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Odin Sphere
  opened by paleface at 03:41:37 11/29/07  
  last modified by paleface at 12:27:18 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; reg=NA]
Gorgeous 2D adventure in which you play a fantasy warrior maiden, running around (literally) small, lush sphere worlds, bashing bad guys with a few simple attacks.
The presentation is absolutely top notch, amazing stuff. You probably haven't seen 2D game graphics like this before: high resolution, richly shaded, and pulsing and warping with life. Everything, even load screens (not to mention the load game interface) looks absolutely beautiful, and you really do feel like you're in a fairy book come to life.
The action itself does take some getting used to. You're running around the surface of these little circular worlds, so the side-scrolling levels will loop back on themselves, basically. You can see where you are on the circumference, and you can see a little radar showing things in your immediate vicinity; this is necessary, because the gorgeous sprites are so large on-screen that you really can't seem very far. Enemies, especially the massive bosses, tend to point-blank you. You can avoid this somewhat by watching the radar, and double-jump-gliding, but still, it can be a little frustrating, especially when your limited attack abilities (mash the attack button, more or less, aside from jump-glide-stabbing) are slow going against larger foes.
Oh, there is a super attack magic system type of thing, where you get some magic spell things that do more damage, and require magic power absorbed either from fallen enemies, or from special plants that you grow from seeds.
An alchemy system, whereby you can collect (find, or buy) ingredients to craft into combat/healing/etc potions, helps add more variety, but you also have a pretty limited inventory space (at least at first...dunno if you get more/larger storage bags later on), and you come across a lot of stuff, so you'll be juggling inventory quite a bit.
The little circle worlds usually have an exit point, and once you've cleared off the baddies, you exit and shoot straight off either to another circle world, or a semi-interactive, voice-over cutscene type of dealy. Each stage consists of a number of these worlds chained together, with branching paths (multiple exits) on some of the sphere worlds.
And that's about as far as I've got so far. With limited offensive options, or maybe just butter fingers, I've been taking a pounding clearing the stages, and I've chewed through quite a few healing I guess it's good that you do find a lot of junk you can either eat or sell (for eats). A lot of it is quite repetitive (here's another world, run around it and whack the same bad guys that spawned on the last five worlds, enjoy!), but it's all really lovely to see and move through, which helps quite a bit.
  paleface 05:36:52 11/29/07
Oops, that isn't the forest witch, it's just one of her guards. She's smaller and much, eh, cuter. And a real pain to fight. There's a lot of just getting smacked around in this game, I'm pack a lot of healing food, or seeds to grow it.
Ah, yeah, speaking of packs, you do get vendors later who will sell you more bags for carrying stuff. Thank goodness. Still kind of a pain to shuffle things back and forth, though.
The cat is not used to load games, that's what the book next to the cat is for. The cat is used to review story scenes you've seen so far. That would be interesting, but the voice acting is uneven, and generally spoken pretty slowly, so I don't really see myself going back to view scenes multiple times. The story also seems a little clunky...maybe something was lost in the translation. You're a Valkyrie daughter of the lord/god/whatever Odin. He's kind of depressed, I guess because he's old and there's, like, war and stuff. Oh well.
  paleface 05:47:58 12/03/07
All right, so this game is nuts. The valkyrie, it turns out, is just one of five characters you play, in five different, somewhat intertwined, stories.
The valkyrie story took me ten hours by the game's play-time clock. It ain't particularly easy, either; with limited attack variety, and unavoidable use of chain attacks that render you unable do dodge many counterattacks, battles often come down to slugfests, and if you don't have enough healing potions, you're screwed.
Not that there isn't some strategy. In the final valkyrie boss fight, for instance, I was relatively low on potions (and the only way to get more would have been to...actually, I'm not sure; I'd have had to get back to the world map and replay one of the earlier stages where the carrot creatures I'd need for the potions live, but I'm not sure if you can get back to the world map have just had to scrounge by on trying to find stuff to sell in the story, and buy cheap food), and the darn boss regenerates (Grr), so on the face of things, I just didn't have enough juice to slug it out with her. But there's a butterfly who pops up after a while in the stage that you can suck magical power from, and I had an almost full tank of magic coming in, plus a seed that grows a plant that gives you more magic energy. So by carefully hoarding all of that, I got two activations of one of my more powerful magical abilities, which doubled my attack power, at key points in the fight, and was finally able to get through by the skin of my teeth.
That last fight had a ton of slowdown. Really bad slowdown. It didn't make it unplayable, but it felt like wading through molasses. I can't help but feel that they *could* have tweaked it a bit to make the slowdown less hideous there; the rest of the valkyrie's adventure was mostly slowdown-free, with a few spots here and there when using a spell against a mob of baddies.
The stories all feature game-engine cutscenes, with full voice acting (sometimes you wish they'd talk faster). There's a lot of talking and a lot of story--lavish, like everything else in the game. The writing is pretty weird sometimes; I dunno if something was lost in the translation...I don't think that's it exactly, though, because, at least in the valkyrie story, it's overall plot things that are kinda weird, like the relationships between the main characters--just a little head-scratching here and there.
Oh, yeah, and there's another crafting-type system aside from seed-planting and alchemy: cooking! You can take those nuts and berries and things you collect, together with recipe scrolls you find here and there, and, at certain points only, visit a little village where they'll cook your stuff up into a meal that gives you an XP boost, and possibly raises your maximum hit-points.
Seems weird to me. In fact, a lot of the food items you find or grow will give you more XP than HP when eaten. This whole gaining-XP-by-eating-healing-stuff still has me shaking my head a bit. You also gain XP by absorbing the power thingies--phozons--that dead people release. You can even elect to wear a bangle that increases the XP you get from phozons; or wear something else, like a bangle that increases the damage you do, or decreases the damage you take, or makes you immune to cold, etc. Of course, you have to find or buy them things, and most of them aren't cheap.
This game just gets more and more mind-boggling, and I'm apparently only a little over a fifth of the way through it, tops (actually I think it's less than that, because there's a huge chunk of mystery chapters indicated in a separate space off the end of the the story graph, but I have no idea what they might be). The writing is wacky, the stages are all just wrapping flat ground, the basic action is...basic, a lot of the gameplay stuff seems extraneous (I didn't need to backtrack to finish the valkyrie story, as it turned out, and barely touched most of the crafting stuff, aside from making healing potions), item management is a constant chore, and the boss battles can be incredibly frustrating if you're short on healing items, because many of the bosses can kill you in two hits, if you don't heal in between. BUT smashing stuff across gorgeous landscapes is still fun, and having any kind of story at all tying it together, much less a series of fairly complex and emotional stories, told in incredibly lavish detail, takes it far beyond nearly any other beat-em-up before it. What a crazy game this is turning out to be.
  paleface 21:22:17 04/12/08
I think I'm going to call a wrap on my time with Odin Sphere. Exploring and beating up lovely sprite badguys is great fun, but the final part of the game, after finishing each of the five individual, intertwined storylines, is a boss-rush thing, which requires that you have your characters at a much higher level than you needed to have them at to finish their own stories, and you probably also have to grind out a ton of healing potions for them, too. This is a bit of a drag (getting potions involves replaying--over and over and over--certain stages where the random enemies drop the ingredients you need), and the story isn't quite coherent enough for me to need to see the very last bit of it, so I'll call it good and move on.

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