With so many good memories behind us, it's an opportunity for publishers to dust off the winners of yesteryear and reinvent them for a new generation. That said, often times an HD remake offers little more than a visual boost and a couple small additional features to bring a title up to current expectations. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir goes far beyond that. Not only did Vanillaware and Atlus give Odin Sphere a visual retuning, but they practically rebuilt the whole system. The result is a streamlined, flashy and refined retread that outdoes the original in ways that make this remake seem like an entirely different and better game by comparison.

Odin Sphere takes players to a Norse-inspired world of valkyries, fairies, and rather cute rabbit-like, yet intelligent, creatures called pooka. The world is as filled with strife as it is as magic. Factions of all sides battle for control of souls harvested from the living known as phozons, as well as psypher weapons, which are made with crystals that can utilize and be powered by those phozons. King Odin and his valkyries fight battle with Elfaria and the fairies for control of the Cauldron: a mighty structure that can supposedly create phozons freely when activated. The player takes up roles of five different characters across several branching stories in and around this conflict.

The game gives players the role of Odin’s valkyrie daughter Gwendolyn starting out, but the other characters come into play during Gwendolyn’s path and are eventually playable as well. The characters are varied and interesting. Gwendolyn utilizes a spear, her wings, and ice attacks that freeze enemies, making her a mobile and flighty spellcaster. Meanwhile, Cornelius, a prince turned into a pooka, is armed with a sword and lightning attacks to stun foes with before striking with dizzying mobility and combos. Outside of their different stories, motives, and progression, each character is just fun to play and they all bring distinct variety to the game.

Vanillaware

At the start of each chapter, players get some story and context before they are on their way to a new location. Each location is broken up into a segmented map of areas connected to each other. Some areas are circular, looping upon themselves and with several exit points, as with all areas in the original, but the remake adds finite segments that serve as treasure rooms, rest areas, or merely another type of area to traverse. The goal is to go from area to area, traversing the location until you reach a boss fight area that will complete the chapter, but each location also hosts side paths with optional battles and treasures. Exploring each area and getting the most out of a chapter location is an extremely worthwhile affair for the equipment and items you’ll score. Moreover, the rework of the map and addition of segmented and finite areas, especially the rest area, make for a more visually appealing setup.

Battle takes place mostly in the circular areas and is far more fast-paced and aggressive than in the original game. Characters can press in directions to swing an attack that way. Pressing up with an attack will do an uppercut that sends your character following after enemies while pressing down will do the familiar sliding attack, but holding the attack button while holding down will charge for a much stronger attack. Abilities and skills are much expanded in the remake. Each character has a vast web to develop via phozon prisms that unlock each ability and can be won through area completion, certain battles, or by finding secret chests. You can use skills through an accessible menu in combat, but you don’t have to. A total of four skills can be assigned to shortcuts which can be used on the fly. This makes for amazing combos, utilizing regular attacks right alongside crushing skills.

Vanillaware

Items are handled far more efficiently in the remake as well. Odin Sphere hosts a vast array of equipment, potions, and materials. Seeds can be planted and grown, special plants called mandragoras can be mixed into potions, equipment can boost stats and food can be eaten or used as ingredients for cooking. Players use an inventory wheel to access it all, but where it was just all lumped together in the original, Leifthrasir separates items by type, leading to a much more convenient and organized system. Alchemy in particular is much easier and more fun. Players can use material flasks to mix just about anything together to interesting and useful results. There are a vast amount of potions with numerous uses from healing to combat to utility and discovering and strengthening them is a fun aside in the game.

As in the original, players power up a character in two ways. The first comes from phozons. Phozons come out of any enemy slain, but they can also be found through special plants or phozon butterflies scattered throughout locations. Unlike in the original where phozons simply powered meters, they are tallied in the remake. First, they fill a PP counter which serves as a mana pool for magical skill. Secondly, collected phozons are used to level up skills and make them more powerful. Finally, phozons can be used to grow seeds that collected and planted into full-blooming plants. Unlike the original where you had to kill enemies near a plant or have phozon producing plants nearby, you can now release phozons just as you draw them in to feed and grow plants. All in all, phozons have a much more expanded, yet sensible purpose in Leifthrasir.

Vanillaware

Eating also returns to play an expanded part in the remake. Eating not only restores a character’s health, but also gives them a boost of experience that raises their HP permanently. Small berries and simple food provide light experience, but the best comes from cooking. Players now receive the support of a rotund traveling pooka chef known as Maury who will appear at all rest locations. Bring him the recipes and the ingredients and he’ll prepare the best player boosting plates in the game. The Pooka Kitchen still exists, but now you simply bring special currency to it instead of ingredients or recipes. This allows a lot more versatility for cooking and player boosting in and out of combat.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is no ordinary remake. It simplifies what needed to be simplified, expands what needed to be expanded, and runs in the smoothest of fashion without any hiccup whatsoever. It plays in such a fun way that going into the Classic Mode included with the game feels almost annoying after you’ve been playing Refined Mode awhile. To Classic Mode’s praise, it certainly feels like the more challenging of the two modes as Refined can feel almost too easy at times. However, Refined Mode is exactly what it claims to be in nearly every way. If you’re looking for a fun hack n’ slash action-JRPG with a deep customizable system to tailor to your playstyle, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is some of the most enjoyable times to be had, going far beyond the nostalgia of a simple remake.

This review is based on a download of Odin Sphere Leifthrasir provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.