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.