The next time somebody starts going off about how remakes are unnecessary, they just need to be pointed towards Odin Sphere Leifthrasir to be proven wrong. The Atlus published remake is more than just an HD version of the fan favorite PlayStation 2 fantasy brawler, as almost every aspect of the game has been improved. It’s how all remakes should be, and it puts the recently released Valkyria Chronicles Remastered to shame.
Upon booting up Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, you will be presented with a choice to play either the classic game or the updated Leifthrasir mode. While it’s cool that developer Vanillaware is letting players choose between the two, there’s really no reason to play classic mode. They’ve done such a fantastic job updating the game that you’re just doing yourself a disservice (even if you hold nostalgia for the 2007 original) by choosing it. Plus, there’s new story sequences to be seen, so if you enjoyed the original you’ll want to see these added scenes.
As noted before, just about every aspect of Odin Sphere has been improved here. From the combat to the visuals (which have been gorgeously redrawn to take advantage of being on an HD system), almost every layer has a new layer of polish that the original lacked. More importantly, Vanillaware has also addressed the main flaw with the original game: repetition. The original got boring after a while as you essentially battled the same filler enemies as you made your way to the level’s end boss. Leifthrasir fixes this by adding mini-bosses to each area. Not only are these encounters so much fun that I found myself going out of my way to battle even the optional ones, but they also do a great job of breaking the tedium.
Odin Sphere‘s story is played out through an interwoven narrative focusing on five characters in particular. These range from the daughter of Odin, who is left to grieve after her elder sister dies in combat to a young Prince who is being ostracized for whom he loves. All five have compelling self contained stories, but it’s really satisfying to see an event happen in one of the game’s acts and then getting to see it from another perspective later on.
While each character plays differently from a combat perspective (for example: some can fly through the air while others will need to traverse the ground), there are core similarities. The game mainly plays like a brawler, and you’ll be mashing the square button in order to dish out combinations on foes. A lot of the depth comes from the game’s special abilities (which can be upgraded in a gigantic skill tree) as well, which are all mapped to the circle button. It’s simple enough to where each new character is accessible, and thankfully switching protagonists every couple of hours makes the game never feel repetitive.
That’s not to say there isn’t depth, as that would be doing the game a real disservice. There are plenty of other systems to dive deep into (such as collecting ingredients for food that provide a permanent health boost), but they aren’t really necessary besides crafting healing potions. Odin Sphere does a good job of letting the player decide how much they want to get out of the experience, and it can either be a pretty mindless brawler or a brutally difficult game depending on what you want it to be.
What really separates Leifthrasir from other brawlers is the game’s sprawling maps. These feel almost like a Legend of Zelda dungeon (except there’s no real puzzles to be found), and players will have to explore areas for keys in order to progress. This leads to a lot of backtracking, but thankfully there are fast travel checkpoints that can be used.
Visually, the game is incredibly gorgeous. This isn’t terribly surprising, either, as Vanillaware is known for George Kamitani’s artwork, and it’s such a delight that the game is now able to be seen in HD. If there’s one small nitpick from an audiovisual standpoint, though, it’s that the cutscenes are lip-synced very poorly. Dialogue rarely matches character’s mouths moving, and it was a constant distraction while playing. It’s a shame, too, since the story deals with a lot of serious topics, but I couldn’t stop looking at how characters would regularly keep talking two seconds after their mouth closed.
Odin Sphere wasn’t one of the PlayStation 2’s best games, but Odin Sphere Leifthrasir shows that flawed titles are the perfect choice for a remaster. Not only has Atlus vastly improved the base game, but they get to introduce it to a brand new audience. This is a stellar brawler-RPG hybrid, and it’s an absolute blast whether it’s your first trip to the world of Erion or not.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which we were provided with.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is an example of a remaster done right. Not only has the game been improved in just about every aspect, but it's also faithful to the original core.