PRETTY ON THE OUTSIDE
Somewhere along the line, it became real cool among gamers to say that graphics don’t matter, gameplay was everything, and that if someone were to make a game that played like Street Fighter II, but looked like a bunch of ASCII characters, it would still be a great game. Yeah, sure, and that cheerleader you stalked all through tenth and eleventh grade had a great personality, right? Whether we like to admit it or not, graphics usually matter.
I only mention this because Odin Sphere might be the best-looking 2D game I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to even quantify just how great looking everything is. Just about every screen has something that makes you think, “Wow, look at that!”, as the environments are imaginative and the characters are wonderfully detailed. There is also a ton of animation, which creates a great deal personality for all of the people, places and things in the game. It’s very rare that I would say that the artwork alone is worth the price of admission for a game, but this is one of those rare cases.
MORE THAN A PRETTY FACE
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the gameplay is no slouch, either. Odin Sphere is billed as an action-RPG, but the emphasis is mostly on the action. The setup should be instantly familiar to any side-scrolling veteran: enter an area, beat up all the enemies, move on to the next area. Of course, it’s never that simple. Enemies come at you from all directions, and will swarm you if you’re not careful. They key is to manage each skirmish, divide and conquer your foes, and avoid at all costs being attacked by multiple enemies at once. The game does a really nice job of blending strategic thinking with all-out button mashing that makes it really fun to play. It’s kind of like Golden Axe, with a few RPG elements added in.
On the RPG side of things, Odin Sphere makes some interesting tweaks to conventional design. For one thing, your character levels up power and hit points independently of each other. Attack and magic power is gained by collecting souls from defeated enemies, while HP is leveled by eating food. The catch is that most food is grown from seeds, which also require souls to grow, and different foods give out varying amounts of health restoration and experience. To further complicate matters, foods that restore a lot of HP don’t always do much to help you level up. As a result, you must plan ahead and decide which is the priority at any given time; becoming more powerful, getting a higher HP maximum, or having foods that will help keep you alive in a tough battle.
Odin Sphere is a blast to play, great to look at, and surprisingly deep. Whether you’re a fan of action-RPGs in general, or just looking for a game that plays like the beat-em-ups of old, only a bit more sophisticated, it’s definitely worth checking out.