What is Odin Sphere Leifthrasir?
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a button-mashing role-playing/hack and slash adventure in which players step into the shoes of five disparate, but connected, characters stuck in the preliminary rumblings of the prophesised Armageddon. Wars and political unrest are rife, as everyone rushes for control of a device known as the Crystalisation Cauldron, from which all life emanates - and each protagonist has their own reasons for fighting for it. The tales of Demon Lord Odin's daughter Gwendolyn, a cursed prince turned into a rabbit-like 'Pooka', the royal fairy heir Mercedes, a shadowy knight called Oswald and a lost civilisation's Princess Velvet all entwine, with the antagonist of one often being the good guy in another, letting you see the Cauldron war from all sides as you play through each one in turn.
How do you play Odin Sphere Leifthrasir?
Alternating between fully-voiced cutscenes and maze-like, side-scrolling maps filled with enemies, hidden treasure and secret passages, most of your time with Odin Sphere will be spent either watching the story unfold or by battling bad guys as you explore. Each level consists of a large number of interconnected rooms you'll need to pass through to get to the Boss room at the end, often back-tracking and revisiting previous rooms to pick up keys, bash open treasure chests or hunt out hidden Phozon Prisms which unlock new moves for the characters. Some (round) rooms have more structured battles inside, where you'll need to fight your way through several waves of enemies or take down a weaker mid-level boss. You'll be graded from S to D on your performance, with increasingly good rewards the better you do.
At it's most basic, fighting is as simple as mashing the attack button whilst facing the enemies in question - although each character has their own unique weapon and idiosyncrasies to get used to. Special attacks can be used by bringing up a menu list mid-battle, offering a temporary pause in the action while you pick the relevant one, which range from ice or fire spells, to rapid sword thrusts, to upward sweeping kicks and much more. Each costs a certain amount of an ability gauge to use, but both replenish fairly quickly, with the only one likely to give you any trouble being the fairy queen Mercedes, whose regular bow shots have to be reloaded after a time, leaving her vulnerable while she's doing so. You can also lob various potions in battle, conjuring up whirling ice cyclones or pillars of flame onto the battlefield to damage enemies.
How easy is Odin Sphere Leifthrasir to pick up and play?
In terms of accessibility, Odin Sphere Leithrasir can be pretty tricky at times. Some bosses, particularly, require very specific strategies to defeat them - the most notable of which is the beefy red-haired Valkyrie general, Lord Brigan, whose four pieces of chest armour must be knocked off before you can actually damage him at all. However, you can tone down the difficulty with a choice of three different levels, easy, normal and hard, so you can find a level you're comfortable with.
With an emphasis on exploration, you'll also need to be pretty good at reading a map, as you'll frequently need to check your position on each stage's map (pressing the Select button on the PS Vita will bring it up) in order to reach the boss at the end. Reaching the boss is rarely as easy as simply walking from A to B either - some sections feature locked doors which you'll need to locate the key for, some require clever use of volcano potions to blast through frozen or cracked walls and some may need you to shrink yourself to fit through - all of which may require a bit more forward planning.
In terms of mature content, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir is a somewhat middle of the road game - it ticks most of the boxes, but not in a particularly overt way. Battles involve players attacking various enemies, fairies, human soldiers and ghosts to name but a few, using swords, crossbows and crystal chains, with defeated enemies simply fading away to leave purple sparks behind. Occasional scenes show corpses strewn on battlefields or small bloodstains on the ground, on characters or on in-game documents. Some characters, in particular the Queen of the Netherworld, Odette, and Elfaria the Queen of the fairies, are depicted as quite busty with barely covered breasts - but there's nothing beyond a couple of scantily clad characters in terms of sexual content. As for bad language, it's limited to a couple of utterances of b*stard during Oswald's story.
It's also worth noting that, in order to get the meat required for certain recipes, you'll need to either hatch a chicken or grow a sheep (which for some reason grows on a bush), then kill it with your weapon - however, occasional shops do sell the meat too if you have the cash and would rather avoid the butchering yourself.