Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Where remastering done right with Vanillaware and Atlus
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a stunning remake of its 2007 Playstation 2 counterpart, simply titled Odin Sphere. Fans of Vanillaware are familiar with the artistic excellence standard for their titles, from the breathtaking background and character designs, to the smooth animation and gameplay to match; If you’ve played Oboro Muramasa Rebirth or Dragon’s Crown, then you know what to expect from Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.
Upon the start of the game, we’re treated to a short series of cutscenes regarding the Cauldron ownership and Titrel ring that started war across Erion, ending with Gwyndolyn knowing of her sister’s death. After the intro, we meet a cute kid named Alice and her cat… Socrates. Likely growing bored of her room, she decides to venture up into the attic where they stumble upon the books for this story, and give them a read. The story unfolds in the form of these books, starting with Book 1 : Valkyrie for Gwyndolyn, then Book 2: The Pooka Prince for Cornelius, Book 3: Fairy Land for Mercedes, Book 4: The Black Sword for Oswald, Book 5: Fate for Velvet, Book 6: Armageddon for the game climax and lastly Book 7: Wheel of Fate for the game’s coveted epilogue / true ending.
Close combat / Dagger combat is really my weakest point at this game
I remember playing the PS2 iteration game on an Emulator (PSCX2?) with my friend a few years back. I wasn’t aware of this title when it originally released, as my older brother didn’t like 2D platform games since non-block type 3D was unequaled in popularity at that time. There are some key points that I can still recall, such as Mercedes death, Maury’s cooking and its inventory system.
Years down the road, I ended up purchasing Leifthrasir last year so that my friend could play; swapping controllers when there were difficult battle stages, and ultimately clearing Mercedes’ storybook, however for personal reasons, I ended up finishing and clearing the whole game. Upon playing this gem, I found myself taken aback by the quality of the animation, especially the fluidity of sprite movements, albeit with a hint of lag present upon activation of certain spells, blaze in particular being a prime culprit when spammed all over the stage.
Each of the five protagonists are armed with different fighting styles and levels of combo linking:
Gwyndolyn is a well-rounded character who fights using the Psypher Spear, with combos utilizing Ice elemental spells in order to slow down opponents. Cornelius is a light and fast-moving character with his Psypher Sword, making spin combos with the aid of his Lightning spells to land consecutive hits on enemies. Mercedes is flying projectile-oriented character, she lacks elemental spells, thus focusing more on combat kills and her Unlimited Ammo skill can help a long way in defeating bosses, albeit slowly. Oswald plays akin to Cornelius & Mercedes. Armed with his Psypher Belderiver, he is also a fast-moving character and while he lacks elemental spells, his Berserk mode doubles the damage output on any skills and spells when activated. Lastly, Velvet is also a well-rounded character with her Psypher Graveryl, and unlike Gwyndolyn she makes use of mid-ranges attacks, and a passive skill to extend her combos, therefore inducing more damage.
While the game mechanics are largely unchanged from the original, small improvements were made to the games mechanics and graphics. One such example lies in the way players are able to select items from their inventory, as you were entirely unable to pause the game while doing so in the original, leaving your hero exposed to enemy attacks. This has been rightfully adjusted since then, although eating or drinking still does take a brief moment with its accompanying animation. Fighting enemies differs too, as you’ll find opponents leveling up along with you as the game progresses. Also new to this installment is the traditional ‘Boss Rush’ feature, consisting of a marathon-style grind against the many bosses you’ve faced along the way, so stacking plenty of potion, food and fruits is crucial to success in this mode. From the graphical standpoint, the art direction in this title is magnificent, the overall stage design being particularly aesthetically pleasing, especially when playing it on an HD / 4K TV.
Grinding for recipes, coins and food remain a crucial element to the game since enemies and boss battles can be ridiculously hard to a poorly-equipped player — especially those 5★s stages. However, the game never ceases to be enjoyable despite the difficulties at hand. Wisely setting your Skill Tree can price a tremendous help in defeating hard stages as well. I tend to focus on Passive skills rather than Active ones, since it’s easy to lose sight of your spells and skills amidst heated combat.
Upon finishing the game, you’ll be rewarded with a Gallery section where you can view sketches and art concepts for the game, some of which are really nice and can be set as a PSN profile banner too. Seeing this section made me regret that I didn’t buy the Artbook available only via the Limited Edition box.
To wrap it up
Overall, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a masterful action RPG, boasting aesthetically pleasing graphics coupled with responsive controls and smooth gameplay, easily recommended to any player who isn’t self-conscious about a little vigorous grinding. Even while following the previous game in terms of story, visuals and mechanics, a little bit of tweaking courtesy of Vanillaware makes the overall experience much more fun, did I also mention the aesthetically pleasing graphics?!