Developer Vanillaware brings us, Odin Sphere, an all new two-dimensional, side-scrolling Action-RPG for the PlayStation 2. The game, as you've probably already guessed, has a significant amount of underlying Norse mythology, but no--it won't have Scandinavian voice acting. What it will have though, is a bilingual voice option for Japanese and English. So whether you're an Otaku from the west or practicing your English in the east, you can enjoy this game in whichever language fits your fancy. Odin Sphere is considered to be the unofficial sequel to the classic Sega Saturn game Princess Crown, and will feature many similarities to it. However, the two games are not directly related.
Odin Sphere drops you into a world of impending chaos with the abrupt destruction of the Valentine kingdom--a power that once ruled the world. The sudden downfall of the kingdom causes division and a power struggle amongst their former subordinate nations. A war breaks out between the fairies of Ringford and the warriors of Ragnanival, a country led by the Demon Lord Odin, over a claim to an ancient relic known as the Cauldron. The Cauldron's powerful magic is what gave Valentine the strength to conquer its neighbors, hence, why everyone desires to possess it. And all the while, these events follow accordingly to a forgotten prophecy: five cataclysmic disasters will usher the destruction of the world, but those who survive this will become kings.
"With five disasters coming, five heroes will arise... is this coincidence? You do the math."
With five disasters coming, five heroes will arise... is this coincidence? You do the math. Gamers will have a choice to play as any of the five following characters: Gwendolyn, a Valkyrie and the daughter of Odin; Velvet, former princess of the late Valentine kingdom, now known as the Forest Witch; Oswald, the Shadow Knight, slayer of dragons, and a faithful retainer of Ringford; Mercedes, the child Queen of Ringford who inherits the throne after her mother's death; and Cornelius, the lost prince of Titania who's been cursed to live as a beast. Each character has their own unique story which is told through separate storylines. However, these individual stories will eventually intertwine, making some interesting connections between characters. For example, Gwendolyn and Oswald belong to opposing forces in the war for the Cauldron; what will happen when they face each other on the battlefield? Well, to find that out you'll have to play the game.
Moving on to more technical stuff, Odin Sphere seems to have a flirtation with breaking things down into subsets. You see, the story is divided into chapters which are further divided into acts, to which some are even further broken down into rounds. These battle rounds are also divided into stages. This brings us to the actual fighting which is done in real-time and on a 2D plane. Combat however is not completely seamless and will pause every time you open up a ring menu to select items. Much of the strategy is in the Psyphers, character specific weapons, which absorb energy known as Phozon from fallen enemies. This energy can then be used to unleash special skills in battle.
The artwork in the game is really beautiful. This is probably due to the fact that all the characters and their animations have been hand-drawn. However, it's beauty is also met with a dash of confusion. The artwork (especially the backgrounds) involves a lot of dark colors, yet the style of the drawings reflect a cutesy, light-hearted anime look. It's sort of difficult to figure out what kind of atmosphere Odin Sphere tries to conjure up but at least the dialogue and music give us a clearer impression of that: serious and somewhat tragic. Making mention of the music, the game's composer is one of the most talented video game musicians ever--Hitoshi Sakimoto. Some of you might be familiar with him, while others will need a little reminder. He's worked on such game soundtracks as Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, Final Fantasy XII, and GrimGrimoire. Impressed yet? Yeah, who wouldn't be with all those heavyweight titles under his belt. Sakimoto fans should expect the music in Odin Sphere to uphold that standard.
If you're planning to get your hands on this game, you'll be smiling to know that it won't be long before you can do so. Odin Sphere will be hitting Japanese stores on May 17, 2007 and for those of you across the Pacific, you'll have to wait a measly five days for the North American release on May 22.