Atlus shocked RPG fans in late 2015 when it announced Odin Sphere, the cult hit from 2007, would be getting an HD remake the following year called Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.
The game has been out for several months in Japan and it's just a few days away from its June 7 release here in North America (the EU version is coming on June 23). However, unless they've been following the updates since its announcement, checked out some Japanese videos/streams after it arrived there in January, or imported a copy, it's unlikely that many know the difference between the original and HD remake, and have passed it off as such - a simple HD facelift.
Of course, they wouldn't be wrong to try and pass it off as merely an HD remake, as it now features 1080p graphics, but Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is more than just pretty (really pretty, actually) graphics. It has an assortment of enhancements that set it apart from the original. Here's five of them:
1. Frame Rate
Odin Sphere on the PlayStation 2 was impressive, but it suffered serious frame rate problems at times - a product of the game trying to do too much at all at once. With the game filled with enemies ranging from bow-wielding fairies to fire-breathing lizards, the game had a tendency to slow down at inopportune moments, causing the game to run at a near-snail's pace and your character not responding the way the player would like.
No more. The game runs at a smooth 60 FPS allowing you to never miss a beat in combat, which leads to the second point.
Contrary to what some might believe, skills aren't a new addition to Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. Each character had skills that they would gain upon leveling up, however, these skills were mostly the same and didn't do justice to the uniqueness of every character.
Specifically, these skills were: Invisible, Phozon Burst, Phozon release, Psypher Heal, Cyclone and Overload. The only exceptions were Gwendolyn and Mercedes who exchanged Psypher Heal for Shadow Ally and Cyclone for Piercing Shot, respectively.
This is no longer the case, as each character has a set of skills that truly feels unique for each character. For example, Gwendolyn now has a set of ice abilities that can freeze the enemy, while Mercedes has new skills that add on to her offensive capabilities like a mortar-like attack and a piercing laser. There are even ultimate attacks for characters to unleash upon hapless foes.
While on the subject of skills and fighting, the combat got an overhaul as well. It was fluid in the original (outside of the occasional frame drop) but the refined combat, in the aptly called "Refined Mode," takes the combat to a whole new level. Whereas the original allowed players to only pull off simple combos, combos can get quite complex in Leifthrasir.
Now, Gwendolyn truly feels like a Valkyrie, capable of doing extended aerial combos, while Mercedes has some pretty impressive juggling capabilities if raining destruction for afar isn't your thing. With all that in place, it feels like Leifthrasir is a fighting game rather than an action-rpg game at times. As an added bonus, players can throw in the new assortment skills if they want to get fancy and show off.
4. New Difficulty Levels/Modes
One thing that helps determine the longevity of a game is the content, but, unfortunately, the original Odin Sphere didn't have much of it. After beating the game, unless a player was looking to do a challenge run, a follow-up playthrough would be exactly the same, regardless of whether it was on normal or heroic.
Taking inspiration from some of its more recent games like Muramasa and Dragon's Crown, Vanillaware added an assortment of new modes that changes things up significantly. One such mode is Xtra New Game (essentially New Game Plus) where you inherit all your items and abilities from your previous save file and battle against even stronger enemies. There is also a new "Hell" difficulty where your HP never increases beyond its base 200 value.
To top it all off, there is even post-game content in the form of a 30-round boss rush mode where players can battle all of the game's mid-bosses and bosses with their favorite character.
This might seem out of place compared to the other four changes/additions, but its actually quite important. The rank a player receives at the end of a battle in Odin Sphere was important as it affected the reward a player received thereafter. The difference between a few silver coins and a gold coin is significant enough as it is, but they also get an assortment of extra goodies that could save their life later down the line. However, the ranking system was quite rigid with the game only grading your "Clear Time," "Damage Bonus," and "Carried Over" Bonus.
Now, there are more ways players can get graded, thus increasing the chances of getting the much-coveted S-rank. New grading bonuses include your combo count, how many times a skill was used and overkills. Interestingly, some of these bonuses stack, so while getting a max combo of 112 earns a player 108 points, reaching the the 20, 50 and 100-hit combo benchmarks earns you 50, 50 and 75 points, respectively.
Of course, there are a slew of other changes and additions that made its way into Leifthrasir, such as passive abilities, new enemies/bosses, new UI and new character strengthening mechanics, so the above five are merely the tip of the iceberg.
All of these changes might not sit well with purists would prefer to play the original. Fortunately for them, after playing the original on the PS2, PS3 and PS Vita, they can play it once more on the PS4 in the form of "Classic Mode." Of course, this also provides a chance for new players to get a sense of what the game's origins are.
Either way, there is plenty for fans to look forward to, so now its just a matter until then. June 7 can't come soon enough.