Tell me, good sir or madam, when was the last time you have played what felt like a visual novel of a video game? A game with detailed, artistic imagery, dramatic characterization, and a user-friendly combat system that strays from the norm? I can imagine it’s been too long. Let us fall back to the days of the Playsation 2, and remember what glory was left behind after the leap to Ps3.
The world of Odin Sphere is one of chaos and doom. A Valentinian prophecy warns that the end of the world comes when the crowned dragon pierces the skies. The player will take control of five very unique characters who each unknowingly advance the plot towards Armageddon, each wielding a Psypher crystal weapon forged from the evil Crystallization Cauldron that can drink the life energy of slain enemies. Fight hordes of daunting enemies with a spear, a longsword, a shortsword, a crossbow, and a chain, each with an interesting and effective set of moves that will pull you out of desolation and lead you to victory! Yeah!
Plot after mechanics, since you won’t be able to enjoy the game if you keep dying. Don’t worry, though. It’s not cruel to defeated players. The map is divided into a series of “rings,” which make up the entirety of a combat zone. Once a ring has been entered, it may not be exited until all initial enemies have been slain, except if the ring has already been cleared. The ring loops infinitely, allowing the player to flee stronger enemies and attack them from behind, or just to take some time to eat food and heal.
Odin Sphere takes healing seriously. Purchase food items and consume them to gradually increase your maximum health. As they say in-game, the food you eat becomes a part of you and helps you grow. Also, if you level up while eating, you hit full health. Very handy in the tougher fights. Alternatively, the player may brew potions that will allow them to take on all manner of effects, such as spawning three flaming minions, boosting physical regeneration, removing poison, or even lighting up the underworld! I’m serious. Plus potions release Phozons when brewed, so the player can increase their Phozon level simply by making a potion of damage resistance.
Alchemy also plays quite a large role in Odin Sphere. Mandragoras are small, sentient plants that hide underground in combat rings. They squeak when stepped on, so jump on the source of the squeak to force them out, then slap them to stop them from running. Afterwards, pick them up, store them, and do some science. I mean, alchemy. You can purchase an alchemical base zero from stores, though along the way you may find a base ten or twenty as a reward for clearing a ring. The numbers on the bases are very important, as they dictate what will emerge once you mix the final Mandragora ingredient into the potion. While the alchemical scale of numbers only spans from 0-9, every ten points, the number of Phozons released upon brewing completion will scale up.
Phozons are important because they allow you to perform Psypher attacks with your weapon. This can range anywhere from creating a damaging hurricane to increasing physical regeneration, so stock up on charges. You’ll need them for (mini)boss fights. Trust me. Phozon level increases by absorbing Phozons, so by charging your Psypher you’re actually making it stronger. Don’t eat them all up, though, because your seeds will need them too.
Oh god. This review is going to be long. I haven’t even covered the plot yet. Er, onwards. The player will occasionally receive seeds that can be planted in combat rings and grown with Phozons. When matured, they will produce fruit, berries or… uh, sheep. Yeah, there are magic sheep plants. I’m serious. Seeds are your best friends, because they provide you with a huge source of food. Some plants take more to grow, but will definitely be worth it in the end. A napple heals you loads, and it has three uses. A mulberry heals a little and is gone in a snap. Or, if you feel like going gourmet, take your uneaten foodstuffs/ingredients and bring them to a restaurant, where they can be turned into a super-meal that gives you loads of bonus HP. And now, without a real transition into the plot, I shall transition into the plot.
The Kingdom of Ragnanival is at war with the Faery Kingdom over the Crystallization Cauldron, which can be controlled by the ring Titrel to create Psypher weapons, or to simply absorb the life-force of whatever the ring-wearer wants. The three wise men, wizards scattered throughout the kingdoms, are secretly working together with the undead king of Valentine to bring about the end of the world via crowning the baby dragon Leventhan. Throughout the game, the player will encounter these wise men and their dragons and spend a lot of time nearly dying. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t linked to what occurs in combat. Even if you win, sometimes you’ll lose. Trust in the validity of the story, okay? It’s really epic.
That doesn’t really cover it, just so you know. Odin Sphere is a huge game, riddled with mythological creatures and quite literally astounding scenery. Bring paper towels for the drool or something. It’s nuts. Go get this game and get the Ps2 playback capability on your Ps3, or just dust off your old Ps2 and play the crap out of it. At times frustrating, but you can call yourself a cultured gamer for even plugging a few hours into it. Have fun!