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 Eternal Sonata

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PostSubject: Eternal Sonata   Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:22 pm

SCORE = 83 TERRIFIC

Positive
# Perfect visual design, some of the best on the platform
# Impressive music
# Great designed battle system
# A great cast of characters
# Battle system gets tough when more characters are added to your party
# All characters and towns have musical names
# This game is not for girls

Negative
# No side-quests, story is completely linear
# Money is easy to earn

The life and death of Polish composer Frederic Chopin doesn't sound like a very fascinating theme for a role-playing game. Who'd have thought, then, that such a game would set the standard for Japanese RPGs on the Xbox 360? Eternal Sonata is a pleasant surprise, full of joy, old-fashioned romance, and set in a gorgeous, fully realized fantasy world. It's also a wonder that the soft, chewy center of the story is complemented by an action-packed battle system that continually keeps you on your toes. It has some issues, but the game will make you feel consistently warm and fuzzy, thanks to its big heart and total commitment to its subject matter.

If that makes Eternal Sonata sound sickeningly sweet, rest assured that it also possesses a good deal of maturity. We watch Chopin sleeping on his deathbed, as the clock slowly counts down to his last moment on earth. But the real story is in his mind, where he joins an alternate reality already in progress and multiple stories that eventually converge. His first friend is Polka, a loveable girl with awesome pigtails that can wield magic, but like other magic users in this world, she is destined to die young. Along the way, they are joined by other adventurers, such as street urchins Alegretto and Beat. They are also accompanied by goat herder Viola and the members of the rebel group Andantino, amongst others. Together, they unite against the rule of the evil Count Waltz, who is turning the populace of Forte into mindless slaves, thanks to an untaxed, addictive mineral powder.
It's not the grandest, most epic tale ever told in an RPG, but it's a highly personal one. Chopin must discover what he is searching for in this moving, thoughtful journey that we take with him. His travel companions are charming, multifaceted characters who develop strong bonds, including Alegretto's touching affection for ever-sweet Polka. You will care for these characters, and if their initial quest doesn't seem all that breathtaking, the passion with which they undertake it will win you over. The story also touches on topics that tie lessons of the past to current events. Blind devotion to the government, the separation of fact from fiction, social persecution, and other themes are all obviously meant to parallel our own modern political climate. The only problem with the narrative is the pace, which is broken up by narrated segments about Chopin's life and the politics of his own time. These interruptions feature photo stills of such cities as Paris and Warsaw, accompanied by Chopin's famous piano works. But the history lessons, as well intentioned as they are, just don't fit because they force us back into a reality the game does such a good job of letting us escape.
Developer Tri-Crescendo has created a beautiful world here. It's easy to get swept up in the French Impressionist color palate and gorgeous lighting, but incredible artistry gushes from every aspect of the visual design. The clothing of your party members is richly drawn, with intricate stitching and other fine details. The interiors of cottages are filled with meticulously designed décor, from textured linens to finely crafted plates hanging on the walls. Environments are spectacular, even such traditionally cliché locations as swamps or forests, which use shadows and mild light bloom to create scenes you would expect to see in a Monet painting. But all of this 2D art does come at the expense of 3D exploration. You can't freely explore every nook and cranny, nor can you rotate the camera. So there are times you wish you could head off into the rolling hills to check out every valley and crevasse but are fixed to your narrow pathway. You may also occasionally cringe at the color saturation, which is sometimes a little too Candy Land for its own good. But make no mistake: Eternal Sonata is a visual triumph and a beautiful artistic achievement.

As you might imagine, music plays an important role in the game's production values as well, though Chopin's music is usually limited to the edutainment portions previously mentioned. But that's fine because Motoi Sakuraba's score is as exquisite as the visuals, using Chopin's romanticism as a starting point for a subtle but sweeping musical journey. The voice acting doesn't reach for the stars, but it is solid enough. Chopin and Salsa in particular come to life vividly, thanks to strong acting, though other voices get too syrupy after a while. Sadly, there are some scenes of extended dialogue that, for whatever reason, feature no music and minimal ambient noise. In a musical score, rests are as important as notes, but these extended silences are jarring.
Once you get beyond the glittering production, how does it actually play? Thankfully, the gameplay is satisfying and moves at a slick tempo. There are no random encounters, so you can see every monster. Oftentimes, you can simply go around them, though you will be forced into some battles (and some terrific, challenging boss fights too). Combat isn't a typical series of turns with infinite time in between, though: Eternal Sonata's system is an inventive mix of turn-based and real-time warfare that gets trickier as the game progresses.

First up is your action bar. Each character has a limited amount of time to complete his or her turn before it ends. But within that turn, you can move freely about the battlefield. Each action, whether it is an attack, a spell, or a simple movement depletes the bar even more. As your party level increases, the planning time you have decreases, special attacks deplete more of your meter, and other changes are made until battles are frenetic, tactical scherzos.

Other frustrations are minor, but they still come up from time to time. Your journey is highly linear, so don't expect to spend any time doing side quests or gallivanting about the countryside to check out the sights. Another odd element is Beat's photography skills, which allow you to take pictures during battle and sell them for a tidy profit. The problem with it isn't the concept--because it's a great way to allow the party to earn some money--but that you can make a serious load of gold this way. So if you take the initially powerful Viola and Allegretto into battle with him, they can mop up enemies while Beat rakes in the photos. It won't take long to accumulate more funds than you know what to do with, and it eases the challenge considerably for the first half of the game because you can load up on floral powder or healing cookies. And interestingly, for a game featuring a famous composer, music isn't integrated into the gameplay itself, aside from a minigame that lets you play bits of music with various friendly townsfolk. It's nice that you can listen to music clips that you unlock, as well as the fact that characters and towns are all named after musical terms. But it's always subtext and doesn't often come to the forefront.
You might find Eternal Sonata to be relatively short for your tastes if you are a fan of Japanese RPGs. It clocks in at around 30 hours in a leisurely play-through, but it's worth noting that there is little filler in the gameplay or story. The game gets to the point with a smart, action-packed battle system and a dazzling world that will take your breath away. Yet while it may be the beauty that draws you in, it will be the warmth at Eternal Sonata's heart and soul that will prevent you from ever wanting to leave.









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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:29 pm

looks like a rip off from finaly fantasy with a lot of tweaks..but still looks good Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Mon Dec 24, 2007 8:53 am

it has a strong story also, one of the best stories of the year

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:27 am

too bad it's only xbox release

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:44 am

yeah Sad

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:38 am

this game is good for you cause it's easy

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:40 am

no its not its xbox lol

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:41 am

i know i've got to go i must do something or someone will kill me if i don't

edited by tymon

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:46 am

Razz yes he will

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:43 pm

he didn't kill me

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:41 pm

wtf?
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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Fri Apr 25, 2008 11:39 pm

we had a blonde moment

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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Fri Apr 25, 2008 11:45 pm

ah, me and my sister have these all the time
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PostSubject: Re: Eternal Sonata   Fri Apr 25, 2008 11:45 pm

lmao Razz

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