Posted by: clangwen | May 17, 2007

tri-Crescendo Gets Things Musical With Eternal Sonata

One of the very few gripes I have with the Xbox 360 is that it’s bereft of many good RPGs; sure there’s Final Fantasy and Oblivion and a couple of others, but there’s not a great choice out there. So you can image how ecstatic I was when Dan let me know that this gem had just been released on the Marketplace in Japan. So without further ado; here’s the run-down of Eternal Sonata: Chopin’s Dream.
Eternal Sonata Banner

On October 17, 1948, Frederic Chopin – one of the most influential piano composers ever – died of illness at the young age of 39. Three hours prior to his death, according to tri-Crescendo, Chopin has a dream inwhich he sees a fairy tale world populated by people who suffered from incurable diseases, but also magical powers. Eternal Sonata (Trusty Bell in Japan) takes place in this world.
In Chopin’s dream, he comes across a girl named Polka who lives in the village of Tenuto with her mother. Polka is one of the many people in this fairy tale world who are afflicted by incurable illness and, together with Chopin and Allegretto – a friend of Polka’s – she is searching to find a way to use her magical powers to help save her.

As you can probably gather, it’s a very whimsical affair with a unique and seemingly very interesting storyline combining the conventions of the RPG Genre with a unique addition (that of a world famous composer) and, it’s of no suprise, that music is also set to play a large part in the game.

The graphics of the game are simply beautiful; vibrant and colourful across the board. The Environments are brightly coloured, with lush greens for foilage, yellows and oranges for dirt paths and the sky is the perfect shade of blue. Lighting is also used brilliantly throughout the demo, with glimmers of light shining through the tree tops and soft shadows of trees throughout the forest.
Character’s are nicely designed both graphically and in terms of personality – though we’re never shown dialog where we can grasp that in the demo. In the demo you play as three characters, these are Polka – the focus of the story, a positive and chirpy young girl with an umbrella for a weapon, Allegretto – Polka’s friend, a 16 year old thief who lives to take care of Polka, and Beat – we’re not told much about him, but from what I can assume by looking at him and how he speaks, I assume he’s quiet but a pretty smart boy. The character’s are drawn very nicely and look very Animé (but that does not come as a suprise considering the game is Japanese) and the voice acting is top notch, the characters sound how you’d expect them to sound and they all use language differently which is a very good display of personality on each of the characters.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Eternal Sonata is it’s combat system. In RPGs combat systems are very often turn Eternal Sonata's Battle Systembased (though recent games have began to change this) and Eternal Sonata is no different in that respect. First off, there are no random battles, in the world screen you’re able to see any enemies lurking around and can avoid them if you wish to. The game uses a Turn Based Tactical Battle System in which each character has a turn and it alternates between all the characters (enemies included) on the field. During these turns the characters have an alotted time to perform any actions, be it moving, attacking, using items or using assigned special skills. Each turn lasts roughly 7 seconds, but the more attacks you do the longer you rturn is. Though the time increase is only slight, every attack counts because of the combo system; every time you do a normal attack on an enemy that doesn’t block it you get a combo point, as the battle progresses these points can stack up and are shared across the party. The significance of these points is that the more points you have, the more points your next special attack does. This adds a tactical aspect to the game instead of just constantly using special moves you must combine them with normal attacks to do the most damage.

Another very interesting feature of the combat system is how lighting affects the battle. In the combat field there are two types of zones; there are dark zones and light zones, these are shown, obviously, by lighting, the dark parts of the combat Light Zonefield are “Dark Zones” and the lighter parts are “Light Zones”, for example; take a look at the picture on the left, this picture is set in a light zone, as you can see the tiny coconut enemy is pretty weak looking, the environment is bright and, character shadow aside, there is no darkness. And then draw your attention to the picture below which is in a Dark Zone. It’s the same enemy, but because he’s in a dark zone he has changed into a giant behemoth of a coconut. Dark and Light zones affect the battle differently for each enemy, they change appearance, attributes – that coconut hits way harder in a dark zone than it does in a light zone – and attack patterns, which requires you to strategically place your characters in Dark Zonerelation to the enemy.

The zones don’t just affect the enemy either; each character has two assigned special skills, one for light zones and one for dark zones and, as such, requires the character to be in that respective zone to use the spell. A good example of this in the demo is with Polka, in a light zone she has a spell that Heals herself or another character, which makes her very much a supporting role in combat. However, move her into the shade of a dark zone and she has an offensive spell, thus switching her role in combat. It’s this mix and matching system that makes the combat unique and intelligent.

The Game controls are very simple both in combat and out, as expected. In combat the four buttons do different things, A attacks, B blocks, X uses items and Y uses the assigned special skills. The user-interface is also simplistic, with a nice, easy layout that’s simple to navigate and gets you to what you want to do in the menu relatively quickly.

The music in the game fits very well, with up-beat relatively fast tempo used throughout to add a sense of wonderment to the game, the music is composed by highly acclaimed game composer Motoi Sakuraba (of Star Ocean fame). Eternal Sonata also boasts a “Session” system, whilst on your travels in Eternal Sonata you will find pieces of music and there are NPCs around the world who also has pieces of music, you can team up with them to perform Sessions and the better you do in a session the higher your rank is. The significance of this was not explained in the demo as, although there was a NPC who wanted to do a session, we had no session pieces and therefore were unable to perform.

Aside from that, Eternal Sonata: Chopin’s Dream is shaping up to be a fantastic and unique RPG that will surely be interesting and a hell of a lot of fun to play. The game is set for a June release in Japan and I’m sure it won’t be soon after that it’s released globally, so if I were you I’d start brushing up on my Chopin and get ready to play some songs!

Chris Walter

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Responses

  1. Having recently played the demo, I can safely say that it’s one of the most beautiful games I’ve played, and the music is so enchanting. Excellent. Makes me want to like Japanese role playing games 🙂

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