Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Odin Sphere

Odin Sphere is
a good game.

It's wonderfully drawn and animated, reminiscent of Darkstalkers. Details like the character idles are so subtle that you could miss them. Layered backgrounds scroll by like a watercolor with real depth.

This is a game of simplicity, art, and imagination. The story is told in a postmodern style, character arcs occurring out of temporal sequence. The stories are fairy tales, seemingly cliche but with surprising turnarounds. Characters exhibit their own motivations, resisting neat, happy resolutions.

The game system itself is of the eternal recurrence type, bringing to mind Otogi: Myth of Demons. Each level follows the same guidelines, enemies spawn and must be completely defeated. Clearing a level yields a rating based upon time, damage done, damage received, etc. Managing your resources and timing your attacks is the strategy for success.

To illustrate the strange, clever beauty of this game, consider this: You regain health and earn experience by eating food. You can buy certain foods from vendors or earn them as rewards - milk, cheese, the like. Then there are the seeds. You plant seeds. As you destroy enemies, small particles of light are released called Phozons. Seeds absorb Phozons and sprout right before your eyes. When a plant has matured you can harvest the fruit. Take too long and the fruit will drop off the plant and rot. The greatest seed you can find is the one that sprouts sheep, which ripen, then pop off the vine and run across the level.

I would also like to note that the game looks great even on a 50-inch HDTV. I can't say the same about any 3d PS2 game.

I think I paid 35 dollars for Odin Sphere, brand spanking new.

It's well worth it.


The only negative thing I can say about Odin Sphere is that the action can slow down quite a bit when there are a lot of enemies onscreen.

I'm surprised that this happens, even with last-gen hardware. I often wonder if all the attention lavished on 3d affected the development of 2d. There are lots of optimizations for geometry and textures, but does that naturally carry over to animated sprites?

Anyone out there have any information on this subject? Would a game comparable to Odin Sphere suffer slowdown even on current-gen systems?


The same company that created Odin Sphere is coming out with a 2d RTS with the same art style. I have no idea how this will work.

I have confidence that it will, though.


Silvanis said...

I can't say for sure, but I can think of two possible causes for the slowdown.

1. The PS2 is REALLY memory limited, especially for graphics (4 meg dedicated to graphics, 32 meg of system memory). Given the heavily animated nature of the sprites, they probably have to keep all the animations for a given critter in memory. Multiply this by 3 or so for the different types of enemies on screen, add in the spell and weapon effects, and you get a recipe for an overwhelmed graphics system. I would think that would cause flickering, not slowdown, though...

2. Slightly related to 1, you might notice that lighting is taken into consideration on the sprites. Doing the lighting calculations alone on a large number of sprites when you're using your big spells/attacks may cause the slowdown.

3. As if 2 wasn't bad enough, doing the collision detection for all the sprites when unleashing those spells/attacks would just make things worse.

Would it run smoother on a current gen system? Probably. They have more memory and faster processors (the PS3 is about 10x faster than the PS2 for the CPU, for example). I don't think the 3d optimizations would be detrimental to 2d, though. Super Paper Mario gives a good example of how 2d would work on a modern system: you make a "billboard" texture (one that always faces the screen) and slap the sprite image on it. At that point, it works a lot like any other object in 3d, just flat.

In general, I think they were just pushing the limits of the PS2 with Odin Sphere. It'll be interesting to see if there's slowdown with Grim Grimoire, since it should hit the same limitations.

Anonymous said...

On my 60g PS3 and original PS2 Odin Sphere has a lot of slowdown. I just bought an 80g PS3 for my nephew. Before I gave it to him I wanted to see how well the software PS2 emulation was. To my surprise Odin Sphere had significantly less slowdown especially during the boss fights! Also, the save game error that the compatability checker on Sony's site lists for this game doesn't happen.