The story centers around the final hours of Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, one of history's most influential piano composers. Drifting between life and death, Chopin dreams of a fantasy land in which people with incurable diseases also hold great magical power. Chopin visits this world in his dreams and finds himself in the village of Tenuto, where he meets Polka, a sick young girl nearing her end. Chopin, Polka, and her friend Allegretto must find a way to save Polka using her magical powers.
In the last hours of the great composer Chopin's life, he embarks on an adventure to save a fantasy world.
Originality is sparse in game concepts. Most follow standard formulas and are easily categorized in terms of plot and game-play. "Eternal Sonata" is one of those rare games that risk everything with an original concept. Alas, like many others, "Eternal Sonata" is in many ways refreshing, but is also filled with a huge array of worn out clichés, that just like bad music, never allow the game to reach its "crescendo".
Frederic Chopin is dying. While he lies on his deathbed, he starts to dream of a magical world where every note, song and symphony he ever wrote come to life in the form of characters and locations. The game can be depicted as his inner journey throughout this dream, where a dense plot lies, filled with the classic themes of love, betrayal and death. Since Chopin was a real life character, realism would have been the way to go in terms of art design. But strangely, the only speck of reality in this game lies in slide-shows that recount Chopin's Biography, through captioned live-action pictures accompanied by the sound of Chopin's greatest music.
But apart from those memorable sequences, the aesthetic of the game is very anime-like actually, it's pure anime. Cutscenes have dialog, action, comedy and directing that follow anime's principles. And they're actually pretty good, filled with cinematic camera angles and great use of soundtrack. Characters are young, cute, act like silly "j-pop" kids, and have the unusual tendency to start digressing about the meaning of life and death. That might've been a downside, but the truth is that the dialogs in these philosophical sequences are sharply written, in the tradition of animes like "Evangelion" or "Ghost in the Shell". However, like the "animes" it resembles, most of the hidden meanings of the narrative only become clear after the game-over screen, and even then, they are never fully explained. Unveiling the hidden meanings of the plot requires some thought, since many actions and dialogs are of an allegorical or metaphorical nature, bursting with spiritual meaning. Art usually lends itself to be open for interpretation, and though games rarely do so, "Eternal Sonata" clearly wants to stand out, and thus become like one of Chopin's melodies: enigmatic and beautiful.
And beautiful is certainly the right word to describe the visuals of "Eternal Sonata". Lush environments, filled with vibrant colors and lights, merge to form crisp and astonishing images. The buildings' architecture, characters' wardrobe and accessories are all very detailed and show immense creativity, even by "japanimation" standards. There's a huge amount of work in the art design department, and even the best "Final Fantasies" may look a bit shady when compared to this game.
"Tri-Crescendo" has been the sound designer of "Tri-Ace" ("Star Ocean" and "Tales" series), and was behind the "Baten Kaitos" games and it shows. Soundtrack (among other things) will feel familiar to those who played any of these games, but, since the subject matter is Chopin, Composer Motoi Sakuraba's music is heavily influenced by his work, which results in one of his best soundtracks so far.
Where "Eternal Sonata" does hit a bad note is in game-play elements. Hiroya Hatsushiba's creativity appears to have run out after designing the plot and art aspects, something that curiously didn't happen in his previous works ("Baten Kaitos"and "Baten Kaitos II"). The actual game inside "Eternal Sonata" is extremely formulaic, as if it was an afterthought in the creative process. Probably, the designers thought that there was enough innovation in other aspects to risk breaking any more conventions in game-play. And, looking at the rant "Final Fantasy XII" got for trying to break the mold, maybe they weren't so far off. Action is therefore, business as usual, with towns and dungeon-like areas to explore in the same tiring way as every other J-RPG (talk to very villager, get items in small wooden boxes), and combat is turn-based (with one or two gimmicks that try to cover it up). Battles are somewhat fun (for the first hours anyway) and relatively easy, which is a plus, since that means you don't have to tire yourself too much with the repetition of the attack-attack-heal strategy, which is basically everything you can actually do during combat. On the other hand, dungeons are too elaborate for a game with no map whatsoever, which means consistently exploring every nut and crack of the scenarios, which also means more dull and insipid combat.
If it wasn't for the blandness of the game-play aspects of the game, "Eternal Sonata" would probably be one of the greatest RPG's ever made, period. But as it stands, it manages only to achieve one of its goals: create an "artsy" audio-visual interpretation of Chopin's works. The game sees itself as fine art, and fine art it is it's just not interactive fine art. This was a very fun game, largely thanks to the innovative fighting. Turned based, but you perform the actions in real time. So you swing the sword, do the special attack, block and use items. Its great, you can maneuver around to the back of an opponent, you can run to the other side of the screen and then the enemy takes a turn and it takes them all their turn just to get to you. I was slaughtering everyone near the end and loving every minute of it. The characters are pretty good too, if a bit dressed up and cutesy. There are also a lot of playable characters too, from the book I figured there were only four, but there are quite a few more. The story also uses a device I wish role playing games would use more often the team split up in two and you play each perspective. Now for the story, it was good for the most part, but it had its weaknesses. Most notably the end, mainly due in large part to the fact I was not sure why certain things were occurring. I am uncertain why the one person even felt the need to leap off the cliff, what was up with the guy turning to a monster and going to another dimension and other various things. Of course, the story had a rather interesting twist by the inclusion of Chopin as one of the characters and it was interesting hearing his various music during periods of the game. Still, at times he seemed to be the focus of the game and at others just an onlooker. Not quite sure what happened to him at the end either, well I know what happened to him in one world, but what about the other. The story is basically the old group traveling the land to gain an audience, team gets split up, and then team recovers to try and take out the somewhat evil plot. The main character is hard to pinpoint, but for the most part I will say it is Polka, the girl who is close to death so she can use powerful magic. Though my favorite was Jazz, not really a main character, but he was the best attacker and had one big sword. a5c7b9f00b
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