Good Game: Odin Sphere (PS2)

Another Good Game

Today its Odin Sphere a 2007 action role-playing game developed by Vanillaware and published by Atlus for PlayStation 2 (PS2). A remake, titled Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, was released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita in 2016.

Using a two-dimensional side-scrolling perspective, gameplay focuses on a beat em up-style fighting system while incorporating role-playing elements – Leifthrasir expands upon and refines these elements. The story, shared between both versions, follows five characters on the fantasy continent of Erion during a war between the nations of Ragnanival and Ringford over a weapon called the Crystallization Cauldron, and their roles in the Armageddon, a catastrophe which will destroy Erion.

The game was conceived by George Kamitani as first a sequel and then a spiritual successor to the 1997 Sega Saturn title Princess Crown. Development began in 2004 after the official formation of Vanillaware. The story was based around the concept of a Valkyrie princess. The scenario and world design incorporated Norse mythology, the works of William Shakespeare, fairy tales and early video games. 2D graphics were chosen over 3D graphics as Kamitani felt the style was stagnating, which necessitated presenting cutscenes as if on a stage rather than using traditional cinematography. Leifthrasir began development in 2013 as a means of addressing the issues both players and staff had with the original game while keeping the story intact. The music for both versions was composed by a team from Basiscape, led by company founder Hitoshi Sakimoto.

Prior to Atlus picking up the title, Vanillaware had encountered difficulties finding a publisher due to Kamitani’s sparse record as a developer. Completed in 2006, Odin Sphere was delayed into the following year so it would not compete with Atlus’ own titles. The localization was handled by Atlus USA, and proved challenging in multiple areas. Upon release, it garnered a positive reception from video game journalists: praise was given to its story, visuals and old-school gameplay, with criticism focused on its inventory system and framerate issues. Leifthrasir was praised for its improved performance and reworked mechanics. The game was a commercial success, contributing to the rise of Vanillaware as a developer.

The delayed release of Odin Sphere led to issues with the company: they needed to start other projects to keep their company going, leading to the development of GrimGrimoire. The development of GrimGrimoire drained the company’s funds, forcing Kamitani to take out a flexible loan of 20 million yen to keep the company afloat and fund development for their next projects, in addition to finding new publishers as Atlus refused to take any more of Vanillaware’s products until they had seen how Odin Sphere performed commercially. Nippon Ichi Software would handle GrimGrimoire, while Marvelous Entertainment accepted their next project, Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii. The commercial success of Odin Sphere both enabled the development of Muramasa: The Demon Blade and cleared Kamitani’s debt.

Watch the video I made below showing about the first 36 minutes of the game.


Odin Sphere Gameplay.

Developer: Vanillaware.
Publisher: Atlus USA.
Platform: PlayStation 2.
Release (original): 17th May 2007 (JP), 22nd May 2007 (NA), 13th March 2008 (AU), 14th March 2008 (EU).
Genre: Action role-playing game.

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