I have always enjoyed RPG games since the Super Nintendo back in the early nineties and my favorite types of games were the turn based RPG games where you had a party of characters and had to decide their actions each round. The Final Fantasy series was one of my favorite along with Phantasy Star for the Sega Genesis at the time. In a day an age where you can find far more Action RPG without the true turn based strategy element of the past there are a few gems that stand out and Eternal Sonata is one of them.
Eternal Sonata is a quite unusual game in that it is centered around Frederick Chopin (yes the famous composer) and what were his last few days in this world. The game is set in the fevered dreams of the famous composer and you play characters that exist in his imaginary world that he created and has limited control over. Frederick Chopin even is one of the characters in your party armed with various conductor wand or baton. The game starts off a little confusing as you first play as the character Polka who is a young girl with magical abilities which one only gets as a side effect of being terminally ill in this world. She eventually meets Chopin and the story starts becoming more clear as you see several different characters weave their stories together in this very creative and imaginary world.
This is your traditional Japanese RPG game and even though it came out in 2007 it is one that isn’t to be missed if you haven’t played it yet and enjoy these types of games. The combat system starts off tutorial like giving you ample time to make decisions but as your characters level up, your “party level” increases as well which starts to shift the combat system from turn based to real time, where the action game starts counting down and you have a limited amount of movement/attack time before your turn ends.
What makes Eternal Sonata even more unique is that it allows you to play the combat in multiplayer and assign the various characters to other controllers. This means you can have a few friends or your kids play the characters while the central player controls the game in non-combat mode. It is essentially like participating in an interactive movie which is a nice feel and actually does a good job of entertaining my kids while letting them still participate in the game.
Items are limited to choosing no more than 5 that you can select from in combat, but I didn’t find this to be limiting. Characters themselves can equip 1 weapon, 1 armor and 2 miscellaneous items. The only drawback of the game is that you are limited to 2 “special powers” at a time and must choose between them before combat. These powers are limited to a “light” power which can only be used when standing in a lighted spot in combat (sunlight for example) and a “dark” power which only becomes accessible if you move your character into a shaded spot. You have to choose your powers wisely depending on the situation and some powers don’t cause damage but can allow you to make money.
The story is very linear which may be a put off for some, but personally I have limited time to game so I like my game to play out like a story. I can’t afford to waste tens of hours wandering around a game world looking for the next quest, so linear games like these are ideal for people who have limited play time. The non-combat walking mode is sometime redundant and if you take a wrong turn you can find yourself backtracking a bit. Combat however is easy to avoid if you want to move around quickly, you can just walk around the opponents so you don’t trigger combat mode.
Eternal Sonata has a beautiful musical score mostly written by Motoi Sakuraba with a few Chopin compositions played by pianist Stanislav Bunin which really add an element to the game that make it feel classic. The artwork in the game is also beautiful and the cell shading gives an artistic touch to every character, plant or cutscene you watch.
Eternal Sonata Rating
I gave Eternal Sonata 4 out of 5 stars and there is a reason why Eternal Sonata has twenty five 5 star reviews on Amazon.com and a Metacritic score of 79 which is good for a Metacritic score in most cases. Probably one of the best things is that now you can pick up Eternal Sonata for the Xbox360 for only $13.96 from Amazon.com which is a steal for a game this good!
Eternal Sonata has an ESRB rating of Teen for the following: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol though I think it should probably be more like E10+ as there isn’t anything really questionable that you wouldn’t find in a PG movie.