An Unbiased Review of Odin Sphere

Five Things That Sucked:

1. The Viewable Battle Area

One jump and she’s already partially off-screen

Each battlefield is a huge loop (indicated in the bottom-right corner), yet all you can see at any given time is a small rectangular portion of it (indicated in the upper-right corner). It’s barely large enough to contain Gwendolyn and a Unicorn Knight. Now imagine how annoying it is to fight larger enemies, multiple enemies, enemies with long-range attacks, or any combination thereof.

2. Lag

I was warned about the lag. Repeatedly. But it wasn’t a problem at all—until the battles that mattered most.

3. Time required to enter the Pooka Kitchen

Never in the seven years I’ve owned a PS2 have I complained about loading times—until now. In the above video:

  • 0:00 – Gwendolyn enters the Pooka Village
  • 0:28 – Gwendolyn enters the Pooka Kitchen
  • 0:30 – The background music begins
  • 0:33-0:39 – A title screen informing us that we’re entering the Pooka Kitchen
  • 0:40-1:00 – Now loading…
  • 1:01 – Welcome!
  • 1:07 – Oh, you have a new recipe!
  • 1:11 – What can I get you today?
  • 1:14 – Play finally resumes
  • 1:38 – Background music loops

If you’re already in the Pooka Village and don’t have a new recipe: 42 seconds

If you’re coming from outside the Pooka Village and have a new recipe: 1 minute and 14 seconds

If you’re coming from outside the Pooka Village, go to the Pooka Kitchen, check out the Rabbit Cafe, and then decide you’re better off eating at the Pooka Kitchen: 3+ minutes

4. Velvet’s attack power

Velvet’s attacks look awesome. Too bad they’re weak as shit. Based on playing times for each book, my best characters were:

  1. Oswald (numerous deaths)
  2. Cornelius (numerous deaths)
  3. Mercedes (numerous deaths)
  4. Velvet (innumerous deaths)
  5. Gwendolyn (innumerous deaths)

Taking into account the order of play and the learning curve, my best characters were:

  1. Cornelius (played second)
  2. Oswald (played fourth)
  3. Mercedes (played third)
  4. Gwendolyn (played first)
  5. Velvet (played fifth)

Velvet was the only character I had to grind in order to complete her book. In retrospect, I should’ve grinded Gwendolyn too. I still don’t know how I beat her book at level 28/23 (with two of those Psypher levels gained on Odette). For the record, I played on “Normal” mode and the learning curve still kicked my ass.

5. The POW Gauge

(See the Leventhan video below for an example of how much it sucks)

Basically, you get dizzy if you unleash too many consecutive attacks. How many is too many? About four combos. Yeah, that’s it. “An affront to the gamer“? I couldn’t have said it better myself. Whatever happened to the good old days of infinite ammunition?

Five Things That Rocked:

1. Leventhan, The Last Dragon

Leventhan is without a doubt the cutest character in video game history. Look at his majestic crown, infinite destructive power, and huge balls of fire. It’s like he’s my spitting image, and considering all the dragons I banged in my younger days, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

2. The Plot

The ultimate fairy tale revealed bit by bit across five commingling storylines, all building up to the Armageddon. Need I go on?

3. Sensible Feminism

Gwendolyn stands up to her controlling father. Mercedes stands up to her controlling cousin. Velvet stands up to the controlling ghost of her controlling grandfather. Unlike the nitpicking, mixed-message feminism that annoys everyone, feminist messages in Odin Sphere such as “I AM NOT AN OBJECT!” are the kind everyone can stand behind.

4. Ingway

Ingway spends the whole story hating people and propagating malice, except during the frog arc when he’s a total player, seduces the fairy queen, and then walks away because he’s not a pedophile. It’s a shame he wasn’t playable.

5. Multiple Endings

At first, the character order for the “good end” seemed random. After beating the game, it still seems random. But if you don’t make any of the meaningful “bad end” selections, you miss out on some pretty interesting dialogue. Does that mean it’s worth playing through all the endings? No, just watch them on YouTube.

Five Things I’m Indifferent About:

1. The Artwork

Whatever

The art was cool, I guess. I’d love to fawn over it like everyone else, but frankly, if the graphics aren’t grainy, pixelated, or simplistically polygonal, it’s all the same to me.

2. Music

Like in Shadow of the Colossus, I was too busy running for my life to notice the soundtrack, so I shall assume it was satisfactory unless someone informs me otherwise.

3. Alice & Socrates

What’s the point of Socrates anyway? So you can see the cute wittle girl picking up the cute wittle kitty cat? God damn pedophiles.

4. English vs. Japanese Voice Acting

I never second-guessed my decision to play the game dubbed until I beat the game and saw in the credits—you guessed it—Mamiko Fucking Noto.

Not that valley girl Mercedes was bad or anything, but damn, I can’t believe I missed my chance to slay dragons as a soft-spoken girl voiced by Mamiko Noto. What really kills me is that I should’ve seen it coming since Mercedes is the basically the same character as Cordelia from Valkyria Chronicles.

5. Living off the Land

Growing your own food and transmuting your own items is a pain the ass at first, but once you get a system in place, it’s…tolerable. It’s a lot of bitch work, but when you consider all the bitch work that other RPGs typically require, item management as the only significant non-fighting task isn’t so bad. A few tips:

  • Don’t be conservative about using items. They’re usually worth more than their pawn value.
  • Sell shit you know you’re not going to use. If possible, sell shit you expect to easily recover later.
  • Need to get rid of some items? No salesmen nearby? Use your extra items to level up your materials. They’ll come in handy eventually.
  • Don’t worry about being efficient. If you try to solve the knapsack problem after every stage, you’ll never get anywhere.

26 people love sucking up to me

  1. Indifferent about the music? I guess this is my Sakimoto fanboy mode speaking out, but I thought the soundtrack was one of his better efforts. Arguments can be made about how all of Sakimoto’s compositions tend to sound the same (and truth be told, it can be hard to separate his stuff from one project to another), but in Odin Sphere’s instance, I found myself in aural bliss after going through the entirety of the soundtrack.

    As for everything else though, I laughed, especially in covering how ridiculous the lag/load times were. You’d almost think that they’d be able to playtest it beforehand and make sure this sort of thing doesn’t plague the game.

  2. NegativeZero says:

    Everything you have said here, I agree with.

    The frame rate lag issue really pissed me off. Doubly so when I found out that the UK release that Square Enix published had had it all fixed, suggesting that the US version of the game was released undercooked and/or without thorough testing.

    Also the difficulty is inconsistent as hell. I found some of the mini-boss style monsters to be far more difficult than the actual bosses.

  3. Kyoin says:

    Too bad I’m still hunting for Radiata Stories to be sidetracked into playing this decent (telling by your review) game.

  4. Rakuen says:

    What? You’re like a secret boss in the game? I’m in.

    I guess if you have unli-ammos, it’ll take off the thrill of actually having EXPENDABLE stuff. If the lagging is fucking serious, I’d drop the game.

  5. Snark says:

    I’m totally moe for Leventhan.

  6. Guy says:

    The dubbing here in the Last Dragon clip was annoying. Not because it’s dubbed, but because of the unnatural stops, the wrong emphasises, and the lack of tone in the right places.
    The King was pretty good.

    And damn, those dizzying spells do look annoying as fuck.

  7. “…considering all the dragons I banged in my younger days…”

    Wait… you were a furry (scaly?) in your younger days?

  8. I really wish this had been designed as a traditional 2d brawler instead of a RPG-hybrid. Gone would be inventory management and Pooka Kitchen, and all that would be left would be ass kicking. I like ass kicking. As much as the art, music, characters, and story rocked, I would trade those in for more ass kicking per hour played. What kills me is how those aforementioned good points will keep me coming back to experience the game and therefor all of its bad points. I can’t leave well enough alone. I will finish this game one of these days.

    I think with taking in all these extra elements, Odin Sphere could be called “overdesigned.” There’s too much stuff layered over the core gameplay that detracts time and effort away from the fun elements therein. The World Ends With You is another game that springs to mind as being overdesigned; Hell, I’d say it’s the king of overdesign. But that’s another topic for another day…

  9. Gunstray says:

    The f_ck, of my yrs of dragon slaying(from MH) never Have I seen a cute ass dragon like Leventhan.

  10. Shiro, Long Tail's says:

    I’ve been meaning to play this but haven’t gotten around to it so most of the context in the review went over my head. I’ve heard the framerate dips can be avoided on a PS3 with BC but I haven’t seen it substantiated yet. Still, it doesn’t look as painful as the slowdowns on the Mana Khemia PSP port.

    So, what’s next on the review list?

  11. Laguna Loire says:

    yet…Chrono Trigger remains “untouched” in baka-raptor’s desk…

    snes games kick ass ! even maddox still play them !

    Playing Odin Sphere would make you softer baka-raptor…I bet you’d love to play a more mainly game like Dawn of Mana instead…

    just in case 😉

  12. LJ says:

    This is why fighting games since ’99 have zoom in/out mechanics based on the location of both key characters. Yes, the character design of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue are both quirky and interesting to the point of freakishness, but the designers were competitive-minded enough to know that the players wouldn’t appreciate being chain-raped by projectiles and traps that they couldn’t see.
    But I suppose there may be a reason I should go easy on them for neglecting a ten-year-old lesson from a genre infamously disliked by CRPG fans.
    After all, how could a CRPG player be expected to memorize complex relationships between game mechanics that vary slightly from character to character, with the appropriate timings for each character’s tools to take advantage of them?

  13. rmt says:

    You should play the higurashi VN (Yay, full translartion will be out soon!) then do a massive higurashi post where you discuss each thing individually.

  14. marcoc2 says:

    Odin Sphere Rocks

    the Art is pretty awesome..
    I would like to see others 2d games like this

  15. Baka-Raptor says:

    @zzeroparticle: The music did just fine as background music, in the sense that it always fit the scenes and never annoyed me. Thing is, when playing the game I never said to myself things like, “Alright, I’m going to fight a boss, time for some kick-ass boss music!” Also, I’m sure I have less refined tastes than you when it comes to music. Look at the Odette clip under the Lag section. Odette’s music has more standalone worth than the credits music, but the credits music, the kind that gets in your face, pumps you up, and doesn’t lose impact over the sound of the fight, is the kind I want to hear during a battle. I compare it to listening to classical music while driving. I can’t appreciate its finer details over the roar of my engine. Save it for the concert hall.

    @NegativeZero: Yeah, the reason I had to grind Velvet was because I couldn’t beat the two-guard mini-boss stage in Titania. Let me repeat: the only stage that send me grinding was a mini-boss (I grinded a few characters for the Armegaddon, but that was mainly to make elixirs). And chibi-Leventhan was shockingly easy compared to most of the other bosses/mini-bosses.

    @Kyoin: Excellent story, decent gameplay that probably could’ve been easily improved. Story matters to me at lot more than anything else in an RPG, so I came away liking it.

    @Rakuen: The lagging is only serious when you’re fighting a large number of enemies at once. You know, the hard battles. How convenient.

    @Snark: So it was you who commented “kwaaaaaiiiiiii the baby dragon is sooooo cute =3” on the video!

    @Guy: I let Oswald off the hook because he basically has to say variations of “I got my ass kicked” five times in a row. Gwendolyn…yeah, she gets annoying at times. There’s no excuse for that “hand” line. And whoever played that fight was pretty sloppy. You shouldn’t be getting dizzy that much.

    @Day: Feel free to interpret “dragons” as a euphemism for ugly chicks at CMU. Also, know that “ugly chicks at CMU” is a bit redundant.

    @Michael|LoHP: Come to think of it, is there really a need for power levels in Odin Sphere? My understanding of the power level system is that it has three functions: (1) it keeps you from heading down paths you’re not supposed to travel until later in the game, (2) it lets you power up if you’re having difficulty, and (3) it forces you to get experience with the battle system. The first doesn’t apply because Odin Sphere is completely linear. The second doesn’t apply because you can adjust the difficult level whenever you want. The third is weak because you’re already motivated to fight for money and items.

    @Gunstray: Other games are soft. The don’t have the heart to make you fight a cute dragon. Odin Sphere takes no prisoners: little girls, baby dragons, and cute little bears with honey pots will fall by your blade.

    @Shiro: God of War, whenever I get around to playing it. My next RPG is still undecided, but I have plenty of recommendations in the comments from previous game reviews to go by.

    @Laguna: Don’t be fooled by all the fairy tale stuff; Odin Sphere is far from soft. Only two humans in the entire world survive the “good end.”

    @LJ: Zoom out? So we’ll be unable to appreciate the finer details of that beautiful 2D artwork? Madness!

    @rmt: Sure, if it wins the poll. But even if it doesn’t, I’m sure I’ll play it eventually, since Higurashi is quite possibly the greatest anything—video game, visual novel, light novel, novel, manga, anime—ever.

    @marcoc2: The art is awesome only when I reflect on it. During gameplay I never think anything of it. The frogs look like frogs. The dragons look like dragons. The people look like people. But I’ll be the first one to admit that I have no eye for art.

  16. moridin84 says:

    I’m shocked noone has said anything along the lines of “I’d grind Velvet’s attack power too”

  17. marcoc2 says:

    @Baka-Raptor but which another 2D game have such great graphics like Odin Sphere? I don’t know any..
    For a old-school gamer, Odin Sphere is great..

    I hope new 2D Sonic to be even better then Odin Sphere Graphics and Art

  18. When are you going to do an unbiased review of Scribblenauts? I preordered it for the rooster hat and your recommendation saying it was going to be awesome.

  19. Anon says:

    George Kamitani the artist for Odin Sphere and his latest game Muramasa does seem to know his artwork.

    See:
    http://elis.imouto.org/sample/33d940155ef4ae28bf2810eb8e20494a/moe%2044364%20sample.jpg
    http://playmagazine.com/temp/play-sept09-cover.jpg (NSFW)

  20. vendredi says:

    Hm, I didn’t have that much difficulty with Velvet; the toughest character was far and away Gwendolyn; her glide and aerial stab just isn’t enough of a special to help. Velvet’s primary attacks are weak, yes, but the key to using her well is lining up enemies and knocking them down with the charged up chains. The regular attacks are best reserved for racking up combos on bosses/minibosses.

    And yes, those Pooka village load times were frustrating. Especially coming into the restaurant and realizing you had forgotten to buy an ingredient outside… then you’d have to repeat the whole thing…

  21. Baka-Raptor says:

    @moridin84: Same here.

    @marcoc2: Agreed, Odin Sphere has better 2D graphics than any game I’ve played. Perhaps I’ve simply been spoiled by 3D graphics to the point that I can’t be impressed by 2D graphics anymore.

    @SNAG vs. World: When I get a Nintendo DS. Which may never happen.

    @Anon: Now that’s some artwork I can appreciate.

    @vendredi: Does that really work? The charge attack drains half your POW. Sounds like a lot of running around.

  22. vendredi says:

    Yeah, the charge attack is key, since it strikes *through* enemies in a straight line. At full charge it usually knocks them down, and depending on your level will take off a third to a half of their HP. The recovery time and POW consumption makes it poor against bosses, but it’s very lethal against multiple foes coming at you in a line.

    You actually want to play Velvet more like a hit-and-run type character like Mercedes. Her other key advantage is that she becomes immune to attack while swing jumping. Use the swing jump to mob up most (or all) of the wave, then strike with the charge hit and catch as many enemies as you can. Then use the swing jump to get some more distance safely and recharge your POW. Depending on your level it usually takes around 2 or 3 charged attacks to knock down most basic enemies. A perfect example of enemies that this works on very well are the bears in the woods or the faerie knights. It’s really the most time efficient way to clear levels as Velvet.
    Plus, by the time you get Velvet you should have the recipe for Unlimited POW potions – crank out as many as you can and abuse them.

  23. Dawn says:

    Haha!

    Odin Sphere was fun, until you had to fight odette and forced to wikipedia the rest of the story line while it was frozen.

    I’d say most of the characters were equally difficult to fight with, save Mercedes, she was by far the most powerful, if i say so in a non-pedophilac way. Get Unlimited Power and activate the double damage spell, WHAM.

    You’re a badass though Baka, I want to read what you blog about Persona 3 and 4, and Ar tonelico II, so go go go, beat em’ my righteous king of the internet!

  24. FaS says:

    ………….mmmm idk about unbiased lol for this review. I played it when it first came out and I agree about a couple things, but not some others.

    1. The voice acting – a bit melodramatic at times, but good either way, yes I agree.
    2. Velvet’s attack power was dwindled due to her range & coolness of attacks. If she could cut down someone like the others, it’d be no fun.
    3. The power gage: yes, it was annoying at first, but that’s the reason you have a power stone to basically negate that. This gage was to encourage you to use the phozon absorbing ability; the thing the game’s based on. If there were unlimited attacks, people would most likely forget.
    4. However, yes, the kitchen was the most annoying thing in the world.
    5. Boss lag, it was there sometimes, but I don’t remember it all that much to hamper my experience. You have the ps2 slim right?

    6. Artwork: I think was pretty revolutionary. Instead of the usual anime thing, they did something new.
    7. Music: yeah, no need to buy the soundtrack
    8. Alice/kitty: never really paid attention to it.
    9. The end, end battle was TOO hard. I couldn’t be it with all characters. Not @ all. And I never knew the porper order.
    10. Voice Acting: meh, didn’t matter to me.

    Just what I think lol, but keep up the fun posts 🙂

  25. […] no Odin Sphere’s, but I do appreciate any attempt at a simultaneous subplot, no matter how […]

  26. Susan says:

    Odin Sphere is so fucking hard. It fucking sucks ass. It takes me 400 billion hours to beat each level only to watch a 3 second cut scene and then onto to the next pain in the ass level.

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