When I began the Odin Sphere Leifthrasir Review, I knew nothing of the original. It wouldn’t take long before realising this game not only holds up, it’s better than much of what I’ve played before. Featuring five playable characters, dipped in Norse mythology, with a 2D side-scrolling brawler style; there’s a lot to love. This is the pinnacle of remasters, and it’s great even by today’s standards.

Look and Feel

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Not too long ago, I reviewed Grand Kingdom. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is visually what Grand Kingdom could have been with a little more effort.

The character designs are vibrant as well as varied. The special ability effects pop on screen and are often a pleasure to behold. If anime shacked up with Norse mythology, this is what the baby would look like.

Even with the old school, 2D presentation, the delivery of the package is superb. The voice acting comes in both English and Japanese. Though a couple of characters feel overly dramatic in their performance at times (Gwendolyn and Ingway for the English dub), it’s of an extremely high quality overall.

Masterful Remaster

The game boots up in its remastered mode, but you can choose to switch to Classic Mode from the title screen. This will take you back to the original game in full. So confident are Atlus and Vanillaware in their remaster, they’ve given you the original to see just how much they’ve improved it.

The user interface has been reworked to be more stylish and given additional visuals to much of the text-based content. The camera is further out in order to give a broader perspective on the field, which is helpful in keeping track of enemies. It’s just great to see such love and care given to this product.

Flawless? That depends on your perspective.

If there were a criticism to be had, it might be that, across 5 playable characters, the levels are limited. It makes sense for the narrative, but going elsewhere for one chapter with Oswald or Velvet might have been nice. That said, I’m splitting hairs, because this never felt like a real problem in practice. Just bare in mind you’ll be revisiting the same places throughout the 5 campaigns.

Story

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The story is told from the perspective of Alice; a young girl reading her Grandfather’s books in the attic of her home. The books hold the tales of five protagonists:

Gwendolyn

The daughter of Odin. Endlessly seeking his approval, Gwendolyn leads the Valkyries as they invade the Fairy Kingdom under Odin’s instruction. Her journey of love and betrayal begins with a clash against the black sword of the Fairies and the loss of somebody important.

Cornelius

The prince of Titania and heir to the throne. Kind-hearted and sincere. Cornelius is the victim of an evil scheme that leads to ownership of a cursed sword. With this, he seeks to bring the truth to light.

Mercedes

Princess of the Fairy Kingdom. Mercedes’ story is one of maturity. She’s spoiled, uncertain and impatient, but armed with her trusty crossbow, she must become a woman worthy of leading her people against the looming threat of another’s ambition.

Oswald

The Shadow Knight, cursed by the power he wields, is Oswald. Arrogant and aggressive. In service of the Fairy Kingdom, he faces Odin’s army with the black sword in hand. Oswald’s journey is about gaining a sense of self in world that has abandoned him.

Velvet

A mysterious figure from a lost land, Velvet is on a mission to prevent misuse of a magical cauldron. Calm and decisive, Velvet’s journey is one of conflict in an attempt to redirect fate.

As for my opinion, the story is excellent. It delivers characters with depth in a fantastical world housed inside of familiar mythology. The over-arching narrative is just as well-executed as the individual story threads. I found myself surprisingly engaged with each and every book.

MINOR SPOILERS

My favourite aspect comes towards the end, with a riddle leading to choices that need to be made by the player. If the player figures out the fairly simple riddle (if the player has been paying attention to the story) then they’ll get access to the true ending. Even if they don’t, should they choose a related character to the event, they’ll see an alternate exchange between friends and foes.

Gameplay

If a player seeks value for money, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is hard to beat. This 2D side-scrolling action game that focuses on chaining attacks for higher scores has lasted me 60 hours for a single play-through on Normal difficulty.

Each book gives you control of one character and contains a prologue, six chapters and an epilogue. The player will pick their destination from a map to enter a level. Each stage displays an advised character level on the map. A higher recommended level always means it’ls the next step in the plot.

There are five playable characters, unlocked one after the other via the story, and each has their own Psypher; a weapon forged from the Netherworld’s stolen crystals. These weapons give each character unique abilities. Some, like Mercedes, are great at long range bursts with the drawback of having to reload after a while. Others, like Oswald, are all about close-range assaults to build their special meter and unleash hell.

The World isn’t Flat

Each area in a stage tends to be spherical. This means a character can run infinitely to the left or right without hitting a wall or accidentally exiting. This freedom of movements allows for fluid fights and skillful evasions to be made. Bare in mind that enemies can also make use of this freedom. You’ll find yourself in a tight spot if you don’t keep an eye on the movement map at the top of the screen.

User Interface in-your-face.

There are three resources used by all characters and visible in the top left of the screen. Health should be self explanatory, but if it reaches zero you’ll be sent back to the area before that battle. Not a bad punishment really.

POW is the Power meter. Used by certain abilities (or by normal attacks, in Mercedes’ case). This meter automatically replenishes and the cool-down can be reduced with skills as the character levels up.

PP is a resource used by magical abilities. They tend to be stronger and usually inflict the character’s signature elemental debuff. For instance, Velvet wields fire and can burn enemies to various degrees, depleting their life swiftly.

PP is restored by killing enemies and absorbing Phozons; pink lights that emerge from certain plants and dead enemies. There are also potions that can restore PP.

The Basics of Battle

Depending on the difficulty, combat can be mindless fun or a challenging gauntlet. Easy mode will see the player happily mashing at the single button combination with little-to-no problems. Normal is perfectly balanced, allowing for simple, smaller enemies but deadly boss fights should the player decide to get a bit lax. Hard will require the player to be using their evasion techniques to create opening and focus on lifting enemies from the ground to make them vulnerable. Heroic, the unlockable difficulty, is a nightmare in the best way.

Slide under enemies to break their defense. Jump and glide over their heads to attack from behind. Assign the skills unlocked through story progression to custom shortcuts and unleash Hel on foes (Norse joke!). It’s all about finding the right combination of skills, launching attacks and evasion.

By launching uninterrupted attacks, the player will build a “chain”. This chain is the primary category for the rating given upon area completion. S rank is the best and is fairly easy to obtain once the basics of attack chains have been learned. Basically don’t get hit and hit them a lot without dropping the chain.

Progression Session

Phozons not only restore PP, they’re also a resource for leveling up the abilities of each character.

Upgrading abilities can provide higher attack, higher skill power, longer duration or harsher status affect infliction. It’s a well-balanced system that requires a bit of a grind to master.

Player level is governed by something else: Experience. Experience is gained somewhat from defeating enemies but, in a bizarre twist, more-so from eating food. Food can be eaten between chapters at a certain cafe or in the field from a travelling Pooka Chef at rest points. If the ingredients are in the bag, the Pooka Chef will whip up a level increasing feast for the current character.

Increasing in level gives Skill Points to be spent on passive abilities, such as increased damage when on the ground or discounts at shops for items.

Growing Meat

Another use for Phozons is to grow plants. Seeds will be acquired through the course of the game. Growing the plants provides food that can be eaten or given to the Pooka Chef for a huge experience increase.

As well as fruit, one seed type will provide live sheep that are destined to become lamb chops. I found this to be hilarious. Vegans might not.

Japan Loves Alchemy

There’s a simple mix system to create various attack and support potions within Odin Sphere. By consuming certain ingredients, potions such as Health Recovery and Cyclone can be produced.

The alchemy system is vital to surviving the harsher challenges to be found in the late game. A well-timed Elixir can make all the difference.

Thoughts on the Heap of Content

I love the easy-of-use of all of these systems. The battles are smooth. The crafting is quick and easy once understood.  Above all else, the fighting is fun. Chaining a 500 hit combination attack with Velvet’s Ground Fire and Dancing Chain feels awesome.

What’s most impressive is that, though Velvet became my favourite to use, every character worth using. I found myself missing certain moves even on my personal choice of character, which is a a sign of quality gameplay design. I didn’t hate using anybody at all.

The game can be a bit of a grind. Even on Normal mode, being a level or two below the recommended can lead to frustration. Luckily, it’s easy enough to venture back and face powerful mid-bosses that provide a great many phozons as well as a chance to acquire rare goods for a high rank.

Extras

Once Odin Sphere has been completed, access to an additional difficulty level and Xtra New Game can be chosen. Xtra New Game permits the carry-over of all levels, skills and items to a new game. If the beefy amount of initial content wasn’t enough, it can be revisited all over again at a higher difficulty or on the same difficulty on a power trip.

Overall

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Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is tough to summarise. It’s such a dense game, yet it’s easy to grasp after a chapter of gameplay. The art is beautiful, the music sets an appropriate tone and the gameplay is better than most action games on the market.

It may be tough to get through so much of it, but the narrative is absolutely worth the journey and the game should last you a long time. This isn’t just a great game, it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.

About this Odin Sphere Leifthrasir Review.

Game: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir 
Format: PS4
PEGI: 12

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Developers & Publishers: , ,
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