Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/17/07 | Genre: RPG
Once upon a time, the thought of a major Japanese Publisher releasing a RPG on the Xbox platform would be impossible. However, it has finally happened with Namco Bandai Publishing the new RPG from Developer Tri-Crescendo known as Eternal Sonata. To make things even more bizarre, the game is actually incredibly well done and is one of the best RPG’s of the year.
Although the beginning of the game will leave you scratching your head, Eternal Sonata tells the story of the Polish composer Frederic Chopin on his death bed. As Chopin is dying in the real world, his imagination creates a beautiful, alternate reality where the game takes place. After brief playing session with some of the characters you control, Chopin finally joins the gameplay and story within the alternate reality. As the story progresses, you will go back and forth between the real world, where Chopin continues to move further and further to death, and the dream world. Here the story is told with stunning and colorful cel-shaded graphics. But at other times, the game breaks up the pace with still photos of real places where Chopin lived. It also goes into a history lesson about his life. These scenes are nicely done---complete with music composed by Chopin--but it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the game. You will probably wonder, as I did, if you hit a wrong button or why you are viewing a still photo and being told about Chopin when all you care about is the story within the game.
Eternal Sonata takes a much simpler approach to the story and begins with relatively simple objectives. As the game moves on, the story will get a bit larger in scope. However, some may feel the game is not epic enough. I found it to be a breath of fresh air from other games in the genre.
As I have previously mentioned, Eternal Sonata is a beautiful game. However, some may be put off by the 2D perspective given to you. There are no camera angles to manipulate while walking around the world and the game sets you on an extremely limited linear path. In fact, there are times when you are forced to complete the task at hand and are not allowed to leave the screen you are on until you have finished it. But because the game offers a multitude of save locations I found this is the perfect RPG to play in small doses. Despite this, you may find yourself sucked into the gameplay and won’t be able to put the game down for many hours.
Eternal Sonata features a very engaging combat system that gets more complicated as you progress through the game. First off, there are no random battles. You will see every monster in the world and if you touch them, a real-time battle will begin with the primary 3, you have selected, characters in your party. Once a fight begins, each of your characters and all enemies will take turns. They have a limited amount of time to fight, cast magic, move, or use items. Once that timer ends, the next character scheduled to move begins their respective turn.
To complicate matters, enemies take on different shapes and forms--complete with different skills and abilities--depending on if they are in the light or dark during a battle. Your characters also have different special abilities depending on where they are standing too. A key in the gameplay is to lure enemies in or out of the light for easier battles or to utilize different abilities you have.
You can also block in real-time by timing your block with an enemies attack. Unlike most other Role Playing Games, this ensures that you are on your toes each and every second of a battle. Different characters also have different blocking abilities so it can be extremely difficult to block all attacks.
As far as negatives to the combat--at times, it is very difficult to see all of the characters on the map during a battle. While a few different camera angles provide you with limited viewpoints, it can be difficult to manipulate the camera, move your character to the right spot, and attack an enemy all at once. This is a minor complaint and only occasionally became an issue during my time with Eternal Sonata though. However, when it happens is it extremely frustrating.
Another interesting element of the combat is with the character named Beat. He is a young photographer and if you equip his photo taking skill in battle, players can capture snapshots of enemies. These can then be sold, once they develop, and you may find yourself with more money than you could ever need. The ease of taking pictures and selling them for big bucks may turn off the hardcore RPG player. However, I found it very appealing that I never needed to ever worry about having money to buy anything in the game world.
Eternal Sonata features some great music that was inspired by Chopin’s work. Although there are times when the music goes silent, the score is excellent. Also, the voices used for the English dubbed version are great. Though some voices can be a bit annoying from time to time, this is definitely a much better selection of voice actors than most RPG’s I have played this year.
Overall, Eternal Sonata is an excellent choice for any fan of the RPG genre. And because the game features more action in the combat, it is definitely friendly to those new to the genre. While it is never as epic as Final Fantasy, or other hardcore RPG’s, I highly recommend this title. It is a joy to play and you will have a great time.