While the Sony PSP is probably the bestselling gaming system in Japan, it received a rather lukewarm reception from Western audiences. As a result, many excellent additions to major franchises were overlooked by North American fans, who either didn't have a PSP or didn't care to play major franchise games on a smaller screen. With the upcoming release of God of War: Origins Collection for the PlayStation 3, God of War fans can finally get up to speed.
The first game in the collection, God of War: Chains of Olympus, is set shortly before the events of the first God of War. At this point in the timeline, Kratos is a lackey for the gods. They send him on various missions with the promise that they'll eventually release him from the tormented memories of killing his family. Chains of Olympus begins with Kratos defending against a Persian invasion, but the story quickly takes a turn as Helios, the sun god, is kidnapped by an unknown force. Without the sun in the sky, Morpheus, the god of dreams, has put most of the world, including the Gods of Olympus, into an endless slumber. Kratos has to find out who kidnapped Helios and rescue the sun god before the entire world falls into eternal darkness.
The second game, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, is set shortly after the events of the first God of War. Kratos has become the new God of War, but his mortal life still plagues him. Visions of his mother torment him and compel him to visit Atlantis, where she is being held. There, he discovers a dark secret about his family: His brother, Deimos, is still alive. He had been taken by the gods due to a prophecy that said that he would kill them. Kratos, quite unhappy about this, sets off to rescue his brother from the clutches of Thanatos, who is the ruler of death and Deimos' jailer.
Both of the titles in the collection are pretty much your back-to-basics God of War. game. Although made a few years apart, there is fairly little difference between the two when it comes to the gameplay. If you've ever played a God of War title, you'll know to expect a fairly robust beat-'em-up mixed with occasional dungeon exploration and puzzle-solving. Both games feel more like God of War II than God of War III, without some of the more convenient mechanical upgrades made between the two. Ghost of Sparta has a bit more of the God of War III vibe, having been released after God of War III, but both feel more simplistic.
That isn't to say that either game feels incomplete. Although designed for a handheld, both God of War games in the collection are fully realized games. They include full stories, tons of weapons and upgrades, and a lot of bonus content, costumes, difficulty levels and everything else you'd expect to find in a God of War title. They're a bit shorter than the console offerings, but not enough so that they feel like they're incomplete. If you're a God of War fan looking for more of the same gameplay, that is exactly what you'll find here.
Kratos has a few new attacks and weapons here and there. Over the course of Chains of Olympus, he gains a few useful tools and powers. Most of these come in the form of magic spells. The Light of Dawn is this game's version of the arrows. Like the other God of War titles, it lets Kratos attack an enemy from a distance, this time with a long-range ball of fire. The Efreet is a powerful area-of-effect attack that sends burning fireballs around Kratos. Finally Charion's Wrath causes an enemy to burst into green flames. This doesn't do a lot of damage but stuns the enemy for a brief period, letting Kratos beat on them to his heart's content. Kratos also finds two new pieces of equipment on his journey. The Sun Shield is a predecessor to the Golden Fleece found in God of War II. A defensive item, it boosts your blocking ability and allows you to parry attacks. More importantly, it allows you to reflect projectiles back at your opponents; you must use this move to defeat several tough enemies.
Ghost of Sparta has its own collection of weapons. Like Chains, you get three distinct magic spells: Eye of Atlantis, Horn of Boreas and Scourge of Erinys. The Eye fires a blast of electricity toward Kratos' foes, and at higher levels, it can arc to multiple opponents. Kratos spins the Horn around like a shot put, damaging and potentially freezing any foes who come within its radius. Finally, the Scourge creates deadly energy balls that knock around enemies; it can be useful to weaken foes while Kratos attacks them. Far more interesting is the Arms of Sparta, which consists of a sword and spear; it's the weapon that he uses before he received his trademark blade. The shield allows him to block attacks he normally couldn't, and the spear can be used as a throwing weapon or for close-range attacks. Finally, Kratos' blades get an upgrade in the form of the Flames of Thera, which allow him to imbue his weapons with magical fire to do extra damage and break enemy armor.
Those who played on the PSP will notice a few changes to the gameplay, although there aren't any significant differences. The biggest and most noteworthy change is in the handling of the dodge-roll. Due to the lack of the second analog stick on a PSP, dodging in the handheld version involving holding both shoulder buttons and pressing a direction. It worked well enough, but it always felt awkward when compared to the instant and easy dodge-rolls in the console iterations. In the PS3 collection, the controls have been modified to more closely match the console controls. As such, the evade roll is now bound to the right analog stick. Simply tap it in a direction, and Kratos will dodge. This feels more natural and makes it a lot easier to avoid certain attacks in both games. The inclusion of Trophies is also very welcome and gives players some new goals.
The visuals have also seen an improvement, as they've been remastered in 1080p and stereoscopic 3-D. Improved or no, though, these are still ported PSP titles, not remakes. They're among the best-looking games on the PSP, and due to good art design and the high visual quality of the games, they look fairly good and serve as good examples of how PSP games can be translated to the PS3.
The God of War: Origins Collection doesn't offer anything particularly new to the franchise, but those who love God of War will find a lot to like. Gamers without PSPs will find two new adventures starring everyone's favorite homicidal god slayer, and those who've already played the PSP versions have the lure of Trophies and improved graphics. Those hoping for God of War IV won't find it in this title, but there's enough extra gameplay here for all but the most dedicated of God of War fans.
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