One of the final Japanese RPGs to grace the Sony PlayStation 2 was the Vanillaware-developed and Atlus-published Odin Sphere, which, while well-received, nonetheless received criticism for technical issues regarding graphical slowdown. Nearly a decade later, the game received an updated port to the third and fourth PlayStations not to mention the Vita, with a mode containing gameplay enhancements and another featuring the classical version. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir: Refined Mode proves perhaps the definitive version of the game, resolving many of the issues present in the original version, and is another feather in developer Vanillaware’s cap.
Throughout the game, the player controls five different playable characters with their own unique fighting styles, which, despite criticisms, prevents the gameplay from becoming too monotonous except perhaps in the final playable chapter, which requires multiple playthroughs, fighting the same bosses repeatedly, and trial and error without a guide to see the true ending. The gameplay itself is fairly solid, with side-scrolling stages more diverse than in the classic version given the addition of platforming areas in addition to the circular battle stages. Leveling, as before, requires gaining enough experience either from killing enemies or eating food that the player can plant and harvest or dine on from restaurants. Ultimately, aside from the endgame issues with redundancy, the gameplay definitely helps the Refined Mode more than hurts.
Perhaps the weakest link of the remake lies in control, with limited inventory space increasable only at certain points and many nonstackable items that can quickly clog item rings, forcing discarding decisions if the player isn’t near a storage container. Furthermore, while shops always lie near Maury’s Touring Restaurant, they don’t always sell all the ingredients necessary for certain recipes, sometimes forcing traveling to different shops in dungeon just to get specific items. Finally, while dialogue outside cutscenes is skippable, that within story segments are not, with the player forced to sit through all voice acting, and the in-game clock doesn’t track time spent in these scenes. Overall, interaction could have been much better.
The story is fairly enjoyable, with the different perspectives keeping things fresh, alongside features such as the chronological sequence of events and in-game texts that add to the title’s mythos, although finding out how to access the official ending might require a guide, given the vagueness of said texts that allegedly hint which characters to use to fight specific bosses in the final chapter to unlock the true ending, alongside alternate ones. The translation is largely decent, with an old-world English disposition, although there are many segments of dialogue that could have been really tightened, alongside errors such as the use at one point of “to whence.” All in all, the game’s narrative is enjoyable, but there are certain things improvable.
Partners in crime Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwate, alongside a few others, provide the port’s soundtrack, which is largely enjoyable and has many solid tracks. The voice acting is also good, although there are occasions where the character’s lips either stop or keep moving when before or after dialogues are over, alongside occasional pauses where there’s no punctuation and the dialogue spans more than one speech bubble even if there’s no punctuational halt between dialogue segments. Even so, the sound is one of the game’s highlights.
The visuals too show plentiful polish, with developer Vanillaware providing a two-dimensional style with gorgeous colorful environments and character sprites, and while the original version’s issues of graphical slowdown and long loading times have been rectified, there is a tad bit of choppiness when the playable characters are attacking the enemy. Generally, the graphics are very much a boon to the port.
Finally, although the in-game clock said that this reviewer took a little under thirty hours to complete the game, actually doing so took somewhere over thirty, given the game’s failure to count cutscene time in overall playtime.
In the end, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir’s Refined Mode is for the most part a very enjoyable enhanced version of the PlayStation 2 original, given plentiful positive aspects such as the solid two-dimensional action-oriented gameplay, the enjoyable narrative with multiple perspectives, the gorgeous soundtrack and above-average voicework, the pretty visuals, and the lasting appeal that the multiple difficulty settings and trophies provide. It does have issues with regards to the potential redundancy if the player wishes to see all possible endings, especially without the convenience of a guide, the limited inventory, the unskippable text in cutscenes, and a few localization impurities, but those who liked the original will find a mostly-fresh experience in the Refined Mode, and those that didn’t experience the initial incarnation will be in for a treat.
+Solid two-dimensional gameplay.
+Great story with multiple perspectives.
+Nice soundtrack and voicework.
+Gorgeous art direction.
+Plenty replay value.
-Can be repetitive if the player wants to see all possible endings.
-Dialogue in cutscenes unskippable.
-Getting specific endings could require a guide.
-Some localization impurities.
The Bottom Line:
The definitive version of the game.
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: 30-45 Hours