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Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360) artwork

Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360) review


"Eternal Sonata is the latest Japanese RPG from Namco-Bandai. Popular classical composer Frederic François Chopin is ill and is sleeping away what seems to be his end. In what he believes to be a dream, Chopin finds himself in a beautiful new world where he sports a chic top hat. With having a famous composer with the likes of Chopin in a video game, one could only imagine how exciting the plot could be. Does Eternal Sonata take advantage of this and create an adventure like no other? "



Eternal Sonata is the latest Japanese RPG from Namco-Bandai. Popular classical composer Frederic François Chopin is ill and is sleeping away what seems to be his end. In what he believes to be a dream, Chopin finds himself in a beautiful new world where he sports a chic top hat. With having a famous composer with the likes of Chopin in a video game, one could only imagine how exciting the plot could be. Does Eternal Sonata take advantage of this and create an adventure like no other?

Unfortunately, the story of Eternal Sonata is the biggest blunder in the game. I'm not really sure if the developers knew what they were doing. It seemed as if they just blended a bunch of random characters and sub-plots in a pot. Chopin believes the world he is in is just a dream, and everyone around him thinks he's crazy. So, in turn, he essentially believes that they are all in denial. It is really quite a mess, which is a real shame. Eternal Sonata puts a strong effort forth, but knocks itself down by being somewhere between far too simple and far too complex, and in the end is simply verging on ridiculous. While it sounds confusing, if the only thing you care about in a game is the story, this is not for you.

While the plot of the game may disappoint, the combat certainly does not. Eternal Sonata brings a fascinating blend of turn-based and real-time gameplay together. The characters attack in turn, and when a specific characters turn is up, they can move into a preferred position, use items and attack freely until the time is up. Also, on the battlefield there are patches of light and dark. This is where a really neat element comes into play- when your in the light, you can use your light special attacks, and in the dark you use your dark special attacks. This added feature really keeps the combat interesting throughout the course of the game.

The cast of Eternal Sonata is disturbingly unbalanced. Once you attain all of the characters, it shouldn't take long for you to realize just how much better some characters are over others. There are 4 characters who are leaps and bounds faster and stronger than the remainder of the cast. That would be acceptable if there were only 5 or 6 characters in the game. Unfortunately, there are 10. The issue really puts quite the damper on the potential the combat had. Considering it does not take very long to attain the whole crew, using only 3 of the games characters for such a long time can become tedious. Not that you have to use the 3 better characters, but its only sensible to do so (and there really is no reason not to use them).

The biggest problem that lies in the combat is who you are fighting. The first few areas you come across will have you saying “Hey! There are some really unique enemies in this game! Super!”. Then once you keep on treading through, you realize “Hey! Every “new” enemy is just the old enemy with a different colour palette! Dang!”. Seriously, the enemies become borderline pathetic by the end of the game. So many of the games “unique” enemies are blatant rip-offs of the games previous enemies. It's just pure laziness from the developer, which is inexcusable.

Following traditional Japanese RPG formula, the large majority of the bosses in the game have nothing to do with the plotline. On your way to find Count Waltz for various reasons, you will encounter dragons, bats, rats and plenty of other random creatures. It seems the developers could have replaced at least half of these random bosses with plot-relevant ones. It would have really helped the story flesh out instead of leaving it raw.

The biggest issue people have with Eternal Sonata is that it is not deep enough, and that is true. There are virtually no side-quests, and only one thing to do outside of the main story (a massive bonus dungeon at the end of the game). Without the dungeon, the game should last you around 20 hours, and around 30 with it. Beyond the very basic RPG elements such as customizing characters equipment and special attacks and buying and selling things at stores, Eternal Sonata really does not offer anything new in this sense.

There is no doubt that Eternal Sonata is about Chopin. Putting the pieces together, one would likely find that a game about Chopin should be strong on the music front. This is certainly true, as the musical aspect of the game is one of the best parts. Just about everything in the game is musically inspired, including the characters names (Polka, Salsa, March, Jazz and Falsetto just to name a few). The music in the game is phenomenal. The original score composed by Motoi Sakuraba is beautiful. Also included are some of Chopin's greatest pieces, which sound incredible in surround sound. Eternal Sonata easily contains one of the greatest scores in gaming history.

The Japanese voice cast is excellent, and I was surprised to hear that the English cast was strong as well, with a few exceptions (Salsa and March). Terrible English voice-overs seem common for the JRPG genre, so it was really great to hear. The game is also strong on an educational front. Fear not my friends, the learning is not shoved down your throat. In between the chapters in game, you watch a cutscence with Chopins music in the background as you listen to information about Chopin's life. Eternal Sonata really shows how well learning can be implemented into a game- I found myself learning plenty of interesting facts about Chopin without being bored. For those trying to make an educational game, take note from Eternal Sonata.

The game is a visual masterpiece. The character models look fantastic and shine in all of their splendour. The characters are a brilliant blend of “kiddie” and “lifelike” to form creations that just look great. The environments are gorgeous and the colours bounce off the screen. The only downside one would have is that the game is not their “style”. Otherwise, this is one game you really want to see in high definition.

Despite its flaws, Eternal Sonata is an excellent game. While certainly geared toward the casual RPG player, a unique combat system along with incredible production values help counter the sad excuse of a plot. If you are looking for a fun and fresh new experience, Eternal Sonata is a great choice.

Rating: 8/10

Azumangaman's avatar
Community review by Azumangaman (April 20, 2008)

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