Publisher: Namco-Bandai Games
Release Date: 9/17/2007
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I don’t know how else to put this, but Eternal Sonata is probably one of the best (if not THE best) RPGs of this generation (yes next-gen is now this gen it’s been almost four years now C’mon). The best part about Eternal Sonata is the graphics, story, music, and unique battle system.
To make this as easy as possible to understand I’ll start with the story. ES does something different that I’ve never seen in a game before and that uses a fictitious story with something that’s nonfiction. ES is about the famous pianist Chopin from the early 1800s; ES follows the life of Chopin when he was struck with tuberculosis, left Warsaw, Poland due to the war with Austria at the time. While the real Chopin is sick in bed you enter into his mind, and into the world that he created while trying to recover. Chopin is now Frederic and you run into several unique and lovable characters while trying to defeat the evil Count Waltz. Forte Castle (where Waltz lies) is supposed to represent Austria and Chopin wants to go back and defeat the evil leader so he can go home. The reason why Chopin runs into these colorful characters is that they all have separate reasons to see the Count (I won’t explain why due to spoilers). After you beat each chapter stills of Europe will play as well as a piece of Chopin’s music and pieces of his life will be told. Everything flows and ties in perfectly and it makes it one of my favorite RPG stories of all time.
Now I’m going to go right into the battle system with this being the meat of the game. ES doesn’t have a random battle system (THANK GOD!) since I think we’re finally beyond that. Every enemy you see is in real-time and you can avoid them if you want (like in numerous other RPGs). Instead of having magic, ability points, and some sort of super attack ES does away with all that. You have a battle counter which lets you decide what you need to do after this runs out your action counter (about 5 seconds) counts down when you start moving and you use the A button to attack with your main weapon. Magic or Special Abilities or whatever you want to call them are on your Y button and use can use these as many times as you want throughout your turn. So, if you attack until your turn is just about up then hit the Y button you can do some devastating damage. Of course, you have items that heal, poison, and revive KOs and there are tons of them, but there’s nothing special about these that you haven’t seen before. When it comes to guarding you have a “CHANCE” button (B) and if you hit the button when it appears on screen you will block the enemy’s attack greatly reducing the damage by about 90%. Sometimes the button will stay longer than other times, but it’s all about timing and this helps keep the action up.
When you get your party leveled up battle rules change from losing time on your counters to being able to chain special attacks, to moving faster in battle. Every time you hit an enemy you “queue” up power and then when you use your special attack it’s that many times more powerful. Every character gets two abilities: Light, and dark. On the battlefield you’ll see shadows and light areas; when you are in a dark area you’ll use a dark attack, and when you are in a light area you’ll use a light attack. This is really great and can help keep things mixed up. Watch out though some enemies transform into stronger monsters when they are in the dark.
The level design in this game can vary sometimes since some of the game has labyrinthine dungeons that require a FAQ to even remotely understand how to navigate. A lot of these are partly due to puzzles that require a lot of backtracking that gets really gets under your skin.
Now that the battle system is out of the way so let’s talk about production values.
Eternal Sonata uses some outstanding music, especially when Chopin’s pieces are used. The graphics are just absolutely gorgeous with bright color palettes, and unique architecture I’ve never seen in a game before. Eternal Sonata is also one of the JRPGs that also includes Japanese voice acting and I highly HIGHLY recommend this over the American voice actors. Just turn the English subtitles on and you’re good to go since the Japanese voice actors fit the characters better and are just superb. The game is easier than most JRPGs, but maybe this is a good thing. Everyone wants a stupidly hard RPG that takes over 100 hours to beat and that’s not always necessary.
Eternal Sonata will take you 20-30 hours to beat depending on your play style and even has a “game finished” save so you can go back from the beginning at whatever level you finished. It’s sad to know Eternal Sonata got great reviews but had poor sales so I hope you pick this up and experience the best RPGs of all time.