here is a certain type of gamer who has already been looking forward to Odin Sphere for months – the type who is drawn, as if by instinct, to a Japanese action/RPG sporting a stylish design. This kind of person has been Atlus’ bread and butter for years, but it would be a mistake (not to mention a shame) to limit this title’s appeal to such a narrow audience. With breathtaking visuals, innovative storytelling, and frenzied action, no true gamer should overlook Odin Sphere.
The tale that unfolds is one of war, love, duty, and friendship with five protagonists at its center. Since you must play through a character’s entire arc before starting another (in a prescribed order), it feels as though the curtain is constantly being drawn back, revealing surprise after surprise about the heroes and their motivations. The result is a wonderfully written story that starts out cool and gets more intriguing the deeper you go. It even calls to mind George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, giving gravity to key moments by tying them together from multiple perspectives.
When you aren’t watching the story sequences, you’ll have your hands full on the battlefield. Each level is comprised of a network of circular nodes, and each node is a side-scrolling 2D loop. At first, combat will seem deceptively simple, relying primarily on a single attack/guard button and a jump. As you progress, this setup evolves into an intricate procedure laced with strategy, relying more and more on the items in your possession. Standard attacks will always be your first defense, but powerful items (created through a clever alchemy system) can instantly turn the tide in a fight by halving damage, poisoning foes, or engulfing them in flames. Given the game’s demanding difficulty, learning how and when to use items is sometimes the only path to victory.
Odin Sphere’s story, systems, and combat mechanics are easy enough to describe, but the game’s biggest strength is the way it cultivates a sense of wonder. Fantastic artistic design fuses with addictive gameplay to form a world that constantly impresses, despite some repetition and technical shortcomings. Odin Sphere is in the same league as games like Shadow of the Colossus and Killer 7; it isn’t perfect, but it delivers an experience you just won’t find anywhere else.