Odin Sphere is a frame story that begins with a little girl called Alice, who reads a series of books in the attic from her house (with the company of her cat Socrates). Each book has a different character as the protagonist and, thus, tells a different story but set in the same world. What world, you may ask? Well, an RPG wouldn’t be and RPG if it didn’t take place in a fantasy world, right? And what’s better than that fantasy world (called Erion) containing a lot of Norse mythology! Be prepared to immerse yourself in the world of Alice’s books!
Note: This review contains mild spoilers but if you still want to avoid them just jump to “conclusive thoughts”.
What makes an RPG game good? Is it the story, the art, the characters, the music, the gameplay, or just a combination of everything? Naturally, every game is different and no matter how much we love them, they will always have certain flaws. But that’s also what makes them special, no story is perfect and no story reaches people in the same way. So, let’s talk about this game’s strengths! Why is Odin Sphere so special? Apart from the fact it was HD remastered for PS Vita, PS3 and PS4, making it look fifty times better; Odin Sphere is a wonderful game because it has a little bit of everything.
Starting with the art, never have I witnesses such beauty in an RPG world. The characters designs are awe-inspiring and the backgrounds breathtaking; don’t even get me started on the quality of the animations. I’m not exaggerating, I really feel this way when I look at the art. You just need to take a peek at the trailer to know what I’m talking about, but I assure you the experience is very different when you’ve got the game in your hands. The art is so good it makes you want to be part of that world, you want to insert yourself inside one of Alice’s books and see that magnificence with your own eyes. Heck, even the world map is gorgeous, man. A friend of mine suspects the way the art is done could be cel-shading, which would be awesome, really, since that technique is beautiful. Truly, Odin Sphere’s art is a feast for the eyes, VanillaWare does not disappoint.
Secondly, let’s talk about the music. OH. MY. GOD. GUYS. This review isn’t even done yet and you probably must be tired by now to
hear read the words wonderful, amazing, and incredible, among others, but just how can you describe such GREATNESS if not with GREAT words? Obviously, not every single theme in the game is incredible but many, many of them fit the scenes very well, especially the fighting ones that get you all fired up. It’s also very well managed: every kingdom/place in Odin Sphere has a different set of music themes. The Netherworld? Spooky. Ringford? Adventurous and magical. Needless to say, a feast for the ears! Again, VanillaWare does not disappoint.
Now, let’s talk gameplay, shall we? As I said in the beginning of the review, Odin Sphere is a frame story and, everytime you start the game, you’ll find yourself in the attic with Alice and Socrates. The first five books contain a different character each, who you’ll need to control so as to advance the story. Every character fights with a different type of crystal called psypher. Psyphers are weapons forged by Dwarfs using a Phozon Crystal as the blade. Phozons are purple star-like sparkles that appear after someone dies, like a sort of life force. The psyphers absorb phozons to obtain magical energy which enables you to use stronger attacks. The first character is Gwendolyn, daughter of Lord Odin from Nebulapolis, who uses her sister’s Psypher Spear. Ah, something quite cool about the characters’ abilities is that each one has a different attribute. For example, Gwendolyn has ice. Cornelius, the second character, is the prince of Titania who suffers from a curse that has turned him into a Pooka (in this game, they are sort of like bunnies, but Pookas can actually take other forms too, according to Irish folklore), and he uses the Psypher Sword; his attribute is electricity. The third character is the fairy noble princess Mercedes of Ringford, who uses her mother’s Tasla (a Psypher Crossbow); her attribute is flight. Oswald, The Shadow Knight, is the fourth character and uses the Belderiver (a red Psypher-tipped sword). Oswald’s attribute is sort of like a darkness power which lets him go into berserk mode turning him into a strong shadowy creature for a few seconds. The last character is Velvet, called Forest Witch by some of her enemies, who uses the Graveryl (a chain with a red Psypher at both ends); her attribute is fire. Each of the characters face pretty much the same bosses throughout the game, with some variations depending on the book you’re in. I personally didn’t find it repetitive, since the reasons they had to battle each of them was different, so it proved very fulfilling. Another interesting trait this game has to offer is a system which allows you to collect alchemy and food recipes. Alchemy potions are done with a variety of ingredients, primarily mandragoras. Food recipes are collected for Maury, the Pooka chef, who prepares them for you everytime you ring a bell in certain areas. Eating food regularly will make you stronger and increase your level, apart from recovering HP. Another important thing you’ll need to collect is Phozon Prisms, which are necessary for the characters to obtain certain skills that will help them immensely in battle. After you complete the first five books, you unlock the Book of Armageddon. This one is fairly shorter since all you have to do is pretty much fight bosses 😆 but, of course, they’re different bosses from the ones in the first five stories. Depending on which character you choose to fight each boss, you’ll get the true ending or not. BUT, in order to get an extra scene after the ending, you need to see all the available scenes from the bosses’ battles. There’s one more book but maybe you should try to discover how that one unlocks yourself so I don’t spoil all the fun 😉 hehehe. Again, VanillaWare does not disappoint.
And now, finally, it’s time for my favorite part: THE STORY AND THE CHARACTERS. Man, if all the other stuff I mentioned before was cool then this is FUCKING OUTSTANDING. No, seriously, this game really has a lot of good points but, ultimately, the best of them all is the story and the characters. Let’s start with the fact that this tale takes place during a war, in which each of our heroes will find themselves involved (directly or indirectly), for a magical object called The Cauldron. Some of them apparently don’t have anything to do with each other but, as the saying goes: it’s a small world. There are no coincidences in Odin Sphere, there’s always a purpose for everything, there’s always a reason. Whether the characters’ goals are good or bad really depends on the book and you, the player, seeing the whole picture. Why? Because something great that Odin Sphere has to offer is that a character can appear like a complete jerk in one of the stories but a total sweetheart in another one (except for the fathers who are all scumbags in every story lmao). But, is that really the case? The interesting concept about this is that these characters are VERY human-like. Odin Sphere won’t ever put them down as perfect beings who are oh so pure. Every single one of them has strengths and flaws. Heck, that’s what makes characters so interesting! Even the villains in this game are awesome and, that’s not all, anti-heroes are present too (they’re even better than the villains)! The story is incredibly well managed and BOY do the characters have huge developments, you can’t imagine! What you can definitely expect, though, is romance. The romance in this game is one of the best things it has to offer. While there may not be a whole lot of love scenes, the ones that appear are indeed very powerful. Just try to deny that you don’t like seeing these couples together, the feelings you’ll get will be too strong! And what of the characters themselves, right? Man, they really are one of a kind. Gwendolyn, a very kind, loyal and strong Valkyrie who’s unafraid of battle and seeks acceptance. How caring she is, how brave she is, probably the bravest from all the characters (and I’m not talking only of combat here); Gwendolyn is also the perfect proof that girls can rescue “dons in distress” as well. Cornelius, a courageous man who fights for what he thinks is right, even though he may not find approval from some (especially when it comes to romance). He’s unselfish and will always help those in need if it’s for a good cause. Mercedes, initially a spoiled and capricious girl who wants to prove her mother she can fight too. Mercedes probably has the biggest character development since we see an annoying child grow into a full-fledged adult attending to her responsibilities. Oswald, cold, cruel and blood-thirsty but, in reality, just a lonely man who seeks love. Oswald may be a good example of an anti-hero (but not the only one in the game 😉 hohoho); the dude literally scares others with his sole stare, but his passion for a certain girl is second to none. Velvet, a serious, mature and independent young woman who has gone through a lot in her past. Throughout the story we can see that she’s actually very kind and even motherly; love has also helped her a great deal in finding hope. Needless to say, VanillaWare does not disappoint.
So you’ve got great characters, you’ve got adventure, you’ve got fantasy, you’ve got drama, you’ve got action, you’ve got romance and even a bit of comedy, at times. What else do you need? It’s definitely not nespresso. What you need is to do yourself a favor and play this gem of a game. I’m guarantee it, you wont regret it. VanillaWare does not disappoint.
July is the month of RPGs! #JRPGJuly 😀