Eternal Sonata Xbox 360
Published by: Namco Bandai
Developed by: Tri-Crescendo
Release Date: Out Now
Eternal Sonata has been a highly anticipated title for those Xbox 360 owning RPG enthusiasts. I suspect that there are a few reasons for this. The visual design of the game is stunning and the various screenshots that have been around for quite a while, as well as the various movie clips, have done nothing but impress. The game has also been developed by Tri-Crescendo who has worked on some great RPGs over the years. The game was also known to have a unique story rather than the clichéd boy with spiky hair has to save the world from doom routine that you so often get in these games. When you throw in the fact that the game plays pretty impressively and has an enjoyable battle system, you have a recipe for success and that’s exactly what Eternal Sonata is.
The game has it whilst on his deathbed on the night of the 16th October, 1849, Chopin dreams his final dream. The dream is of a world where those with incurable diseases have the ability to use magic. Eternal Sonata plays out Chopin’s dream and Chopin himself is present in the dream, although he’s not the main character. Chopin’s dream world is brightly coloured and very beautiful but it’s a world that’s tinged with sadness. It’s also a world where evil reigns thanks to the sinister Count Waltz. There was a time when the people used floral powders for their medicinal needs but the Count has put ridiculous taxes on everything except mineral powder. Because of the taxation, people only purchase the cheap and addictive mineral powder, which has some serious side effects.
You’ll begin by controlling a young girl named Polka. Polka has the ability to use magic and that means she doesn’t have long to live. The early phase of the game sees you switching between Polka and a young thief (who steals bread to feed the poor) named Allegretto and his accomplice Beat. Polka is soon joined by Frederic and they both join up with Allegretto and Beat when their paths cross. During the course of the game (which is around 30 to 40 hours long) you’ll acquire many more party members who are musically named such as Viola and Salsa. In fact many of the game’s locations are musically themed too.
One of the more unusual features of Eternal Sonata is its battle system. As well as your characters levelling up, your party will also level up. There are six party levels and with each party level increase, the amount of Tactical Time (the time you have to think about what you’re going to do), the number of seconds the Action Gauge will take to deplete and the number of Special Attack slots you have will change. Party level one gives you infinite Tactical Time, five seconds on the Action Gauge (which only depletes whilst you are performing an action) and two Special Attack slots. As you improve your party level the battles become slightly more complex. Party level three for instance gives you three seconds of Tactical Time, four seconds on the Action Gauge (which simply depletes irrespective of whether you are doing anything) and four Special Attack slots. This is a good way of going about things as it constantly forces you to improve your battle technique. During a battle you’re given the chance to block your opponent’s attack, which reduces the damage your character will take by pressing the B button. It’s not easy however and your timing is crucial. You can only use three party members in battle but you can assign control of two of them to other players making the game quite a good co-op experience.
There is a dark and light element to the battles, which can affect quite a few things. On each battle field you’ll find areas that are dark or in shadow and areas that are lit or in daylight. You can even perform dark special attacks by standing in another character’s shadow. Your characters’ special attacks can only be performed in either dark or light areas. Enemies can take different forms depending on whether they are in a dark and light area. This adds a welcome twist to the battles because some enemies are much stronger when they change form. As the game progresses the dark and light element becomes more complex and important and it adds a real level of depth to the battles that you seldom find in Japanese RPGs.
There are only a few complaints we have with Eternal Sonata. The biggest complaint is the game’s length, which many RPG fans will consider short although playing a game for 30-40 hours can hardly be considered a brief experience and you do get the opportunity to play through the game again for a more challenging experience. More enemy variation is needed. In most areas it feels like you’re fighting the same few enemies over and over again and it’s possible to have many battles in succession that play out in exactly the same way. You’ll also notice that when you change the characters armour, the change is not reflected in the character’s appearance. Again this is a minor thing but it might irk some people.
Graphically, Eternal Sonata is a superb looking game. The characters have that classic anime look that so many of these games have but here they have been so beautifully drawn that it’s almost impossible not to be impressed. You could say the same for the game’s environments too because they also look superb. Outside of the battles you don’t have any control over the game’s camera, which seems a little strange but it’s also refreshing not having to babysit an errant camera. During battles you have a couple of zoom options but you won’t be able to rotate the camera. The frame rate remains solid throughout and the load times are quite quick too. There are sections during the game where you’ll see a few photographs and find out a few facts about the real Chopin. The presentation of these segments is a little dry to be honest and completely at odds with the visual splendour of the rest of the game.
Deaf gamers will be able to enjoy Eternal Sonata without any real issues as the game is subtitled. The cutscenes are simply subtitled using a bold white font. There are no character names or portraits next to the cutscene dialogue but it’s easy to tell who is saying what. During the main game the text is placed in a dialogue box and the character name is placed above the text. The only speech deaf gamers will miss out on are the comments that are made during the course of a battle. Whilst this is slightly disappointing, it isn’t much of a problem however as the comments are very repetitive and of no importance. All of the game’s tutorial messages are in text. The game also makes good use of icons to show when objects can be interacted with.
Eternal Sonata not only impresses with its visual style but also its superb battle system. The story is also very enjoyable and, more importantly, in a genre where clichéd stories are a bit of a curse, original. For an RPG the game is a little short and it’s a shame that there wasn’t more variety in the enemies that you face in battle. On the whole though, Eternal Sonata is a very enjoyable game that any fan of the genre should definitely experience.