Eternal Sonata Reviews

  • Virtual BoyVirtual Boy484,438
    24 May 2011
    28 6 9
    If I had to use one word to describe Eternal Sonata, it would be beautiful. Everything about this game reflects an attention to aesthetics that is seldom seen in the medium. The locales are stunning. The music is emotional and engaging. The story, while typical, nonsensical JRPG fare, is still painstakingly crafted for those willing to explore it. This game takes a well-worn genre and infuses it with life by making it beautiful and, at times, breathtaking.

    In full disclosure, I am generally not a fan of JRPGs. They are too time consuming, excessively repetitive, and the type of story telling does not appeal to me. Eternal Sonata suffers from these same criticisms. However, its mesmerizing aesthetic somehow lessens their impact. One area of JRPGs that typically frustrates me is the battle system. I usually find them confusing and/or cumbersome. This makes it difficult to remain engaged in the experience. I found Eternal Sonata's system refreshing. It is simple to use and effective without being overbearing. It also hides a surprising depth for those willing to seek it out. Your attacks are executed using the face buttons. Timing is critical, as well as your position on the field. Most attacks have two modes that vary depending on your exposure to light or shadow. It is also beneficial to position yourself behind enemies. All of this is controlled by a timer that ticks away your limited time to attack. The higher your party level, the more constrained you are by time, but the more attack options you have at your disposal. You can always keep things simple, and you are still likely to succeed, but if you are willing to invest the time into learning the intricacies of the system, you can dominate the battlefield.

    While the battle system keeps the combat from becoming stale, the real star of Eternal Sonata is the music and locations. The music is a combination of Chopin pieces and original score. Every composition is perfectly suited to your location and situation. Whether you are entering crumbling ruins or stepping onto a vast expanse of stunningly rendered plateaus, the music fits the circumstance perfectly. The original pieces are some of the most memorable I have ever encountered in a JRPG, and will likely stick with you long after you put the game down. The environments also deserve all the praise I can give them. Each location feels completely distinct and memorable. I can still remember the moment I first entered almost every location in the game. The music swells, the camera pans, and you feel like you are a part of the world of Eternal Sonata. In my mind, no other game has presented itself so well.

    The story and characters are similar in style to other JRPGs. It can be difficult to follow and melodramatic. In spite of this, it offers a narrative that delves into the depths of the human spirit, as well as themes of life and death. It certainly has a lot to offer if you are amenable to its presentation.

    Eternal Sonata is a gem. It transcends the traditional JRPG stereotype and avoids the pitfalls common to the genre. Its battle system is deep but not overwhelming. Its story is similar in style, but carries a surprising amount of emotional weight. In the final tally though, it is the stunning music and visuals that make Eternal Sonata worth your time. I give it my highest recommendation, not because it is perfect, but because it is beautiful and memorable.
    5.0
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    I agree with the review, except the best part for me wasn't the music, which was a close second. The best for me is the battle system. I love it!
    Posted on 05 Oct 11 at 02:25
    Ashen SeraphThis review fails on a major point. The main purpose to JRPGs is their heavy focus on telling large epics. This one fails.

    The Chopin stuff is a failed gimmick. It could have been a very interesting twist on story telling, but instead is a rarely touched, and very forced when it is, portion of the story that does little to add anything more meaningful than a bunch of overly drawn out psycho babble. What story exists beyond it is little more than minimal standard JRPG dribble that isn't as clearly explained or expanded upon. Add on top of that the fact that the conversations happen so slowly that literally a dialog that contains only 10 lines can take upwards of 5 minutes, or more, and you quickly lose interest.
    Posted by Ashen Seraph on 09 Oct 12 at 04:34
    Virtual BoyI found the story to be worthwhile but I totally get if other people don't. I also don't play as many JRPG's as many people on the site so my opinion might not mesh with yours. The conversations do proceed at a snails pace but while I was playing Eternal Sonata I was in the mood for something slower. Thanks for your feedback.
    Posted by Virtual Boy on 09 Oct 12 at 22:47
  • JRPGsForTheWinJRPGsForTheWin135,588
    27 Apr 2013 22 Mar 2014
    21 5 5
    This is my first video game review. Constructive criticism will be appreciated.

    Chopin is on his deathbed, and he is also in an alternate dimension populated with generic shounen anime staples? What is he going to do?

    This game really is as silly as it sounds. I had fun with it, but I am aware that there are countless others who will have far less endurance for this than I have.

    Visuals - 4 / 5

    It's glossy. It's bright. It pops out of my LED screen. Most of the character designs overflow with cuteness. Most of the monster designs overflow with cuteness, as well. If this game were a bigger hit than it turned out to be, I could easily imagine plush dolls being made with the monster designs on display here. This is a crisp and candy-colored world that exists only in the genre of JRPGs. Even in the midst of battle, the visuals rarely give the impression that there is any real danger in sight.

    The contrast between light and dark spots on the battlefields are a large portion of this game. It all looks great for those who are looking for an aggressively bold ambiance, but anybody who is allergic to a visual scheme that is brighter and louder than what most shounen anime has to offer should probably steer clear.

    On the upside, it is all very sharp and crisp. I noticed no framerate hiccups during the entire two playthroughs I had. The graphics do what they intend to do very well. Whether or not one enjoys it is all a matter of personal taste.

    Sound - 3.5 / 5

    If one is looking for a great example of 5.1 sound from the 360, look no further from here. From the opening cinematic sequence, I was hooked on the sound editing. The use of background noises, and the surround effects in the battles, are on the same level as what I get from DVDs of mainstream Hollywood action flicks.

    I was disappointed, however, in the soundtrack. For a game that has Chopin as one of its main characters, the score that plays through most of the game is rather lacking in the life and vitality that his work was known for. It's typical JRPG filler music, nothing more, nothing less. At least it sounds great when Chopin's music does get some time in the game.

    I played through this game in Japanese with English subtitles. I would have appreciated subtitles during the ending cinematic sequences. I did switch it back to English before the final fight just so I could understand what they were saying. From what I can tell, the voice acting on both tracks is competent. Some characters have pleasant voices, some are shrill and loud. But overall, nothing stands out in this regard.

    Story - 2 / 5

    I don't expect my JRPG stories to make sense. Eternal Sonata did not disappoint me in that respect.

    This is a typical "let's form a party with anime staple characters and have them save the world from the evil King" yarn. It would have worked a lot better if it left Chopin out of the picture. This world supposedly takes place in Chopin's mind on his deathbed. I suppose the producers thought they were entering high-concept territory. Well, I guess it is high-concept; they must've conceptualized this angle of the story while they were high.

    It is relatively inoffensive and it demands little from the player. The real problem is that there are many story cutscenes that drag on forever. This includes a ten-minute death scene that features flashbacks to another cutscene that happened immediately before it. It also includes a lot of dialogue where one character states the obvious right after another. I skipped the cutscenes during the second playthrough for this very reason.

    Gameplay - 2 / 5

    For anybody seeking a JRPG with combat that is low in challenge, look no further than here. It is easy to pick up, easy to learn, and easy to master. With each increase in the party level (there are five such increases in the game), combat actually gets much easier. Most of the supposedly tough enemies in this game's only optional dungeon all died without getting to strike back while I chained attacks on them.

    Getting pre-emptive strikes is also ridiculously easy during most of the game. The only enemies that are immune to that are one flaming horse enemy type in Chapter 2, one rather large enemy type in the next-to-last story dungeon, bosses and a few enemies in the game that the coders intentionally made sure I could not back-attack.

    Mastering the battle system is all about timing the button-presses and paying some degree of attention. It's a combination of turn-based and real-time combat that is incredibly simple. The use of light and dark elements is also put into play - where a character is standing in a battlefield determines what special attacks he/she can use. A character standing under a lamp will have a different set of skills to use than when he is standing under the shadow of a massive dragon, for example. It sounds a lot more complex on this computer screen than it actually is.

    It also is ridiculously easy to get most of the best gear in the game at any given time in the story by having one character take photos of bosses to sell to shopkeepers for big bucks, so there really is very little excuse not to have weapons and armor that are appropriate with the level of the party characters.

    There was only one battle in the game that proved to be problematic for me, and that was the first boss battle in Chapter 4. It is also worth noting that this battle was only problematic during the second playthrough, where all of the enemies are beefed up in terms of attack, defense and health.

    There is one point of genuine annoyance I have found in the second playthrough, however. The collectibles require a lot of backtracking to earlier parts in the game. Somehow, the programmers neglected to program the enemies that you can now kill in a single hit to run away from you when you revisit these areas. I just wanted to get the damn collectibles and move on. I did not want to waste 15 additional minutes because one band of rats I can kill in a single hit kept on running towards me after another.

    All in all, this is probably the easiest combat I ever played in a JRPG. There is some degree of strategy, but it is a joke in comparison to what is the norm in the usual turn-based JRPG.

    Achievements - 1 / 5

    Well, here it is. 22 achievements worth 1,000 gamerscore. 17 of these can be obtained on the first playthrough for a less-than-whopping 340 points. The last five require not only a second playthrough in "Encore" mode, but if you don't use a walkthrough at the start of the first playthrough to tell you where all of the score pieces are, consider yourself screwed. A walkthrough is mandatory for the bulk of the gamerscore, unless one wants to spend 600 hours clicking on every object in every corner of every room in every house in every world, just to find all of the score pieces and EZI items. If you don't know how to read musical notes, a walkthrough is also mandatory for the full gamerscore.

    It took me about 60 hours altogether for full gamerscore completion. Do not be fooled by the large TA ratio. This takes a lot less time than other JRPGs with lower ratios, and it is a lot easier. But a walkthrough is the only thing that makes completion here even remotely possible. Any gamer seeking the full 1,000 here would be screwed without one. The random nature of where the collectibles are located guarantee that.

    Final Verdict (not an average) - 3 / 5

    I am biased towards JRPGs. I am a sucker for bright colors. I am a sucker for generic anime characters. It'll kill my brain cells in the end, but my personal tastes say that a game like Eternal Sonata is worth three stars, even if most of its parts are graded less than that.

    But when it comes to recommending this to others..... I'll be more honest and give it a 2. There are far greater JRPGs for the 360 than this. I'm glad I completed it. Now I'll move on.
    2.0
  • happypeachbearhappypeachbear188,224
    18 Nov 2010 18 Nov 2010
    21 13 6
    Story (spoiler free): Intriguing concept but just too much talk. I am not sure of all that philosophical sentences have anything to do with the main story (if they actually make sense). It eventually became blah, blah, blah to me as the game progresses. A few cut scenes that actually tell about Chopin’s life (real Chopin) were a good history lesson, by the way (I hope that was a correct history). Score 3/5

    Graphics: I actually liked its manga style pictures. While a view of a grown-up playing with pretty characters of big eyes would be something extraordinary, there’s nothing wrong with bright, clean and exaggerated colors and shapes. Score 3/5

    Game play: Combat in Eternal Sonata is turn-based with a slight twist. As you progress, you get more skills and better weapons but at the same time battles become more challenging (or trickier) not only because enemies are stronger but also combat structure evolves, where you need to complete your moves before time expires. To make some extra moves, pushing buttons at the right time may be required. But once you get a feel to it, it’s nothing to be concerned. The little scenes that precede special attack moves are sometimes extremely annoying, by the way.
    Although the game itself is pretty linear, you may often find yourself lost. Some parts of the game are structured like a maze and could frustrate many people. A walkthrough guide is definitely recommended to avoid unnecessary anger. Score 3/5

    Achievement: If you plan to get 1,000 out of this game, be prepared. Many achievements are very obscure and require multiple playthroughs. You may have to redo 50 hours of playing because of one missing collectible. It also requires a LOT of backtracking. Impossibility is a correct word for obtaining 1,000 without a guide. Just be organized and patient. Score 1/5

    Overall: Although I enjoyed this game (somewhat), I found myself labouring towards the end of getting 1,000 gamer points. If you just want to enjoy the story and have fun, Eternal Sonata is a decent game for hardcore RPG fans. Overall score 3/5
    3.0
  • ejenngsejenngs213,261
    04 Dec 2012 10 Dec 2012
    21 18 5
    Eternal Sonata is a terrible game and absolute waste of your time. There, I said it. That statement is likely to rub a few people the wrong way - self righteous anime addicts for one - but it needed saying.

    I think what made me angriest about the game is that, underneath the mountains of bullshit, there was the potential for something kind of cool. A role-playing journey through the fevered death bed dreams of one of history's greatest composers could, in the right hands, be supremely memorable. Unfortunately, this particularly Japanese studio was not equal to the task. I should have known; Japanese RPGs are usually anything but subtle, and this sort of thing would require delicate balance and subtlety beyond what developers Tri Crescendo could hope to provide.

    I'll start with what was good about the game, and it will be a short discussion.

    The graphics are solid. Dated, even by the standards of 2008, but very bright and colourful; a welcome reprieve from the endless march of gritty, grey apocalyptic worlds featured in most video games. The locations you visit range from "meh" to legitimately pretty, and there's some reasonably interesting designs going on.

    The music is excellent. If you hadn't heard, the composer whose dreams you'll be travelling through is none other than Fredric Francois Chopin. Obviously the game features some of his work, and it's all great, but the original tracks are also pretty catchy. Sadly, it's all downhill from here.

    Perhaps the most egregious failure of the developers here was the story. It''s clear to me now that from the beginning of development, there was no deeper concept to the plot than "Let's make a game about what's going on in Chopin's head as he's dying". Somehow this was turned into a pedantic 20 hour JRPG that, despite its unique base concept, manages to shoehorn in EVERY SINGLE JRPG TROPE TO HAVE EVER EXISTED while failing to mimic how those tropes were used in their finer moments. You've got a King who is evil simply for the sake of being evil, a beautiful heroine who is quiet and shy and a healer, a spiky haired hero with a sword and his plucky best friend, a precocious kid who refers to everyone over the age of 20 as "old lady" or "old man", some nonsense romantic subplots... the list goes on and on. I assure you, if it's been done before in Japanese role-playing, Eternal Sonata crammed it in here, but forgot to make any of it meaningful or interesting. And, to make matters worse, amidst all this effort to create the most bland, forgettable adventure ever, they forgot to really tie CHOPIN into the game at all. Apart from him being a character in your party - and shut up Spoiler Police, it happens like 20 minutes into the game - there's basically NO reference or interaction with any of his history or experiences. OK, wait, that's not QUITE true. Between chapters, you're treated to one of his compositions, and still photos of France and Poland while you read voiceless text about his life. It's sort of cool to learn about him from a non-traditional source, but these little history lessons have no bearing or impact within the game at all. They are completely disconnected, and therefore only serve to slow down an already boring game.

    And the game IS boring. Exceptionally so. You're never given ANY drive to go anywhere or do anything. The entire plot seems to just sort of happen; at one point it has a faint glimmer of getting better, as you're swept up into a burgeoning rebellion against the aforementioned evil king, but as soon as the game builds any steam at all, you're plopped back into a pointless dungeon on a fetch quest for people you couldn't care less about. Ancillary characters, normally fairly dull in other JRPGs, are about as pointless and unmemorable as they can possibly be here.

    Even worse is it attempts to introduce romantic subplots, as well as mystery and mystique about your lead heroine, and then promptly ENDS. The game just sorts of stops at around 20 hours, with absolutely NO explanation of what ANYTHING IN THE ENTIRE GAME WAS ABOUT. You're forced to watch nearly 40 minutes of exceptionally boring cutscenes that don't explain a single damn thing and only leave you with more questions. All the major villains die without even getting their own death scene and the final boss of the game will leave you saying "what the hell just happened?"

    It's all so terribly frustrating, and I was close to actually screaming in anger at my TV as the characters on my screen babbled on incoherently. During the final marathon of cinematics, Eternal Sonata opts to disguise the fact it has no story by coating everything in about thirty layers of shit coloured symbolism. Sorry writers, here's a clue: GOOD writing employs symbolism as a means to reinforce basic themes and develop an existing plot; shitty writing relies ONLY on symbolism to hide it's lack of anything else. It turns EVERYTHING in the game was basically symbolic, nothing that happened actually mattered, and you were inexpertly hoodwinked into believing otherwise.

    Outside of the absolutely abysmal writing, pacing, and character development, you have an extremely basic and unremarkable "Tales of _____" style RPG. You'll traverse town to town - no overworld by the way - gathering loot and completing errands. You explore dungeons. You fight far too many RPG battles. The battle system itself is merely OK, fairly fluid but nothing extravagant or overly unique. The Light/Dark mechanic - different abilities can only be used in the bright areas of the battle map, or vice versa - is sort of neat and vaguely related to the story, but it's nothing revolutionary. Really, every aspect of the gameplay feels like they only wanted to do the bare minimum to make the game playable, and you're left feeling like this is something of an RPG-lite when JRPGs are usually much more meaty.

    Oh, and the voice acting is completely average; you've heard every single one of these voice actors a hundred times before, and none of them deliver an especially memorable performance. They do, at least, sound like they were sober during the recording.

    Don't look here for a quick 1000G either... 100%ing the game means two nearly complete playthroughs, totally over 45 hours. The bulk of the actual gamerscore rests with one achievement too, which is worth 321G - yes, 321, an odd number, and it's the last achievement you'll unlock. You know, just to piss off people like myself you hate odd numbers like that.

    Overall, Eternal Sonata feels like a one sentence idea that never developed past the "wouldn't it be cool if..." phase, and yet was somehow released as a full game. If you value your time, you'll stay far, far away.
    1.0
  • Willie FuegoWillie Fuego589,805
    28 Sep 2010
    1 5 0
    Critical to the success of an RPG is the suspension of disbelief and personal investment in the characters. Never in my life have I played a game where the characters were so absolutely in love with hearing themselves speak.

    Firstly, between every sluggish, over-dramatized line of dialogue lies a four second pause. I assume that the reason for this is so the player can take the time to try to understand the idiotic pseudo-philosophical contrivances the characters regularly discuss, but this unnecessarily drags the pacing of the game to a crawl.

    Secondly, even in mundane situations, the characters invariably take the time to wax poetic about the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

    Thirdly, while at the outset, the game seems to be laying down a foundation for a solid story, upon completion, you will find that there is very little follow through. It seems as though the story was cut short for some reason, as it seems to pick an arbitrary time in the story to rush you through the endgame.

    Fourthly, speculative cutscenes about Chopin's possible political views and musical inspirations during his life are jammed arbitrarily into the middle of the story, thereby disrupting any attempt you would make to immerse yourself in the game environment.

    Lastly, the achievements are obscene. Upon playing this game the entire way through, the most you can possibly get is 340 out of 1000 achievement points. You must play the entire game over a second time to get the remainder, which I imagine would be even more tedious than the first.

    There are, however, some decent aspects to the game. The music is beautiful (as you would expect from a game about the life of a master composer), the environments are lush and well imagined and the unique battle system is interesting. This does not outweigh the shallowness of the characters, the lack of changes to the character models as they update weapons and equipment, the extremely linear gameplay, and the horrendously disappointing ending.

    All in all, I regret having picked this game up and would not recommend this game (even on rental). If you are looking for an enthralling story with deep character development, rapid pacing and flexible character customization, you'd do well to look elsewhere.
    2.0