Review: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir refines itself into its ultimate form

It’s difficult to find a game capable of doing it all. Some have trendsetting gameplay, but a forgettable story. Others tell the most memorable tales, with lackluster mechanics surrounding them. The original Odin Sphere was an amazing endeavor that occasionally fell into the latter category. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir and its Refined mode offer a remake that does it all. The experience and adventure are equally wonderful this time around.

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The world is ending in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. The Demon Lord Odin is determined to gain control of the Crystallization Cauldron, an apocalyptic weapon that will trigger Ragnarok. It’s the impetus for Gwendolyn, Oswald, Mercedes, Cornelius and Velvet’s activities. Each character has the noblest of intentions guiding their actions. Unfortunately, their activities are also bringing the end ever nearer. Players follow each hero or heroine’s story in turn. We get to better understand everyone’s motivations before send our carefully cultivated heroes and heroines against the ultimate opponents in an attempt to rectify all wrongs.

Think of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir as a song, with Gwendolyn’s initial storyline serving as a melody and Cornelius’, Mercedes’, Oswald’s and Velvet’s serving as complimenting harmonies.

Does that sound complicated? It is. Each character’s story intertwines. A hero in one route is a villain in another. Gwendolyn and Mercedes are constantly at odds with one another, though both are trying to do what they think is best for themselves and the people most important to them. Velvet’s brother, Ingway, is sympathetic in Mercedes’ storyline, but an absolute jerk in Cornelius’. Additional scenes in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir‘s Refined mode have created a deeper experience, while a handy chronological guide helps clarify what’s happening and when. While complex, the stories come together extraordinarily well. Think of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir as a song, with Gwendolyn’s initial storyline serving as a melody and Cornelius’, Mercedes’, Oswald’s and Velvet’s serving as complimenting harmonies.

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Speaking of music, the game itself has quite a rhythm to it. A chapter begins with an act or two setting up that chapter’s story. Your character heads into a location. Most maps are circular and looping, with exits that can take you to a new space or back to the world map. Enemies pop in certain spots, closing the exits so you can button mash your way to victory in a timely manner. Victory results in varying rewards, depending on how swiftly and well you performed. Bosses are multi-step affairs, sometimes transforming or altering tactics as their health is whittled down. After beating an area’s boss, you’re rewarded with a conclusion to the immediate conflict. They’re verses to each character’s song and remain mostly the same whether you go through the Classic or Refined modes.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir‘s Classic and Refined modes are what make the game so special. Classic is a traditional revisitation of the original Odin Sphere. The mechanics remain unchanged. It looks a bit prettier, but it’s otherwise exactly the same game you played in 2007. Refined is the main event. This is a completely remade and retooled iteration, in which you’ll see those extra story segments. Where Classic is more of a beat’em up where you make do with what you’re given, Refined is a full-on action-RPG and the more satisfying of the two.

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Refined includes a multitude of systems that result in a more enjoyable experience. The best of these allow you to customize your characters. The heroes and heroines level up in a more traditional sense, with experience earned from battling or eating. Eating is a necessity, either via nibbling some on-hand treats or visiting the Pooka’s restaurants, as they’re the only means of increasing health points. AP earned from leveling up can be put toward passive skills, which you choose from the skill tree and do things like reduce shop prices, add new means of guarding and increase the effects of accessories. Phozons, life source dropped by enemies, can be used to enhance skills found after reaching certain locations or defeating certain bosses or feed plants to grow food. These skills can be triggered from a menu or by assigning them to certain button combinations. I made characters that could deal damage from afar, with attacks that would cause status effects or stun, then rush in to exploit weakened enemies. I was playing my way, and it was great.

All of this makes it easier to find your way through Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, which is important since there’s so much to do after the story’s done.

This isn’t to say Odin Sphere Leifthrasir’s new crafting elements aren’t equally life-altering. The ability to acquire recipes for Maury’s restaurant or mix alchemical potions on the fly completely change the way the game is played. You no longer need to pinch pennies to pay Pookas for food. Grow or raise ingredients, buy or earn a recipe, then eat as you go. It streamlines the experience, since you don’t have to hop in and out of levels to improve yourself. Making potions gives you new options for attacking in a fight. Combining materials makes a stronger base. Adding varying ingredients can result in stronger offensive or defensive draughts. I found the toxic creations incredibly effective for boss fights, since it creates a poisonous cloud around your character, but each offensive potion is incredibly useful for crowd-control situations.

All of this makes it easier to find your way through Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, which is important since there’s so much to do after the story’s done. There’s a new game plus, where you can keep everything you’ve earned to help tackle stronger foes. A Boss Rush is also available, for people who think they’re capable of handling all 30 bosses at a certain level. (Hint: there’s a good chance you’re not. I wasn’t.) The additional difficulty levels are a boon too. I went through on the easiest difficulty level, since I had trouble with the original Odin Sphere. All of the new systems were so accommodating, I had no trouble going to the normal difficult level after the prelude.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is an exemplary game. It feels entirely new. The Refined mode’s additions offer an entirely new experience. It’s a more traditional action game with RPG elements. It gives people the opportunity to build a character to their liking, rather than working with what you’re given. People who do prefer the more traditional affair, though, still have it with the Classic mode. It’s equal parts nostalgic and forward-thinking, covering every base. Odin Sphere was always an incredible game, and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir perfects the experience.

Score: 10/10
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Developer: Vanillaware
Platform(s): Vita, PS4, PS3
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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