Having just finished this game this afternoon, I feel the first thing I should do is do a review on it. This game is in the RPG Genre and is made by Tri-Crescendo. This game, whilst having some of the same elements of an RPG, has some unique features within it and has a lot of links to music, such as the character names, score pieces etc. It must be noted however that this review is of the Playstation 3 version and not of the previously released X-Box360 version. SPOILER WARNING FOR THE WHOLE REVIEW!!!
This is where I would usually start with Graphics, but I feel that I should make mention of all the different characters from within the game, as there is such a variety of different characters. First of all, this story is supposed to revolve around Frederic Chopin, a real life famous french composer from the 1800’s who died of tuberculosis. This game chronicles his last hours alive whilst remaining inside a dream world, which he is well aware of. I say “supposed to”, as until the end, Frederic remains a relatively minor character who I personally never used in battle unless forced to. Instead, this storyline revolves around Polka, who is able to use magic, which is a sign of near-death in this world, and Allegretto, a teenager from the town Ritardando. Both of them, seek to speak with the Count of Forte to lower the prices of items other than the wonder-drug mineral powder. Other characters include Beat, the photograph fanatic right-hand man of Allegretto, Viola, a farmer who the group rescue from some monsters, Salsa and March, the guardians of Agogo forest, Jazz, Falsetto and Claves who are members of a resistance group against the Count and mineral powder and finally Prince Crescendo and Princess Serenade from Baroque and newly playable characters in the PS3 version.
Overall, there was a lot of variety to the characters, not only to their appearances but by their fighting style. For example, a good number of characters can heal, whether it be a small amount for everyone (Viola, Princess Serenade, Claves) or a lot for one person (Polka, Frederic). This makes it very easy to have varying characters in parties however there are many other attributes to consider. These include:
- Do you want to build up Echos to use Harmony Chains (Which depending on party level, can get you up to 6 powered up skills in the one turn). Salsa and March are perfect for this with their quick attacks.
- Is your character more useful in the light and the dark, some characters have stronger skills in different types of light.
- Do you want to make money? As Beat can take photos with his camera and they can be sold for big gold!
However, character use is limited to what chapter you are in as well. For example, in the first chapter, there are constant switches between Frederic/Polka and Beat/Allegretto and that continues as far as having everyone split up into two groups for the whole chapter. Considering that this is Frederic’s “Dream”, there is no control over him at all except as a battle character. On the field, you take control of Allegretto mostly, with parts Polka and in one single part, Beat (Which you use to unlock his unique sailor fuku costume).
There are also many other characters which you must battle. Count Waltz, the ruler of Forte is the main antagonist of the game who does not reveal himself to the characters until Chapter 6. He also has several underlings which support him such as his loyal advisor Legato, the soldier Tuba and two mercenaries who hunt down the party Rondo and Fugue. Each of them really have different battle styles, especially one who shall remain unnamed. There is also the pirate queen Captain Dolce who appears for a few optional battles if criteria are met.
Throughout the game, I didn’t use that many party members. The parties I used were:
- Chapter 1 – Set as default
- Chapter 2 – Viola, Polka and Allegretto => Viola, Polka, Beat => Viola, Salsa, Allegretto
- Chapter 3 – Jazz, Falsetto, Claves
- Chapter 4 – Polka, Frederic, Salsa
- Chapter 5 – March, Salsa, Beat => Viola, Salsa, March => Viola, Salsa, Falsetto (Forced)
- Chapter 6 – Viola, Salsa, Allegretto
- Chapter 7 – Crescendo, Viola, Salsa => Jazz, Salsa, Viola
- Chapter 8 – Serenade, Salsa, Jazz
So as you can see, first of all, I somehow managed to remember most of the party combinations I used and also that every character is important somewhere in the game and that none are just standby characters, unless you personally choose not to use them or don’t want to get used to characters in the second last chapter.
The storyline I felt was well done, althrough could have used improving in some areas. For example, anyone who doesn’t know anything about Frederic Chopin would be wondering who he is until information is given to them throughout the game. He could have been introduced a bit more in the beginning. As well, with the game beginning at the end of a previous beginning (Play the game if you want to understand what I mean) and Polka jumping off a cliff I found really confusing, especially considering that you end up controlling her straight after.
Besides the few confusing parts of the storyline, the storyline turns out really well. Here is my summary of the storyline:
“Polka and Allegretto are each having trouble with the rising tax prices on everything but Mineral Powder. Polka cannot sell the much safer Floral Powder as mineral powder is predominately used by everyone and Allegretto and Beat are supporting orphans who live in the sewers by stealing bread from the bakery. Both of them run into each other and head off to Forte castle along with other allies. However, when they get there, they run into a less than pleasant situation and get drawn into the war account the count. (Summary by myself).“
It does sound a bit generic after reading it, but it does get more interesting, with more characters and their backgrounds coming into effect and many side stories. To summarise, I wasn’t really bored with any component of the storyline, however it would be better if it was less confusing.
To start off with, Eternal Sonata has a HUGE soundtrack, mostly comprised of the work of Motoi Sakuraba with around 70-80 music pieces altogether. Each of them are very interesting to listen to, with some being the work of Frederic Chopin. There is a wide variety of battle themes which work well with the high intensity battles. Another interesting feature of the music is that of Score Pieces. Throughout the game, you can find Score Pieces hidden around the world. Also within the world are people with corresponding pieces and you must find them and using knowledge of music, match them up to make the best sound. These can earn you hidden items, which can lead you to even the PS3-exclusive EZI Temple. Overall, nothing much can be said about the music except…. Fantastic!, which I do say about a number of RPG games, therefore, I have to improve on that and say… FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!
Personally, it is hard to put it into words what the graphics are like in this game. Even for a port of a game made a year or two ago, they still look absolutely stunning on the screen. Nearly every town, character and field look absolutely stunning and detailed. Really, the only area of the game which I think could use a little bit more detail is a field or two on the way to Forte Castle. I found it interesting how the graphics of the game constantly reminded me I was playing in the dream world of a famous musical composer with the colourful and bright cel-shaded graphics that just scream creativity, alongside the few areas which are musical based (Once again, play the game to find out).
What I have usually noticed in remakes or ports of games with added content is that usually an average job is done in the graphics. However, whilst I cannot say anything on the Temple of EZI, I can safely say that the other PS3-Exclusive areas such as the Lament Mirror are definately well designed. The only other problem with the graphics is the occasional lagginess that can be noticed when all the fighters and clustered together during the use of skills.
The only other minimal problem which isn’t based ingame is the fact that unlike other versions, the cover of the Australian release was just a little bit blander. Would have definately preferred a backdrop to the image.
One of the most rewarding parts of the game, the gameplay. The battle system involves a large field, some with obstacles, and you are given a certain amount of tactical time (Which allows you to plan what you are going to do) and battle time (Any time after you move) to run around the field and kill the monsters using the normal attack and special skills. Of course, there are several variables which can affect the flow of battle which include:
- Light/Dark: In every field, there are areas of darkness and areas of light in them. Depending on the area which of the battlefield you are standing in determines your choice of special skill. For example, if you are playing as Allegretto, if you are standing in the light you may have access to Sky Divider but if you are standing in the darkness, you will have access to Phantom Wave. This adds another element to the battles as I found you can even stand in enemies shadows and attack them with darkness.
- Block: This would be the second most frustrating thing in the battle system to me, however it does add another layer of gameplay. When you get attacked by enemies, if you hit the O button at the right time, you can cut your damage taken by a generous percentage. This is crucial during the boss fights when only a few hits can kill you, however bosses are much harder to get the timing right.
- Echoes: This is one of the best things about the battle system, and if used right, can save you many hours of frustrated hair pulling. Every normal hit you deal to an enemy, the echo counter goes up by 1. These can increase the damage of your attacks. However, after hitting a certain party level, anything from 24 on the echo counter allows you to form harmony chains, which I will let all of you figure out for yourself.
- Party Level: To me, the most annoying component to the battle system, but still fun. There are some benefits of the party level system such as increasing the battle speed by 1.5x (Both sides) and counterattack to go with the blocking, however there are some annoying things that go with it. For example, tactical time is lowered/removed or battle time is cut in half. Most things affect the enemies side as well except the ones that require button hitting annoyance.
I felt that the battle system was very well done, despite being frustrating at times.
Alongside this, there were several other things of note regarding gameplay. First of all, it was quite common for parties to be split to make one party imbalanced over the other. For example, all the heavy fighters were put on one chapters party whilst Polka, Frederic, Beat and Salsa were put on the other. Without any of the main fighters, it made fighting much much more aggitating, especially without characters like Viola which is one of the best healer/fighters in the game, especially considering the bosses I felt were much faster (In attacking, thus blocking was harder) with this team over the main fighters.
Another fault I found with the battle system was the varying difficulty of the bosses. Personally, I found the two hardest bosses in the game to be the first two bosses, in the sewers and in the forest. It actually surprised me how hard they were, especially considering later on taking down the final bosses without any problem at all.
The final fault I found was making enough gold to carry the party through the battles. Enemies and bosses didn’t drop nearly enough gold to purchase the expensive potions and resurrection items which help get through the bosses, and lets not mention the defensive and offensive items. Then again, the only thing that isn’t taxed is mineral powder, so I guess the gamer has to feel the problem as well.
Throughout the game, three characters are controlled in the field, Polka, Allegretto and Beat. I would have preferred to have choice over what character I controlled however, it is only a minor issue so it doesn’t really matter.
I have not gone into the Encore mode much yet, however I hope to do so soon as I would like to see all the extra content which was not included in the normal mode, which I felt was quite a bit after reading. For example, the Temple of EZI isn’t accessable until Encore Mode, thus why I skipped Mysterious Unison until I reach it in this mode (The final boss wasn’t that hard even without going through it). Other things such as extra score pieces, dungeons etc definately appeal for gamers to replay the game again with the increased difficulty!
If I have not made my opinion clear now, I really did enjoy this game, even despite the few flaws that kept it from being a work of perfection.
Personal Opinion: 18/20
Overall: 72/80 (90%)
Appendix 1 – PS3 Exclusive Features
- Multiple Endings
- New Quests, Battles and Events
- Two new playable characters, Serenade and Crescendo
- Four new costumes (Beats Sailor Costume, Polka’s Aqua Costume, Polka’s Maid Costume and Allegretto’s Fighter Costume)
- New Music
- Two new dungeons, Lament Mirror (Feels like a “get-to-know” Crescendo and Serenade) and Temple of EZI.
“All information taken off one of their trailers on PS3 Exclusives”
All images shown here are from official Eternal Sonata material or trailers.