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Eternal Sonata is a very unique and beautiful music based RPG with a unique cast of characters and a world as beautiful and unique as the game itself. The main character is based off of a real life musician named Frederic Chopin and each of the other characters are named after things that are musical or dances. Each character is designed to be unique from the other characters but in a way that it is still obvious that they are all Eternal Sonata characters. Each character also has unique weapons as well as unique sets of abilities to match them, There are the attack abilities and support abilities and each ability is either dark or light and can vary from melee to long range. The antagonists are as unique as the playable characters and show many emotions and traits as you play through the story that allow you to personally connect with them.
The Battle system allows for more open movement within a circle and is turn based in a unique way, each turn there is a time limit and the number of attacks you get in depends on your choices and speed of action. The most unique part of battle is the use of shadows and light in strengthening or weakening the enemies, some enemies can evolve using the shadows and light. Boss battles are kept interesting with character commentary unique to the battle or situations surrounding the battle.
There are plenty of in game extras such as side missions, mini games, and alternate colors for the character's outfits. One mini game involves picking up music pieces and matching them to the music pieces carried by some of the people in towns. As for side mission, while there are some on the first play through many of the side missions are unlocked in a second play through, there are also some major side missions late game.
Warning: This game is not for people who hate story lines heavily involving themes of love and friendship.
Pretty much all of my childhood was spent playing rpg games, especially jrpg games on various consoles. This game has come to my attention when I was frist starting to learn piano. Imagine my surprise, when someone told me that there actually is a game which storyline is centred on music. Not just any music, it is the music of the one of the greatest composer of all time, Frederic Francois Chopin. After spending 40+ hours and beating the games, here are my thoughts:
The whole game play happens in the dream of Chopin when he was about to die. Therefore all the characters are considered not real even in the game itself, and this is the point Chopin kept reiterating throughout the game whenever he get confused. In his dreamworld, the characters from various background came together to fight in hopes of saving people from dangerous effects of mineral powders. Mineral powders are poison disguising as a cure for illnesses, which makes the user turn into hideous monsters. Personally, even after playing many cliche jrpg all my life, I do find this whole let's fight together to save to world story a bit cliche and repetitive. Another problem is the random sprout of romance between the characters Allegretto and Polka. I'm pretty sure they have hardly talk to each other throughout the game and then suddenly it was like 'the boss is dead so let's get together'.
Nevertheless, the cutscenes about Chopin's real life are very educational and really worthwhile watching. Different pieces of his music takes you through the story, which is the main reason why I played the game to the end.
Characters & Costumes:
The design is typical 'anime' style with cuteness overload. Nevertheless it can a bit overdone sometimes. However, the characters do develop overtime although their interactions and dialogues can seem a bit childish from time to time.
I thoroughly enjoyed the battle system. It is a mixture of turn-based and real time. Each character gets their turn and when the turn starts, the action gauge counts down during which you are free to execute any action you want. When you encounter an enemy, there is a transition where you are transported into a battle ground. This also changes depending on the terrain. The battle ground is divided into light or dark areas and the actions the characters are able to carry out depends on the light/dark areas. This is very good as it makes the battle much more than repetitive key smashing.
As you level your way through the game, so does the Party Level which increases the difficulty gradually. You have less and less time to think about which action you want to execute and when you reach the highest Level (level 6), the buttons start to switch. This mean you will press 'X' for attack and suddenly it will be pressing 'O' for attack. Personally, it's not hard to get used to and it's really fun for me.
The art is very sharp and full of vibrant colours. It's not breathtaking as some other jrpgs such as Final Fantasy. However, it is still of a good quality and sceneries are full of life and imagination.
My favourite element of the game. The cutscenes with brilliant playing of Chopin's music are what I look forward to everytime I beat a boss. The background on Chopin is very educational and made me fell in love with Chopin's music.
My advice to everyone playing the game is to switch the voice acting to Japanese with English subtitles from the start. I love english voice acting, however listening to their english voices did make me cringe. The girls' voices are high-pitched and shrill, especially Polka's, and it really does impede greatly on the gameplay.
Differences between ps3 and xbox version:
There are few differences between the two versions such as you are able to change three characters' costumes (Polka, Allegretto and Beat) but it does nothing other than they look different. There are two new playable characters: Crescendo and Serenade. They are relatively useful in battles but I hardly use them at all. Most of the time, I just use Salsa, Jazz and Allegretto. New characters mean new weapons of course. Also the locations of some chests have changed. One big change is that there is a new dungeon called the Lament's Mirror which helps smooth out the storyline a bit. Overall, I really don't think the differences have a great impact on the whole experience of the gamer.
The game has its good points and its bad points but despite all this, it has made a great and lasting impression on me and introduced me to the wonders of soulful music. As a music lover, I think this game is worth playing regardless of the cliche storyline.