Recently Odin Sphere was remastered as Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. Most changes were for the better, some weren’t, but others had both pro’s and con’s. It’s the last of these that Odin Sphere Classic vs Remaster seeks to explore. In Phozon Absorption Edition, I’ll be looking at how automating phozon absorption– amongst a few other small design changes– reduced the need to make phozons a physical object in Odin Sphere’s world.
In the Odin Sphere mythos, phozons are the life energy of all living things, including the planet. When a foe perishes, it release phozons, which you then absorb. Phozons are used in a tangible, albeit slightly differing ways, in the 2 versions of Odin Sphere. In both games, phozons are used to grow plants and to cast spells (albeit the spell bars worked differently for the two games). In Odin Sphere Classic (OSC), you have 2 separate levels, one for your character and one for your weapon, the latter of which gained experience by absorbing phozons. However, in Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (OSL), phozons are used to level up your abilities. Because of this there were weird dynamics created between using phozons for food– which you ate to level up– or using phozons to level up your abilities.
OSC requires you to manually absorb phozons on the battlefield, which acts as a way to moderate the pace of a fight– think of it like reloading in a shooter. Since absorbing phozons gives you access to powerful magics, it is essential to absorb these. Moreover, in the original game, you could not easily release these phozons, meaning that it was sometimes best to plant your seeds during combat, so that they could absorb phozons and grow while you fought. Lastly, in OSC, butterflies, or small collections of phozons, would appear in combat for a short time. You had to absorb all of the phozons fast, or it would disappear entirely. There was a huge risk/reward element to seeing a butterfly pop-up. These were some of the most exciting tense battles in the original game.
The caveat to this, however, is that these mechanics never meshed well or felt fun. Stopping to absorb phozons broke up the pace to combat and growing plants during combat was always a pain as well, because not having enough phozons could mean you had to abandon your plant, or not being able to harvest mid-combat meant that your fruit would rot.
However, since you now automatically absorb phozons and can also easily release phozons (which is a terrific usability addition), a lot of these problems are fixed. But this also means that the presence of phozons on the battlefield lose their purpose; they are now just a shiny way to gain MP & EXP no different than merely getting a few points back for each foe you kill. Since you absorb phozons even when you have max magic, the game basically forces you to spend points in smaller battles that don’t matter, while not always giving you enough points within larger battles that do matter.
This is exacerbated by the fact that phozon butterflies were removed from combat scenarios in OSL. Now butterflies are placed in broad daylight in non-combat situations and seemingly stay around forever until you absorb them. While I hate to complain about free money, the old system was so much more fun. When I first saw a butterfly in Leifthrasir, an old emotion I didn’t know was there popped up and I just knew it was a trap. I absorbed it no problem, but I just thought this was getting me primed to let down my guard, only to spring a trap on me later! After about the 3rd time I did this I realized that they really had changed the role of this mechanic. What was once a panicked call to action which caused tense combat encounters, was now a lame collectible.
It feels like phozons having a physical presence is just a leftover element from a previous game, which this game has lost a need for.
Making Phozons Great Again
I think there could have been a better way to handle this predicament and the solution is found in one of the boss battles in the game. One character that shows up as a boss on numerous occasions is the playable fairy princess, Mercedes. As a boss she is assisted by many minions whose phozons she will absorb once you kill them. While I could never really figure out why she did this– I’m assuming some of her attacks are tied to having phozon reserves– it is this mechanic that could have been extrapolated upon to create really interesting encounters.
Imagine that when foes fell in combat, other foes would attempt to absorb their phozons for their own use. Preventing them from doing this would not only stop them from using their most powerful attacks, or transforming, but would also allow you to use your most powerful attacks by allowing you to absorb the phozons yourself. There are numerous ways you could play around with this interplay. You could even keep auto-phozon absorption in the game and only have it activate if no enemies actively try to absorb the phozons for a brief time. If they do try to absorb them, then you can press R1 to absorb them for yourself, or you could interrupt the enemy. Certain moves, particularly ones tied to your Power Meter (basically stamina) could feed back into helping you get phozons, or stop foes from getting them, either indirectly by pushing foes around, or directly by manipulating phozons. You could even go so far as to have certain rooms that require you to open a door powered by phozons to pass (which would admittedly come with its own bag of problems).
Enemies using phozons would undoubtedly take a lot of balancing, but wouldn’t it be much more satisfying to integrally utilize phozons? While I understand scope in a game– certain features are not going to be as in depth as others and that is fine– means asking,”Wouldn’t it be fun?” is not a fair question, because that often implies greatly increasing the scope of certain systems. However, at a certain point there becomes a lack of unity or purpose associated with a game’s mechanics. As is the only lasting remnant that feels relevant for the phozons’ physical presence in the game is the fact that plants use them to grow. More strongly tying phozon absorption into combat– a system the new game strongly concentrates on improving (rightfully so)– only makes sense.