Ooh, pretty! Back in the SNES days, Odin Sphere is what I imagined the games of the future would look like. As an added bonus, this animated Rembrandt has the gameplay to back it up.
The reviewable of Odin Sphere hit my doorstep the other day, so this is a hands-on impression. It was going to be based on the first four hours, but I made the mistake of turning in again on to check a few details. Now it's closer to seven. On the plus side, I can report that Odin Sphere is very good at making the hours disappear.
The game opens with the Valkyrie, Gwendolyn, as the sole playable character of the eventual five, each with their own interconnected storyline. She's the daughter of King Odin, desperate for her father's love, but King Odin appears to be as good a father as he is a king, and he's a lousy king. Her sister Griselda has fallen in battle with the Fairy Army, the Vanir, and given Gwendolyn her spear. As a loyal member of the Demon Lord King Odin's army, the Aesir, Gwendolyn takes it upon herself to earn her father/king's love by single-handedly whooping the Vanir's collective ass.
The battle engine that drives the action is fairly simple, but a hell lot of fun. It uses a single button for all direct attacks, and that same button doubles as defense when held down. Defeating enemies releases a substance called Phozon, which powers just about everything. Phozon levels up the characters' weapon and makes plants grow, both of which are vital to survival. Odin Sphere is quite happy to harass you with creatures that can knock off half your health in one hit, so having a good stock of food will be a necessity for both eating and alchemizing.
Eating not only brings the HP back from the brink of death, but most foods also have experience attached to them. The phozons level up the weapon, allowing stronger attacks and more magic abilities, but food levels up HP for a bigger life bar. Eventually a pair of restaurants will open that allow the combining of food items for huge EXP boosts, if you've got the cash and ingredients.
I've only just started Odin Sphere, but so far I've found a game that's kept me coming back for more, blowing off sleep for just one more stage. Beating up monsters, abusing the alchemy system, growing plants that sprout tasty berries (and sheep), and wondering what the other storylines will be like combine to create an addicting experience. Managing an all-too-limited inventory, not so much, but even that has ways around it. At this point, it's looking like Odin Sphere will have to ship with flesh-eating bacteria in order to avoid being one of the best PS2 games this year.