In the heat-addled summer doldrums, it’s hard for a gamer to keep entertained between the big budget Spring titles and the year-end Christmas blowout. That’s why we here at Geekspective will be bringing it upon ourselves to enlighten you all on some titles that may have slipped through the cracks due to lack of marketing budget or bad timing. The first title we will look at is a real gem, and well worth bringing out your PS2 for.
Developed by Vanillaware, Odin Sphere was brought stateside by RPG supergroup Atlus in 2007 for the PS2. While most games these days tend to equate fancy 3D graphics with quality, Odin Sphere stuck with a tried and true 2D sidescrolling perspective. Filled to the brim with some of the most vividly creative and unique art direction, the sidescrolling aspect fits the game perfectly and never grows stale. Multiple layers of background artwork scroll by, often depicting intriguing scenes of action or grand sprawling vistas behind the player, giving a fantastic level of depth to the experience.
The story-telling in the game is paramount, finding the player working their way through the individual storylines of five separate characters and then piecing together how each plot fits together to form the grand finale. Each tale is unveiled through cutscenes which use the in-game sprites and contain multi-lingual dialogue which can be switched between the original Japanese and English dubbed voice acting. Between the superb voice-acting, cunning plot twists, and some very flawed and tragic characters, the story in Odin Sphere rivals that of any classical prose.
In regards to gameplay, Odin Sphere is a standout title of it’s own class. The game plays out primarily like a traditional sidescrolling beat-em-up akin to the original Ninja Turtles and Streets of Rage titles. The character moves from map to map, using their uniquely powered “Psyphers” to battle enemies. What sets this game apart from the rest is the slew of RPG elements thrown into the mix. Each character’s weapon can improve in strength and power by absorbing “phozons” which are essentially spirit energy released from fallen baddies. The character’s health points can ALSO be leveled up through eating meats and fruits, which are often grown during each level by absorbing these phozons as well. Therefore it is up to the player to decide whether to spend phozons leveling up their powers, or use them to grow plants which can be used to increase their HP. This adds a whole new dimension of strategical planning, often forcing the player to replay a map several times in order to most efficiently defeat the bad guys and keep the inventory stocked with food.
A unique alchemy system is also put into place to add even more depth to the gameplay. Using a variety of ingredients and flasks gathered throughout your journey, it is possible to mix potions on the fly to do anything from heal you to give you unlimited psypher energy with which to pull off super moves. Did I mention that mixing potions will also provide you with phozons? The more complicated recipes will provide you with a massive dose of the spirits, so it’s important to keep these materials on you as well in case you’re in need of a quick phozon boost.
All in all, Odin Sphere is an incredibly unique and artistic game that is fun and challenging to boot. At just around 20 dollars, it’s easy on the pocket book as well, which is fantastic in today’s economy. If you don’t own a PS2, you could almost buy this game AND the system for the price of a new next gen title, depending on where you look. And then you would have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve experienced one of the most important 2D experiences of our generation. Enjoy!