Odin Sphere OR Why the Art of Alchemy Rests at a Fool’s Gravestone

A magical, tiny Japanese man dropped this game off at my house yesterday and I’ve played about an hour of it so far. I’m on the second chapter or so, which means I at least got a chance to fight the first boss.

Wow, the visuals alone are worth digging into it for, even if the combat seems like it could get sort of repetitive. Still, just when I thought I would get sick of the desert backgrounds, I get thrown into a gorgeous and lush forest in the next set of levels.

For those that don’t know, the game’s combat takes place on circular planes. Since it’s 2D, picture an old game like Defender and you can probably get a clearer picture. Once you clear one ring, you can diverge off into other paths until you eventually reach a boss. There’s lots of beating people up, but the enemies don’t have any fall-back reaction animations, so you really need to keep your distance and stay on your toes since they can strike right back at you.

The first boss, after you fight two really cool Horse-head-like (Zelda II) mini-bosses, is a massive dragon that takes up a good portion of the screen. The artwork on this and everything else doesn’t really register with my brain properly. To me, it’s so clean and crisp that my mind reads it as some cleverly manipulated 3D trickery! Then I try to digest the fact that it’s all hand-drawn or whatever and my mind snaps again.

These are just first impressions and all, but is anyone else tired as hell of alchemy? I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but it seems like game developers feel obligated now to slip it into every moderately RPG-like game structure. Boring and tedious.

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