is allowed to drop all the way to empty, the character will momentarily be unable to move until it is full again. Fighting consists of pressing buttons to do damage to foes, and there are also a couple of different combinations to use.
Each character possesses a special weapon known as a ‘Psypher’, which is able to strengthen itself by absorbing the spirits of fallen foes. Defeating enemies rewards ‘phozons’, which can be absorbed to increase the level of that character’s weapon. Not only does this make the weapon stronger, but it may unlock new abilities too. Using special abilities costs some of the phozons currently stored in the weapon. While the special abilities of the Psypher do add some variety to fights, after a while it can get extremely repetitive.
Odin Sphere contains many scrolls, cooking recipes, and potion recipes to collect, which can all be found only by clearing every single area in the game. The scrolls give the player more information about the continent and various nations of the game. Potions can be concocted in battle or at base in a process called ‘Alchemy,’ and doing so generates phozons. The higher the level of the potion used for mixing, the more phozons generated.
Seeds can be planted to grow food or items used for cooking. Eating food restores lost HP, and also gives experience for levelling up to increase maximum HP. Seeds can only be grown out in the stages, and they use phozons as an energy source. Cooked food tends to give far better bonuses than anything plucked straight from a plant. Food can be cooked only at a Pooka-run restaurant or cafe at base. While restaurant food must be eaten then and there, anything made at the cafe is take-away food and can be brought with the player into stages for consumption on the battlefield.
Odin Sphere has three different difficulty levels that can be adjusted at any time in-game. The game also boasts some pretty amazing backdrops during fights, cut-scenes, and in each of the different stages; all of the artwork in this game really helps to make it memorable. The soundtrack is wonderful, with the majority of it having been performed by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, the main theme especially being a standout.
Odin Sphere is a delightful game that I would recommend to anyone who asks. You can purchase it from online retailers such as Gamestop and Amazon, and as mentioned before, North Americans are able to download it via the PSN.