If the “Kingdom Hearts” and “Monster Hunter” franchises had a child, “Ragnarok Odyssey” would be it. Set in a land heavily inspired by uncontestably awesome Norse mythology, “Ragnarok Odyssey” provides a surprising amount of gameplay depth for a handheld console — including intimidating fights and an original equipment setup — but fails to create a motivating gaming experience with rewards always just out of reach.

Ragnarok Odyssey

PS Vita
GungHo Online

Immediately upon loading the game, the player is thrust into character creation. As one of six classes, ranging from your run-of-the-mill mage to the fearsome “Hammer Drill”-wielding Hammersmiths, the player-character is hired by a group of mercenaries and begins undertaking quests. Starting out slow, the character works up from taking care of an ant infestation and gathering ore for the local blacksmith to being responsible for the fate of the world. The combat starts out simple, but allows for intricate combos, crowd-control tactics and special attacks as flashy as they are powerful.

The universe is the same as the MMORPG “Ragnarok Online,” and those familiar with the series will feel right at home with the game’s cute, albeit slightly dated graphics. The main town is small and convenient: A blacksmith makes weapons, a bubbly girl makes headgear and in the mercenaries’ hall, you can buy potions and Cards. The Card system is a fun twist on talent trees and itemization. As you obtain gear, a certain amount of Cards can be applied to each piece. Each Card has a unique effect, which can be anything from increasing base damage to increasing the rate at which your “Tension” bar increases, allowing your character to become a more fearsome fighter.

The Card system creates an unbelievable amount of depth in the game. With most monsters able to drop unique Cards, players will find themselves repeating an area over and over looking for that special edge to help them take down a pesky boss.

Speaking of bosses, “Ragnarok Odyssey” has some enemies that would make Odin himself shed a manly tear. Giants are a major antagonist, as they tend to feel that being twenty feet tall gives them the right to do whatever they want. Of course, as the main character, it’ll be your job to teach them (and other larger-than-life foes) their place.

Unfortunately, “Ragnarok Odyssey” does fall short in some aspects. The game isn’t at all rewarding in the short-term, and constantly running between an outside area to complete a quest and being automatically teleported back to the town when you’re down offers little-to-no actual opportunities for exploration. Players must undertake a quest to leave the village, and different quests grant access to different areas, meaning that there is little actual agency given to the player in determining where they feel like going next — unless it is within the constraints of the quest system.

Upgrading and making gear requires materials that have to be acquired via repeatedly killing certain enemies. With a heavy time investment, player-characters become disproportionately powerful and capable of just about anything.

But the grind reminiscent of “Monster Hunter” isn’t appealing to all players. Episodic gameplay paired with a lack of short-term rewards will cause more casual gamers to shy away from this gem, but Valhalla’s call will keep the hardcore coming back for more.

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