Odin Sphere - PS2 - Preview
What do you get when you’re playing an RPG that isn’t really an RPG? A fighting game that isn’t really a fighter, and an action game that isn’t wholeheartedly action? You could wind up with anything. But in the case of Odin Sphere, you get an action-driven, story-carried, enemy-enveloped adventure that bears the heart and soul of an RPG.
A Little Tekken, a Dash of Castlevania, a Sprinkle of…
Odin Sphere is a concoction of numerous creations. It could be simply described as a side-scrolling hack-n-slash, but that wouldn’t do the game justice.
Players control Gwendolyn, a strong and vivacious woman who fights to earn the love and respect of her father. Her strength is derived from her own natural magic. When unleashed, she’ll cut through enemies with her sword and cast deadly spells that can eliminate multiple thugs in one seamless hit.
The things that separate Odin Sphere from the dozens of games that feature similar content is how each element is implemented, presented, and executed. Combat is very raw but also natural and intuitive. There is nothing slow about this game. Gwendolyn doesn’t merely walk or jump toward her enemies – she runs at them with the will to kill. Jump once and she’ll land as expected. Jump twice and she’ll hover for a great distance. If timed right, you can usually scan half a level in one jump.
...and with great strength "comes great responsibility." –Uncle Ben (of Spider-Man of fame, not the rice).
Items are scarce and enemies attack from both sides, as well as from above. They may be as tiny as a frog or pumpkin (at least that’s what it looks like), or several times the size of the game’s leading lady. But all are potentially deadly, especially when they attack in large numbers. The game is very fast and difficult, keeping you on your toes at all times except when in between levels or when visiting a shop.
Much like the Earth, the stages in Odin Sphere are round. Run in one direction for a few seconds and you will come back around to the stage’s beginning. At first glance this doesn’t seem like the most logical development choice. Circular stages could go on for too long, seem repetitive, and have other related issues.
Again, that’s where Odin Sphere differs from other hack-n-slash games. The circular stages are short, well designed, and pack a large dose of hardcore combat into one small space. You’ll get through stages quickly but not without a fight. And you won’t feel like you’re running in circles.
These initial screens focus on the storyline sequences, failing to showcase the strong and inspired fighting engine.
As Gwendolyn fights to survive and earn her father’s affection, you can’t help but notice the striking details added to every move. She attacks with a quality that can only be described as emotion. You can see it in her face and in her body, the way she moves to dive into a kill. There are several games with cool characters and attacks, but this one is special. It’s not just about her being the cool chick in town. Her actions send a much more powerful message than that.
Equally powerful are her allies and leading enemies, including oversized bosses who carry themselves as if they really were as big as they appear. None of the characters are cel-shaded, but they have an interesting cartoon-like appearance that has not been achieved in any other game.
The same can be said for the environments, all of which are rich with layers of detail. That is not a figure of speech – I literally mean layers of detail. The way the backgrounds shift as you move about each level reveal a number of intriguing intricacies that are not often explored in video games. A part of me hates to stress how amazing this game looks when our industry can’t decide if games should be games or works of art. But make no mistake – Odin Sphere is a killer game. The fact that it’s uniquely beautiful is a wonderful bonus.
Solid voice work and entertaining dialogue round out this highly promising action game. The potent battles, super-fun attacks, and surreal visual presentation are hard to compete with (and the game is not even out yet!). Fans of Castlevania, Devil May Cry, or just action games in general would be wise to make this the next thing they play. Look for it at the end of May.