Odin Sphere
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Vanillaware
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 05/22/07
Japan 05/17/07
Official Website: English Site

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Story time!
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Feisty, ain't she?
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Hail Odin!
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Relaxing at a fancy cafe.
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Dennis Rubinshteyn
Hands-On Preview
Dennis Rubinshteyn

On May 17, Atlus will be releasing Odin Sphere to stores all over Japan. Vanillaware is the development house behind Odin Sphere, which comes hot on the heels of their recently released (in Japan) Grim Grimoire. The game is considered to be a spiritual successor to an old action-RPG called Princess Crown, which was released on the Sega Saturn. Atlus will be releasing the game to US shores just five days after Japan's release and we at RPGFan managed to get our hands on the English version.

The game consists of five stories, which are all fragments of the main plot that slowly unravels, book by book. Each story features a protagonist with his/her own perspective on the events that take place. Players start off with the book "Valkyrie" where they play as a valkyrie named Gwendolyn who is one of Odin's daughters. Gwendolyn is a proud and fearsome warrior, but she is also a daddy's girl who would do anything for her father, even at the cost of her own life, just to hear to hear him say he loves her. During a war against the fairies, her sister died in battle and gave Gwendolyn her a special type of spear called a Psypher. With her sister's precious weapon, she fights for her fathers love, and goes through her own issues as she winds up taking certain actions.

There are many cutscenes that move the plot along. All of the cutscenes use the in-game engine and are presented in the style of a theatrical play. The game has a feature where a player can revisit any scene in the game at any time. It's a great addition for those who want to see certain scenes again.

The game is an action-RPG with mission-based gameplay. Each mission contains a bunch of mini-stages that take place in a circular battlefield. Players can see the difficulty of each stage on a map, rated from one to five stars. The map also uses icons to show the locations of shops and boss rooms for each mission. The objective of each stage is to defeat your foe or foes, and you are given a rank afterwards based on your completion speed and amount of damage taken. Higher ranks reap better rewards, and each stage nets you a certain item, regardless of rank. A nice feature is that at any time during the mission, you can restart the mission or return to base with your current items and EXP.

There are two different things to level up with a distinctive way of earning experience points for it. First is the level of your psypher weapon. It gains experience by absorbing phozon, which are souls from fallen foes. Normal enemies provide only one phozon, but bosses or difficult enemies provide several of them. Leveling up a weapon makes it stronger and every few levels, you learn a new ability. The other is your HP level which is increased by eating food. Each food has its own amount of EXP and some can be eaten multiple times. Players can plant seeds during a battle and it grows to produce food if the plant absorbs a certain amount of phozon.

Later on, two additional features are unlocked. First is alchemy where you combine chemicals with special food found underground to create items for supportive or destructive use. Second is cooking, where you bring ingredients and cash to a restaurant to turn into exotic foods that earn you stat increases. Recipes for alchemy and cooking are obtained as an occasional stage reward, and there are many to collect.

One of the game's main attractions is the excellent 2D graphics. All of the fantasy themed environments are prerendered, each with a unique and distinctive design. Sprites are all large with great detail on even the most minor characters. They're also well animated and contain a lot of small but nice touch-ups such as showing the characters breathing.

The music is done by veteran game composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, who was the man behing Final Fantasy XII's soundtrack. The game contains full voice acting, and the option to choose either the English dub or the original Japanese voice track.

The game is shaping up to be a solid title with all the right elements in place. Atlus will be releasing this gem in the US next month so look forward to a full fledged review here at RPGFan as the release date gets closer.


© 2006-2007 Atlus USA, Vanillaware.
All Rights Reserved.

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