When I was first thinking of character relationships in games nothing amazing came to mind as the same story seems to be told over and over again with rare exception (look at Shadow of the Colossus and ICO). Still while thinking about it, one other game came to mind that had excellent story telling was almost Shakespearean in style. For this entry I’m going to look at Odin Sphere, as I think it was considered a niche hit for the PlayStation 2. Unfortunately in order to discuss why the story was amazing I’m going to have to spoil some of it, I’ve been thinking about the right way to do this and I’ve decided on this method. If your not going to play Odin Sphere look for a spoiler filled section at the bottom of this entry past my signature. There will be some light spoilers for the game in the rest of this entry but I’ll try to keep the major plot points a secret.

Now onto to the game, Odin Sphere takes place in yet another fantasy world driven by conflict. The prologue talks about an ancient cauldron which has all kinds of power in it and two sides are fighting for it. The game starts with a battle between these two sides: Ragnanival a kingdom that is inspired by Norse Mythology, and RingFord a forest army (think fairies and such from Mid Summers Night Dream). You begin in control of the Norse army ruler’s daughter and begin cutting through the various enemies when your attacked by the mysterious “shadow knight”, the battle ends with the Norse army victorious and the “evil” forest army in ruins. Now if the story just continue like that I wouldn’t be writing an entry on it now would I?

Odin Sphere has two amazing elements to it’s story that makes things interesting compared to other titles. First is that your really playing the game as 5 different characters in the world. Each one behaves differently and will experience the game from a different viewpoint, and I do mean different. A few chapters down the line and you’ll be controlling the daughter of the forest army and see the events that led up to the conflict but from her view point, and see how “evil” the Norse army is.

Next is the timeline of events, in most games that have multiple characters the chain of events progress linearly as you switch characters. For example in a game that takes place across a week , character A would be in control for days 1-3 and character B would take over for days 4-7. Instead in Odin Sphere each character’s story takes place over the same relative stretch of time. So while that conflict is going on another character could be on another continent at that time, this lets us watch a variety of events over the same time line giving us a more complete picture of the world. There is abit of weirdness having to repeat boss fights again with different characters but the game does a good job in explaining the rationale behind it. It doesn’t hurt that the game has an amazing art style to boot.

Normally I don’t like to call graphics beautiful in games as that is a very subjective description, but Odin Sphere is one of those rare exceptions. The art style comes across as a storybook come to life, with some of the most amazing character design I’ve seen on the PlayStation 2. Some of the boss fights are truly epic as they can take up multiple screens, in fact the graphics engine is so powerful that it causes slowdown during some of the more intense fights. The music also goes the distance of providing an excellence ambiance to the events. I also have to give props for having the cutest dragon I’ve seen that can also incinerate you within seconds.

By now you’ve notice that I haven’t mentioned gameplay yet, and that is because it is where Odin Sphere stumbles abit. Odin Sphere is an action RPG in the truest sense, and the gameplay is very repetitive even though each character has a different style of attacking. The game’s alchemy system requires you to grind out ingridents to make the most of it. The finale of the game requires an inordinate amount of grinding out the necessary levels and items to stand a chance against the final bosses, but for people who like a great story with their games, it’s easy to grit your teeth and bear with it.

Josh

Mega super spoiler warning, this section I’m going to be discussing my favorite relationship in Odin Sphere in which I’ll be spoiling the plot of two chapters of the game. If you have any intention of playing Odin Sphere I would not read on, if not or the gameplay isn’t to your liking then here is my favorite story relationship in the game.

This relationship is between the daughter of the king of Raganival, Gwenendolyn (or Gwen for the rest of this) and Oswald the Shadow Knight. Halfway through Gwen’s story she attacks and kills one of Raganival’s generals and in doing so earns punishment from her father the king. The punishment is to be stripped of her ranking and given to the Shadow Knight, and to be magically effected to be forever in love with him, she is then put to sleep by a spell and told that when she wakes up she will be under the love spell. So we the player and Gwen find her in a castle and assume that she is now cursed with feeling love towards Oswald. He gives her a powerful ring as proof of their love and goes to fulfil an oath he made. Gwen says that she’ll stay in the castle if he orders her to, which he responds by saying that she is not an object and will not stand for anyone to treat her that way.(Keep a note on that as it will come back later). The oath he made was the king of another land who was promised to be Gwen’s husband before Oswald and so Oswald made a deal to fight for him in exchange for Gwen. Eventually through numerous events Gwen realizes that it doesn’t matter if she is forced to love Oswald as she couldn’t bear to live without him.

Now I’m going to skip alot of the story as it wouldn’t make sense if you didn’t play it and I’m not going to turn this thread into even more of a book. Turning our attention to Oswald’s chapter we learn of his past, he was adopted by one of the higher ups in RingFord . His adopted father sold Oswald’s soul to the queen of the underworld in exchange for his shadow knight powers and to serve his adopted father. For all his life he was not in control of his life and was just and object by his adopted father, until a failed coup kills him and Oswald is free. He fell in love with Gwen the first time he saw her while spying on the other kingdom. After the failed coup Oswald was sent to the netherworld as per the contract his adopted father made and ran into Gwen’s father the king who infiltrated the land for his own purpose and was ordered to kill him. The king begs Oswald to spare him in exchange for a castle, and Gwen’s hand in marriage which he agrees to. He tells Oswald that she has been put into a deep sleep and when she is awaken she will be forever in love with him.

This isn’t right to Oswald, as he detests anyone being used as an object(like him by his adopted father) even it means that she will never love him he decides to break the love spell before waking her up. Which sends him across the world finding a way to break the spell, leading him into a fight with a king who was promise Gwen’s hand and stole her from Oswald’s castle to use the love spell on her. After defeating him in combat Oswald made an oath to fight for the king in exchange for letting Gwen go. After all that and with the knowledge on how to break the love spell he decides to wake her up. The best part is that the player at the time with Gwen thought that it was within a few days that Gwen went from sleep to being awaken, but instead all this happened between those two events and she eventually no longer cares if she is under a spell or not and loves Oswald. Now that is a love story if you ask me with action, adventure, and so on which should be no wonder why as I’m also a fan of the movie ” The Princess Bride”.

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THOUGHTS ON
“The five faces of war.”

  • Okay, but two entries per month is your limit!

    I’m pleased you’re so inspired by the topic, Josh. Thanks for submitting another post.

  • mwc

    Odin Sphere has one of my favorite game stories, and one that I think is really rich with meaning. The Oswald/Gwendolyn love story is really the anchor point for the whole tale. Oswald’s decision to awaken Gwendolyn despite knowing she probably will not love him is a great choice, especially juxtaposed with what we already know about Gwendolyn’s emotions.

  • Sorry about that, after I wrote up my first post complaining that I couldn’t think of any meaningful character relationships due to escort missions and what not, it hit me how great Odin Sphere was. Enough that I loaded up the game again to watch the cutscenes to make sure I had the story straight before writing it up.

    Don’t worry Corvus, I think I’m tapped out for meaningful relationships in video games,now to return to Geometry wars and see if I can get a high score. Hopefully I won’t find any relationships between the purple squares trying to kill me, and the green squares trying to kill me 🙂

  • No need for apologies, I think it’s great!

    It’s funny you should mention Geometry Wars. My brain had a lot of fun creating story out of the gameplay. Perhaps I’ll post that today instead of my own RT post. It’s a bit too warm to focus on anything terribly serious.

  • Great writeup Mwc, the meaning of the events in Odin Sphere was well written, and I do remember that scene with Odin lamenting the destruction of his weapon and thinking that I was the one who screwed everything up. I just love that type of story development, which reminds of a Greek Tragedy.

    It seemed that the designers picked the most annoying bosses for the player to fight again. That dragon and wizard guy in particular were a pain to fight over and over again.

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