When I fist approached Ragnarok Odyssey, I was expecting a game derivative of Monster Hunter, but with more anime-themed silliness. I was afraid, because as much as I like to admire Monster Hunter from afar, I am super terrible at it and my initial eagerness at the beginning of each game quickly turns to discouraged sadness after the first big dinosaur monster stomps me to death. Much to my chagrin, Ragnarok Odyssey turned out to be much more in line with the likes of Phantasy Star Online with a slight touch of Monster Hunter, which is much more appetizing to me both because PSO was a game in which I was much less terrible.
Ragnarok Odyssey takes place, of course, in the Ragnarok universe. For those not in the know, Ragnarok is a Korean manhwa that spawned a ridiculously successful MMO, which in turn became an anime series and who knows what other methods of money-printing. Odyssey is an action RPG, featuring wacky anime physics-defying maneuvers and the occasional giant monster.
The coolest aspect of the game from the outset is the level of customization. When creating your character you are able to choose from over a dozen faces, hairstyles, and even voices! Your options in armor are a bit less varied, but as the game progresses you can not only choose different character classes, but also pick up armor that doesn’t adhere to set classes, granting you interesting side abilities such as finding better items from boxes and enemies. Speaking of enemies, killing them nets you various unique items. You must use these items in addition to money at shops to build new items, ranging from new weapons to goofy hats that don’t effect your stats but are fun to have. My character is currently sporting a teddy bear mask, for example. Item drops also play an interesting role in boss fights; hitting a boss in its weak points enough will break pieces off of them, netting you a special item for better equipment and also lowering their defenses.
You can also further customize your character with cards. These cards can be equipped in a limited capacity depending on your armor and upgrades thereof, and will upgrade a specific stat. Some of them also have disadvantages, and the ones without cost more to use. This effectively adds some depth to the game without making it too complicated.
The gameplay is fast, smooth, and simple. You can dash, dodge, jump, and make use of a light and heavy attack button for combos based on your class. The big gimmick here is the ability to launch a stunned enemy into the air, follow them up, and further extend your combos in a flashy manner. You can even do it to bosses, which tend to be a few times your size. The touch screen is used for items and your map, so nothing impressive, but at least it doesn’t try to get in the way. Being the monster killing item hunting game it is, Odyssey features a multiplayer mode, which is both local and online, and allows you access to more difficult missions, which you can also tackle solo if you’re brave enough for better rewards.
The main problem of the game is that it feels kind of empty. There isn’t much of a narrative presence, which is fine since this is largely intended to be a multiplayer slugfest, but the hub world is tiny and has little in the way of things to do. The shops update their inventory sparingly, so you often find yourself wondering why the game even bothers spitting you back out into the hub in-between missions. You also don’t level up in a traditional way, your stats only increasing a little after completing game chapters, so fighting monsters doesn’t always feel rewarding, especially since they drop a ton of useless items. I found myself ignoring most of the small frys on my way towards the objectives after a while.
If a little more time was spent building up the game world, especially for a game based on an established license, Ragnarok Odyssey would probably be a great, memorable game. It falls a little short, since window dressing does a lot to enhance the presence of a game as well as distract from repetition, but Odyssey is still a lot of fun and very mechanically solid. It has a slick art style, good music, and a lot of silly extras; it just feels a bit rushed at times. Still, the Vita is hurting for good, original games, and Ragnarok Odyssey is just what the system needed.
[review title=”Ragnarok Odyssey” pros=”Solid mechanics, tons of customization, good music” cons=”The hub is mostly useless and there isn’t really much else to do other than run missions” verdict=”A well-rounded game that does a lot for the Vita’s library, but it doesn’t pack the punch that it probably could’ve had if the devs spent some more time on it.” score=85]