In today’s gaming age, it seems that most titles revolve around the use guns, FPS’s, or some type of duck’n cover type gameplay. So when an RPG hits shelves, they are either overlooked, gobbled up by the smaller RPG fanbase, or both. Such is the case with Eternal Sonata. While it probably won’t obtain as much attention as the next big FPS, this game will definitely please fans of this slower paced genre.
Released about a year ago on the 360, the developers at Tri-Crescendo have recently ported this sleeper hit to the PS3 complete with some new locations and playable characters. While a simple upgrade from the original version, PS3 owners are bound to eat this game up on the RPG starved system.
The player actually plays through the mind of the great French composer Frederic Chopin while he is in a coma. Although the game takes place through the thoughts of a man on his death bed, the story flips between real time doctor visits and the adventure that is playing out in this mind. Yes, this is definitely a unique way to tell a story and is sure to spur some WTF moments.
Playing as young adventurers, the goal is to overcome a corrupt Duke who is brainwashing the minds of every citizen through this cure-all potion that is the only thing that does not have a high tax on it. Because everyone is poor, this special potion is the only thing people can afford, eventually twisting and turning citizens into monsters. To make matters worse, there are certain citizens that have magical powers, but having these powers is actually declared a disease, meaning all magic users are bound to perish sooner rather than later. Again, there are some WTF moments, but at least every character in the game does not have amnesia.
Surprisingly, the game does not incorporate any type of musical theme into the game other than have a stellar musical score. This means that characters are not going to be battling with music notes, platforming on batons, or journeying through magical tuba land. Being based on a famous composer, not bringing a full blown musical theme into the game is a bit unexpected, but I am rather glad that this route was taken. Battles take place in a more real time atmosphere and characters even fight with swords, giving this game a friendlier and more action based appeal.
Instead of typical turn based combat, battles take place in real time and you actually see a battle coming ahead of time (no random battles here). However, there is a turned based combat mechanic that prevents the game from turning into a beat’em up, giving combat a nice sense of balance. Adding to the strategy of combat, attack moves are determined by where the character is located on the battlefield, more specially, light and shadow. For example, one character will perform a healing move while standing in light but will perform an attack spell when standing in shadow. This forces the player constantly run around the entire battlefield to best suit the needs of combat. It is an easy to use system and is more entertaining than the typical Active Time Battle menu driven combat.
Combat is well done and even the button mapping has been well thought out, but my only minor complaint is the slight lack of control when healing. Whenever a cure spell is cast, the character with the lowest HP always receives the spell. This really isn’t that much of a problem because nine times out of ten you are going to want to heal that person first anyway, but having that extra control could be helpful from time to time.
Unfortunately, the game takes several hours to actually get interesting and start to make any type of sense. These first few hours are definitely slower paced, as the twisting plotline is explained along with the game’s several easy to read tutorials. However, if you can get passed the grueling first few hours, the game then starts to open up and appreciation can really start to be given.
Using a detailed version of cel-shading, the graphics are on par with a next gen system. The bright color pallet really gives this game its magical feel and the music is worthy enough to carry the Chopin name. There could have used some better translating, but the voice actors did the best they could with what they had to work with.
Overall, there really isn’t anything to terrible to say about Eternal Sonata. The first hours are definitely the slowest part of the game and are very “Japanese,” but any RPG fan will enjoy the balanced combat system and haunting musical score. If you missed this one on 360, there is no reason to not play it on PS3 (although there is a lack of Trophies). It may not be the next Final Fantasy, but this game should hold you over until then.