Friday, November 18, 2011

games of our lives, part 9: Odin Sphere

RPGs are a genre that never remotely interested me. I thought they were all "Octoknight attacks and misses! Minerva casts Ice Cloak for 50 damage!" Screw that crap; I'll take a survival horror game any day.

Then one afternoon back in 2007, G and I were watching X-Play, and they reviewed a PS2 game called Odin Sphere. The graphics were so beautiful that I told G I was going to get it from Gamefly, and because he knows about my apathy towards RPGs, he said, "Oh, you are so going to hate it."

But it turns out I didn't.

Odin Sphere is an action RPG, meaning that while there are certain RPG elements like an EXP meter and potion mixing, it focuses more on red-assed beatdowns, which is really satisfying (albeit a bit punishing on the wrists). It's divided into several "storybooks" that follow the adventures of five protagonists: Gwendolyn, the Valkyrie daughter of Odin; Cornelius, a boy who is transformed into a Pooka (a rabbit-like creature) and sent to the Underworld; Mercedes, a fairy princess; Oswald, the Shadow Knight in love with Gwendolyn; and Velvet, princess of the Valentine kingdom. They carry different weapons, all of which are powered by phozons, which are released by fallen enemies. Phozons can also be used to grow fruit and, er, sheep for replenishing your health.

The plot is unbelievably complex, so I'll refer you to the Wikipedia page if you want more information. (View with extreme caution, though, as spoilers abound.) I'll just say that the story is engrossing and moved me to tears more than once.

Odin Sphere suffers from massive slowdown in certain areas, rendering a few battles almost impossible to play, and the fighting can get repetitious. But it's one of the most gorgeous games I've ever played, bar none; it really is like playing a storybook. Take a look at these screenshots; they lose something in "translation", since you can't see the movement or the way light plays upon things, but you'll get the general idea:

Odin Sphere also has a beautiful soundtrack to match its visuals, with music by Final Fantasy XII composer Hitoshi Sakamoto. Unfortunately, the English dubbing left something to be desired, so G and I played with the subtitled Japanese voice track. I really appreciated having that option.

RPGs will never be my genre of choice, but considering that Persona 4 and Odin Sphere made my top ten of all time and I also really enjoyed Eternal Sonata, I'll certainly be more open to trying them in the future.