For Michibiku’s fifth anniversary, we’re sharing our favorite pieces from our five years of existence. This was originally posted on 7/15/16.
Jenni: While much ado is made about Vanillaware games’ art, their stories are often just as compelling. Odin Sphere is absolute proof of it, and even now we love savoring its story.
As a society, we’re constantly retelling iconic love stories. Cinderella may be the most memorable poor girl to be catapulted into high society thanks to finding love with a handsome prince, but she’s not the only down-and-out person redeemed by love. Looking for a romantic misunderstanding? How about Pride and Prejudice or Much Ado About Nothing? These tales repeatedly ring true, and Odin Sphere does an extraordinary job of paying tribute to these sagas. The game brings many myths to life.
A retelling of one of these love stories is the impetus for the entirety of Odin Sphere‘s activities. Two star-crossed lovers, not unlike Romeo and Juliet, kicked off a war. Odin, the ruler of Ragnanival, and Ariel, princess of Valentine, had the misfortune of falling in love. These were youths from “two households, both alike in dignity,” preparing to “break to new mutiny.” Princess Ariel’s father, King Valentine, learned of their affair after she gave birth to Odin’s children, the twins Velvet and Ingway. In a murderous rage, the king strangled the princess. His actions and her words of love and forgiveness as she died drove Valentine mad, pushing him to an invasion that would resulting in the destruction of his kingdom, a Pooka Curse on its citizens and the sort of simmering range and insanity that would drive him to destroy the world from beyond the grave.
But Odin and Ariel are far from the only couple sampling another story. Each of Odin Sphere‘s pairings has a similar connection that honors another fictional romance. Many narrative elements from earlier fables appear in Oswald and Gwendolyn’s stories. There’s a touch of the classic princess and the dragon story here, since the Shadow Knight Oswald must defeat Wagner, the dragon, before King Odin will give him Princess Gwendolyn’s hand in marriage. Sleeping Beauty is also referenced, as Gwendolyn is placed into a magically induced sleep when first given to Osward, with the first kiss between the two breaking Odin’s spell on his daughter.
The main tale spurring on Gwendolyn and Oswald’s love story is “The Death of Eurydice.” In this Greecian myth, Orpheus’ wife, Eurydice, dies. He travels to the Underworld to face its rulers and attempt to bring her home. In Odin Sphere, Gwendolyn realizes she loves her husband, Oswald, too late. He perishes after an attempted errand for Onyx, the Inferno King; Gwendolyn heads to the Netherworld, defeats its queen and returns with her husband to the world of the living.
Gwendolyn and Oswald aren’t the only ones spending some time in Odin Sphere‘s Netherworld. It’s where Cornelius wakes when he finds he’s been turned into a Pooka. It’s then that a story with shades of Beauty and the Beast begins. He and Velvet are in love, so much so that he’d be willing to abandon his kingdom for her. But her brother, Ingway, tears them apart. He placing the Pooka Curse on Cornelius and takes his place. He spends much of his tale attempting to learn what happened to him and trying to find a cure. When it seems impossible, he finally reveals himself to his love to say goodbye. Rather than rebuke him, Velvet accepts him. The two eventually spend the rest of their lives attempting to undo the Pooka Curse.
But what of Ingway and Mercedes? Their love story one that remains quite true to The Frog Prince. As a consequence of Ingway’s activities in Cornelius’ story, where he attempts to take the other prince’s place, one of Odin Sphere‘s Three Wise Men, Urzur, curses him with the form of a frog. The frog version of Ingway startles Mercedes, the fairy queen, and causes her to drop her crossbow into the swamp. He agrees to retrieve it for her, in return for a kiss that would break the spell upon him. Being a young woman with a distaste for amphibians, she backs out of the promise. He remains by her side for much of her story, offering aid and advice, before finally saving her life by casting the Pooka Curse on Beldor, another member of the three wise men. She finally kisses him, returning him to his true form. Though the two are forced to part, in more ways than one, he promised to return and the relationship between the two is made clear.
These sorts of stories are all part of our collective unconscious; they make up who we are. We treasure such tales. By absorbing these fables into itself, Odin Sphere becomes a transcendent mythological conglomeration that honors literary history. It pays respect to our literary past and, in so doing, gives us a new opportunity to appreciate these romantic dramas.