There aren't a lot of JRPGs on the XBOX360 and what ones there are aren't as special as promised. Eternal Sonata is a different story. It's a grand game that hits all the right notes. It has a few minor issues, but nothing that keeps it from being fantastic.
Fredric Chopin is terribly sick and dying. As he lies unconscious in bed he has a dream where he is in a world unlike any other. In this world, those who are sick with incurable diseases can use magic, but is it really a dream? Or is it another reality? This world has its own problems, however, the people are being taxed and a man named Count Waltz is slowly enslaving everyone. It doesn't sound like much, but the story is surprisingly deep and is full of several themes. There are also many music references throughout the game. From the characters who have names like Allegretto, Polka and Beat. To some of the places you'll be going like the Chrous Plains.
The story is told through cutscenes voiced by the characters. The voice acting isn't the best in the world. They've got the right voices for the job, but a lot of the actual voice acting is dry. Luckily, if the English voice overs are annoying you, you have the option to switch the voices to Japanese. The story jumps between Chopin's life and the dream world which the gameplay centers in. Also, throughout the game, you'll get to learn a little about the real Chopin. The game gives you some historical accounts and during these moments will play his beautiful music. This is all great, but sometimes these historical segments come up at inappropriate times. The good news about these historical segments is that they do relate to the overall story. Also, as good as the story is, it's rather slow to start. On the bright side, the cast of characters are really likeable.
The game isn't all that different from your traditional JRPG. There's a field mode and a battle mode. Outside of battle you'll run around on the field gathering treasure and talking to denizens. Battles are contact based which means you can easily avoid battles you don't want to bother with. Battling in Eternal Sonata is quite fun, though.
The battle system is perhaps one of the most inventive battle systems in the genre. Your characters and enemies have what's called an "action" gauge. When a character takes his or her turn in battle they'll have what's called an "action gauge" on the left hand side of the screen which will count down. Within the allotted time, you can pretty much do anything you want. Either attack normally, use items or special attacks. You'll have to plan well, though. It's a simple battle system to grasp, but it's hard to master. This is because the battle system never stays entirely the same throughout the journey. You have what's called party levels, and the higher your party level the more difficult battles will be. For example, at Party level 1 the action gauge decreases only when you move, and stops decreasing when you stop. When you hit party level 2, however, the action gauge never stops. Just when you're positive you've mastered the battle system, it throws another twist at you, via the party level.
The battle system works well because it relies not only on real time, but strategy as well. Special moves are an important part of combat. There's no limit to how often you can use them, but even here there's a twist. Your party has what's called echoes. The more hits you score in battle the more echoes you get. These will increase the power of your special attacks and are shared by the whole party. While it's tempting to end every combo with a special attack, it's even better to save them until you've acquired enough echoes. Just the same, Eternal Sonata will give you quite a challenge, especially in the boss battles. You can also block your enemies attacks by pressing B at the right time. This doesn't mean you can just mash on the B button when the enemy attacks as your character will guard prematurely and take the full extent of the damage. These timed presses take a long time to master.
Another really big aspect of the games battle system is the use of light and dark. Special attacks change based on whether or not you are standing in light or in shade. That's not all light and shade have an impact on. Some enemies change form depending on where they are. Some enemies will also throw you for a loop because they can provide their own light. The game is very touchy on this as even standing in the enemies shadow will cause you to use a dark special attack instead of a light one. It's pretty amazing stuff.
The only major issue with Eternal Sonata is that there simply isn't much to the game. There's a sidequest where you can collect and play musical pieces, but for the most part, it's quite linear. There's no overworld map either, so there's not much of a chance to really explore anything throughout the game. Another big issue with exploring the environments is that the camera is at a fixed angle and you can't shift or rotate it. In some moments when you're traversing behind scenery, it'd be nice to be able to shift the camera to see what was in front of you.
Another smaller issue involves the story itself. While it is good, there are moments when it rambles and even (to a certain extent) preaches to you. A lot of the cutscenes are long, but that shouldn't be much of a problem. You can skip them. On the other hand, the game can get really preachy. The ending, especially, feels like a really long Public Service Announcement.
Those issues aside, the game is absolutely gorgeous looking. It's not the greatest looking game on the system, but it's beautiful and artistic nonetheless. This is one of the most beautiful looking cel-shaded games out there. It also doesn't suffer from terrible load times or framerate issues. The best part about Eternal Sonata is its beautiful music soundtrack, which sounds nothing short of fantastic. It's absolutely remarkable. The fact that they also play some of Chopin's music is also really nice.
There's also a PS3 version for those who want it. And it includes some new content, but if you've already played through the 360 version there is nothing that makes the PS3 version more worthwhile.
Eternal Sonata is easily the best JRPG available on the XBOX360 at the moment. It has a surprisingly deep story and is a burst of creative energy. All minor problems aside, it's an enjoyable game.
Eternal Sonata was essentially an Xbox 360 exclusive that was ported to the PS3 a year and a half later. The PS3 version features two additional characters, additional cutscenes that help explain the story better, and a bonus end game dungeon. Essentially with these additions it is the superior version to get. It is an innovative Japanese RPG type game with a modified turn-based battle system. Essentially during a players turn they can "button mash" to do whatever … more
Sometimes, being a good girlfriend means sitting on the couch and watching him play a game or playing a game together. I'm a moderate gamer; the new controls are generally more complicated than I'm willing to commit to. He is a hard core gamer. Some games are easier to watch than others, and some are easier to play. This review is not for the hard core gamer. This review if for the girlfriend (or boyfriend, who am I to judge?) that sits on the couch and watches. I'm not going … more
In the final moments of a famed composer's death, while two women stand over him with a look of deep-seeded concern, and a doctor who utters the words: "Chopin must be having a peaceful dream" the game takes place. Confused? Let me explain. Eternal Sonata takes place during that last dream Chopin has in the final minutes of his life. Story: The main character is a carefree youth named, Allegretto, and his buddy Beat. (Chopin's last dream is of two … more
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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On his deathbed, Chopin, the famous composer, drifts between this life and the next. In his dreams, happenstance encounters with a young girl facing a terrible destiny and the boy who will fight to save her, leads to Chopin's discovery of the light that shines in each of us in this enduring tale of good and evil, love and betrayal. With gorgeous next gen visuals and style, a unique battle system, and a captivating story, Eternal Sonata promises to give Xbox 360 fans the RPG they've been waiting for.