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Review: Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition

The channeling of art nouveau not only impacts the look of the characters and settings, but complements the curves that fighters draw with the motion of their attacks.

Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition
Photo: Atlus

Like Alien vs. Predator, Devil May Cry, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Abyss Odyssey: Extended Dream Edition advances the spectacle of beating things up without gimmicks like time distortion, trick weapons, and showy gore. Developer ACE Team’s channeling of art nouveau not only impacts the look of the characters and settings, but complements the curves that fighters draw with the motion of their attacks. This emphasis on deliberate, graceful movement exposes the lack of inspiration in the cold and efficient hacking of Bloodborne and the effortless slashing and spinning of The Witcher 3. Even most of the demons in Abyss Odyssey have a decorative beauty to them that you won’t find in most action games.

When Abyss Odyssey had its initial release last year, critics tended to point to Spelunky and Super Smash Bros. as influences, but the cited similarities didn’t place Abyss Odyssey in its proper tradition. The fighting-game approach of the Bordeu brothers (founders of ACE Team) recalls X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse, which combined aspects of Street Fighter II with Final Fight crowd-toppling. Abyss Odyssey surpasses that comic-book ancestor with more sophisticated combos and the central goal of going farther underground, where no item, platform, or checkpoint is guaranteed due to randomization.

Defeating enemies isn’t as straightforward as it was in the all-time great brawler Streets of Rage 2. Despite taking ideas from Super Smash Bros., Abyss Odyssey has its own timing that seems sloppy at first. The focus is discovering the many ways that regular, special, and defensive moves can be linked and modified. Only then does the rhythm of the combat become appealing to execute and watch. In addition to utilizing all the moves, you can juggle enemies into booby traps if the randomly generated levels present the opportunity. Such environmental factors are too rare, but if you get the chance to, say, fight multiple enemies on slippery ice as circular saws on tracks spin toward all of you, the kinetic art is transcendent. There’s also a glorious chaos to the military helpers, who often punish enemies before they can take their rightful place on the screen against you.

Although the soundtrack lends a varied emotiveness that’s unusual in a game so bent on having you pound away at everything, the story doesn’t serve much of a purpose outside of setting up the Journey to the Center of the Earth routine. After you take a gift from a dying soldier for the umpteenth time, you might wonder why Abyss Odyssey bothers trying with sympathy. The swordswoman Katrien even shares a laughable bit about moral hesitation in regard to killing the warlock who threatens civilization. The Bordeu brothers can’t hide what their game is: an unabashed fighter with a concluding view of a valley that rivals the exciting perspective of the temple cutscene in act four of Ninja Gaiden.

Developer: ACE Team Publisher: Atlus Platform: PlayStation 4 Release Date: July 28, 2015 ESRB: T ESRB Descriptions: Violence, Partial Nudity Buy: Game

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