Eternal Sonata Review
Eternal Sonata is a Japanese RPG that was originally developed for the Xbox 360. Since its original release back in 2007, the developer Tri Crescendo has brought the game to the Playstation 3. Going into the game I didn’t have any real expectations on what to expect from the game (Outside of what I experienced in the demo) however I was pleasantly surprised at my experience with the game.
Eternal Sonata is an ode to the famous composer Frédéric Chopin who died in 1849. The game, and the world itself takes place as a “dream” inside Chopin’s mind while he is on his deathbed. While the world is created around Chopin and his musical influence, the character himself isn’t all that important to the story, outside of a “Is this world really a dream?” line hear and there. The story mainly focuses on two characters, Allegretto & Polka. Now would be a good time to mention that all the character names in the game are based off musical elements.
In a small touch of genius the musical origins of the name of various characters in fact give some insight into the personality of each. Let’s get back to the story though shall we? The start of the game will put the players in control of either Allegretto or Polka, until their eventual collision. While the game will split you up from time to time after this initial meeting your large party will start to develop.
The story is Eternal Sonata can be strange to generalize, on one level is a standard anime love story, on another a standard fantasy story, and I could go on but the point should be clear. While the game has a few different story elements, and more than a few standard elements, the few unique aspects give the game a nice fresh feeling.
An interesting aspect of the game is that every now and again a slide show will appear describing a portion of Chopin’s life and it can be quite educational and helps bring insight to the events that will occur. Now the story isn’t perfect, and at times will play off as a bad soap opera, it is overall enjoyable with its engrossing cast of characters and overall meaning that touches into deep interesting themes.
Probably one of the best aspects of the game is the ever evolving combat system. The game mixes turned base & real time gameplay. Characters will attack according to speed and once it is a character’s turn, the player can move the character anywhere on screen and attack. The base system works well, giving a hint with a “next” logo on what character, friend or foe is up next, however I wish it had a Evolution esque system that will show all the turns up to, lets say five in order to help with prioritization. That said the combat is fun, and even better is how the combat system evolves as the game progresses.
At the start of the game you begin with unlimited tactical time (Time at the beginning of the turn before you begin moving), and five seconds to attack. As the party evolves eventually tactical time is done away with and there are only three seconds to attack. To compensate for this however, the ability to use more special attacks, link combos & the like appear.It keeps things fresh and interesting and keeps the player on its toes to master the system.
An important aspect of the gameplay is the light & dark aspects. The combat areas are covered in light & shadow and the techniques each character can use differs depending on which area they are in. Enemies can also change their form, becoming either stronger or weaker. While there are more things within the combat system, that all you really need to know until you play the game. Something that also caught my interest was the sheer number of boss fights. Practically every section, large or small has a boss fight, which can range from moderately difficult to hair pulling tough.
Aside from the story & combat there are also the dungeons (More often than not part of the story) as well as side quests & side collections. One such collection is the Score Piece system. Throughout the world of Eternal Sonata will be score pieces, and people who want to hear them. Collecting and playing the right score pieces to the right person will net your party with useful, or not so useful items for use, ranging from equipment to healing items. The dungeons in the game tend to live up to their names, being large, confusing and difficult sections to get passed. They tend to ease up near the end of the game, prepared to spend a lot of time within them without a guide to help you.
As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago the game can sometime feel like a bad soap opera, and while the writing is partly to blame, the voice acting is also a cause. While overall the voice acting is pretty good (With more than a few anime veterans in the mix) some characters are better voiced than others, and even a single character can have on and off moments with its voice actor. While the voice acting never enters the dreadfully awful world (Looking at you Phantasy Star Portable, a demo I couldn’t even finish because the voice acting was THAT bad), it does hit the decent range more often than not.
The audio quality overall though is excellent with the mixture of Chopin’s musical scores as well as the standard score for the game. The graphics are also well done with great looking cell shaded characters and a beautiful world. The world is beautiful, but outside a few set pieces it is nothing that really impresses. (But it is still great)
Overall Eternal Sonata is a great RPG. With the lack of quality RPGs in this console generation Eternal Sonata is a shining light in the darkness. The game will last about forty hours on the first play through, but with the Encore mode (More difficult second play through) the game doesn’t end. I wholly recommend this game to anyone interested in a quality role playing game or anyone looking to enter the genre.