Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a HD remake of the original PS2 game that launched on May 22, 2007 in the U.S. It takes place in a fantasy world, based around Norse mythology, following the lives of Gwendolyn, Cornelius, Mercedes, Oswald, and Velvet. The plot involves wars, rebellions, revenge, espionage, and of course, a little bit of romance. Like a Tarantino movie, the larger narrative unfolds by going back and forth between character scenarios. It’s a bit confusing to keep track of, but thankfully there’s an in game timeline to study if one gets lost. Ultimately the story is slow due to its complicated structure and the voice cast, while great, has a stoic delivery. The lore was greater than its execution.
Leifthrasir can best be described as a 2D hack and slash RPG. Every character plays relatively the same save for a few special abilities. For example, most heroes are armed with melee weapons, but Mercedes has a bow and can hit enemies from a distance. Another example is Oswald’s berserk meter that transforms him into a powerful shadow for a set amount of time. There are other differences, but those two are the biggest outliers.
Aside from slashing foes, heroes can use alchemic potions as well as special abilities. The alchemic system is pretty simple: combine something with a bottle and bam. Players can create supporting blends like healing potions, or destructive combinations like the fire forming Blaze. As for said specials, Physical abilities use POW while magical ones use PP. Recipes, along with skills, are gained through each character’s campaign via a skill tree. There’s also a passive set of traits gained through using medals obtained through bosses.
Traditionally leveling up is a bit complex. Enemies drop experience and pink orbs called Phozons. Phozons power up skills, replenish PP, and are used to grow seeds, which yield EXP filled food. Food, actually, is the fastest way to grind as enemies don’t hold a lot of EXP. Aside from growing one’s own food, restaurants in town and along the dungeons can be accessed for greater rewards. Shops also contain consumables along with equipment and alchemic materials. It’s an odd system to keep track of for a RPG, but after the first campaign, aka Gwendolyn, it starts to sink in.
The gameplay loop that surrounds the hack and slash trappings are fantastic. The combat looks simple, but is surprisingly deep. It’s also gorgeous. What looked amazing on the PS2 has been intensified tremendously with this remake. The one thing that is irksome is the repetition. While stories may differ, each character exists in the same world, retreading the previous’ steps albeit in a remixed fashion. After the second time it definitely feels less fresh. That said each campaign is only about five hours, with the entire game lasting about 25+ depending on what level of extras one wants to uncover.
Speaking of, the changes and extra content added to Leifthrasir is astounding. This writer has fond memories of playing the original back on the PS2. Playing this remake was how he remembered it. However, the original version, dubbed as Classic, is contained within. Retreading those waters was eye opening to how different the game really was. Compared to Leifthrasir, Odin Sphere feels archaic, slow paced, and cumbersome. The best part of its inclusion in the package is how much gamers will appreciate the changes. It’s a brilliant move.
Now this writer played the PS4 and PS Vita versions of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. There’s also a PS3 version, but he had no time with it. The game looks great on both, but it looks strikingly better on the PS Vita due to its screen. Plus the repetitive nature of Odin Sphere is perfectly fit for a handheld, much like Vanillaware’s other PS Vita port, Muramasa Rebirth. The aforementioned extras are a great bonus on top of an already stellar remake, most of which this writer won’t go into because they’re actually pretty cool surprises. No spoilers.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is continued proof that HD remakes still have a place in the modern game space. It took a great PS2 game and made it infinitely better. Yes there are some setbacks in that the story is slowly paced and the retread through the world five times can be tiring. Still everything else bout the game is amazing. Leifthrasir is fun on both PS4 and PS Vita, but this writer highly recommends purchasing the PS Vita version. It just feels right.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review copy. This article was originally published on June 1, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.