Thursday, May 24, 2007

Odin Sphere - Gwendolyn, Chapter 4

This is definitely a game I probably would not have picked up if not for actively reading various game-related forums. I mean, I would have been aware of it, but would not have made an effort to pick it up the day it came out. While it is pretty readily available through online retailers right now, it definitely seems like this will be a game that is destined to become hard to find and command high eBay prices.

Even if not, this game is special because it is one of the very few games made for a home console that is done entirely in two-dimensions. I'm not even talking about a cel-shaded 2D look or 3D-rendered graphics on a 2D plane. This games features two-dimensional sprites that move on a two-dimensional plane, just like the way things were back before Bill Clinton was president.

And the two-dimensional graphics are gorgeous. It is obvious that a lot of time and effort was put into drawing them. They are large, colorful, and contain many moving parts. Apparently this game was something like ten years in development and I can believe it for all of the detail in the graphics. It actually took me awhile to get used to the way the graphics flow in the game. I am used to either modern 3D games that have many frames of movement animation for each character, or modern 2D games on portable sytems where the small size and lack of detail makes the fewer frames of animation less noticable. When I first started playing, it was a little jarring to see the character move, oftentimes without looking different every time. I've gotten used to it, and I can certainly understand that it wasn't worth the effort to draw fifteen separate sprites for every character's movement, but it is so different (and such a throwback) that it rattled me.

The gameplay is almost that of a 2D one plane, beat 'em up. You move left or right, enemies appear, and then you whack them in various combos with your sword. Everything happens on the same plane and there is no real platforming. There are enough varieties of attacks and responses to enemies that there is a good learning curve for each foe. Only the easiest ones can just be repeated whacked with your weapon. And even then, your character tires, so if you do nothing but pound on the square button without occasionally retreating, your character will stop to rest and you will get hit. I'm enjoying this, but I wonder how deep it really is. Will I be tired of the possible attacks by the end of the game?

The game has what most people would describe as "RPG elements" so I'll throw it in the action/RPG genre. Unlike most RPGs, you don't get experience and level up by defeating enemies. Your magic almost levels up in this way. When you defeat enemies, they release phozons. By absorbing these, you not only fill up any depleted magic points, but you also earn magic experience, and so when you have absorbed enough, your magic level rises. Your health is similar leveled up by eating food. So food both restores HP and earns food experience which will eventually increase your maximum. It is certainly novel.

My basic impression of the game is positive. I am enjoying it quite a bit right now. The graphics are outstanding. The music and sound is clever (and the English voice acting is above average as well). The gameplay is currently satisfying, but I have a nagging suspicion that it might get old before I've finished the game. We'll see.

1 comment:

Prime said...

I'm going to pick it up next week. I'm glad the ps3 1.80 update now upscales the ps2 games, I can play it on my hdtv!