Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir PS4 Review

What happens when you mix Norse mythology, fairy tales and fantasy? If you add a dash of humor and a lot of creativity and give the mix a big shake, you might just end up with Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir. It’s an epic ballad which revolves around love and loss, death and resurrection, as a group of damaged heroes struggle to ward off the end of the world.


Leifthrasir is a high-definition remaster of the hit 2007 game Odin Sphere, which was originally released on PlayStation 2. The title, developed by Vanillaware and published by Atlus, released in January in Japan, but we’ll see it on June 7 in the US and June 24 in Europe. As an added bonus, the remaster for PS3, PS4 and PSVita also includes the PS2 classic, for those who want to relive the first incarnation of the story.

Leifthrasir has essentially the same narrative and gameplay as the 2007 original, but it’s definitely a smoother ride. Some big updates from the PS2 version of the title include better environment visuals and a cleaner UI model. Movement and combat controls are much more fluid than the original as well, since the DualShock 4 controller allows for better control of abilities and basic attacks Leifthrasir also introduced new items, enemies, and character abilities. Some new functions include item storage, cross-save, and a mobile restaurant, as well as collectible food recipes for more chances to boost XP.

The narrative of Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir centers around the "Cauldron Wars," a series of battles over a source of limitless energy. Prophecies of Armageddon are being fulfilled one by one, and it is up to several young leaders to prevent judgement day from coming to pass. Essentially, Odin Sphere’s plot is a solid example of what happens when powerful nations have terrible leaders: Everybody ends up going to war.

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The main characters, wielders of powerful Psypher weapons, are as follows: Gwendolyn, a princess unable to earn her father’s love; Cornelius, a cursed prince trying to restore his humanity; Mercedes, the untested leader of the fairies; Oswald, the black swordsman clinging to his soul; and finally Velvet, the last remnant of a fallen kingdom.

Through the duration of the game, the player goes through each of the character’s storylines, taking our intrepid adventurers through seven differently themed dungeon areas. All five of these arcs cover roughly the same time period, so while you experience the same events, you do so from multiple character perspectives. The story itself is gripping and filled with genuine, purposeful characters who have complex relationships. There are a few tropes thrown in to keep things feeling familiar, but all in all, the world of Erion is an interesting place.

Once the five overlapping character storylines have been completed, players must then pair each fighter up with the appropriate harbinger of Armageddon in a series of tough boss battles to prevent the world’s destruction. Players must follow story clues to determine the correct matches and fulfill the prophecy. If you mess up on your first time through, you unlock a “bad ending” cutscene, implying that you have failed to forestall the end of the world. You must then return and complete each fight again with the correct matches. Having to start over is frustrating, but Vanillaware maintains the integrity and importance of the story as well as the characters’ roles within that story. It wouldn’t make sense for Gwendolyn to topple Oswald’s nemesis, or for Mercedes to destroy the bane of Velvet’s family line.

Each character has about twenty skills that can be picked up from certain bosses or hidden chests scattered throughout the world. Of course, all of the active abilities can be used from the menu, but the player can also assign a few of their favorites to handy shortcut buttons. The ability visuals are mesmerizing: many of the heroes harness elemental forces, and it is a blast to control and watch the carnage. Seeing Velvet launch a wall of fire, or Cornelius surrounded by lightning spirits, is huge fun. The upgrades and shortcuts effectively allow players to customize a character to fit their own unique playstyle. Additionally, characters also gain an ability point with each level, which can be spent to acquire passive effects such as increased movement speed or discounted prices at shops.

In addition to varying abilities, characters also have slightly different controls. The Valkyrie Gwendolyn, for example, can glide after a double-jump, allowing her to dive-bomb unsuspecting foes. The black swordsman, Oswald, is capable of entering into a berserk state, increasing his damage and speed dramatically for as long as the madness lasts. Away from the characters, map zones and enemies are recycled, though alternating characters with new combat styles and abilities, each requiring different tactics to fully utilize, helps to keep the battles from being too stale.


Story progression occurs through battles stages, with a couple mid-bosses and a final boss for each zone. Each scene is scored, with the player earning extra points for avoiding damage, chaining attack combos together and completing combat scenarios quickly. High scores earn players higher payouts of items and gold, so the scoring mechanic gives Leifthrasir a delightful arcade feel. In addition to higher scores, defeating enemies also yields experience and life force, called Phozons.

This magical energy can be redirected to the growth of XP-boosting food, which can be even more helpful in developing characters than XP gained from direct combat. Harvested food and foodstuffs looted from enemies or chests can be eaten for added benefits. However, it’s worth mentioning that the XP rewards are much greater from cooked foods, which are accessible after the first couple of chapters on each character. Players must find or purchase recipes, and furnish the ingredients, in order to create some top-tier cuisine.

In addition to growing food, Phozons can be used to upgrade skill effects, to increase their utility and/or boost player stats like attack power and power points.or to the enhancement of acquired skills.

The other form of "crafting" in Leifthrasir comes with the art of Alchemy, which allows players to create potions and other consumables. Like cooking, recipes for various concoctions can be found throughout the world; plus, the game allows players to attempt their own random creations as well, allowing them to preview the result before finalizing the process. The primary ingredients of Alchemy, Mandragoras, come in a variety of colors and effects. These fearsome little veggies will burrow underground and fight back a little when the player tries to collect them.

While the cooking and alchemy mechanics did feel a touch oversimplified, it feels deliberate as it would almost certainly broaden the appeal for a larger age-range of players. The drawback to these sorts of crafting mechanics however, was that the act of growing plants and consuming food ended up being a bit boring, simply because of the amount of time that these activities consumed. Understandably, the developers did not want the HP restoration from food to replace potions, but it is still an annoyance to have to sit and watch a character munch on a stack of treats in the rest zone when there isn’t a real need for them too. Similarly, releasing hundreds of Phozons to cultivate a dozen seeds is also tedious and you can’t help but think that a better solution to this could have been created.

In the end, Leifthrasir is about a thirty to forty hour endeavor and appears far more tailored for completionists than it is for the speed-running community. After completing the main story, extra longevity awaits players in the new game + mode, which allows characters to retain their levels, abilities, and items. Furthermore, a higher difficulty setting is also unlocked, while bank access is now granted across all characters.

Leifthrasir is a great title to have the new game + feature present, as players will want to spend even more time experiencing the evocative Norse fantasy that has been crafted here. The collection of vibrant environments set a fitting stage for the battles and events throughout the saga. The character models, for the main heroes, the NPCs they interact with, and the villains they battle, are all beautiful and fit their fantasy world perfectly. An absolutely gorgeous soundtrack takes off with the title menu, the second the game is launched; sending forth haunting, ethereal melodies that alternate with whimsical, lilting tones in perfect balance.

To help deliver the well-written dialogue, Leifthrasir boasts dual audio with English and Japanese voice-overs, with English subtitles. Some incredibly talented voice actors have lent their tones to English language dub too, including most of the original Odin Sphere cast such as Michelle Ruff (Bleach, various Disgaea titles), who reprised her role as Velvet and Derek Stephen Prince (Naruto, Digimon, Bleach) returned as Oswald.

Tonally speaking, the game is generally fairly somber, despite its cartoonish appearance. But every now and then players get a glimpse of some light-hearted frivolity, such as the plant that sprouts live sheep. Even though the narrative is identical to the original, the visual update in Leifthrasir heightens the overall experience, encouraging players to immerse themselves in the emotional title.

All in all, Leifthrasir is an outstanding remaster of a PS2 cult classic that fantasy gamers should be excited about. With virtual reality waiting in the wings, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is a timely reminder that a 2D title can still be fresh and fun, providing an effort that is able to transcend genre boundaries and deliver an action-packed brawler with a strong narrative and romantic characters. Aside from recycling bosses and maps, this remaster of the 2007 original carries some minor flaws too, such as the lack of convenience with the food features and a somewhat uninspiring crafting system.



The Final Word

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is a must-play for fans of the original or platformers in general. Expertly written and well executed, the title played like some sort of grand theater, possessing a narrative that was both familiar but also new, filled with dynamic characters who interacted seamlessly not only with each other but also with the world itself. Don’t let a few minor issues put you off, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is a top-tier action RPG effort that is more than worthy of your time.