Namco Bandai Eternal Sonata

Namco Bandai Eternal Sonata
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Gorgeous graphics and sound, a history lesson that's easy to swallow

Cons

  • Battle mechanics are not as robust as they could be, lack of a map makes exploration tedious

Bottom Line

Eternal Sonata is still a solid role-playing game that is built around an innovative and interesting story. There's plenty of fun to be had and while it may not redefine the role-playing genre, it does a mighty fine job of teasing the boundaries. Hopefully Namco Bandai has the sense to carry this idea forward, and perhaps, for the next title, we could explore the underworld playing as Mozart.

Would you buy this?

I close my eyes and kill the sun as the tall grass catches the wind and wraps around my shoulders. I lie back on the hill and watch the clouds chase the western edge of the sky that stretches out past the port city of Ritardando. In the distance, a piano begins playing a piece by Frederic Chopin, and just before I sleep, those sounds coil in my ears and usher me into my own Eternal Sonata.

Don't worry we're not starting to recount to you our latest dreams, but instead the state of peaceful calm that comes with playing Eternal Sonata, a refreshing and unique take on the RPG genre as the main character of the game is Frederic Chopin, the famous Romantic period composer. The story shifts between the musician's final moments as he lies on his deathbed and the strange fantasy world that Chopin falls into before he dies.

An easy lesson to swallow

The fantasy world the game revolves around is deeply inspired by the vocabulary of music. When Chopin makes his entrance into the game, he is self-aware and convinced that he is dreaming just before his death. As the game progresses, Chopin begins to realise the possibility that his dream may be the true reality, and everything he knew before was merely an afterthought. It's a meaty and interesting bit of metaphysical philosophy that works well in the context of the game.

There's always music in the air

Eternal Sonata is one of the more visually impressive RPG titles around, as it features beautiful vistas coupled with an interesting--but flawed--element of light and dark rendered throughout the game. Also, there were many times that we forgot we were playing a game due to the overwhelming amount of marathon cut scenes involved in the storytelling process.

We must mention the sound track as it easily surpasses the music found in most other games, thanks to the fact that it revolves around the work of one of the (in our humble opinion) best composers in history. Unfortunately, while the presentation and premise are all amazing, the gameplay in Eternal Sonata is a little lacking.

Lost in translation

The game follows the traditional flow of an RPG, alternating between the exploration of an over-world and dungeon crawling. Unfortunately, there is no map of any kind and we found ourselves lost in dungeons on several different occasions. The game is mostly linear, but the lack of any guidance when traversing from point A to B felt cumbersome. Getting lost was only bearable because there were no random encounters.

The battles are a mix of action and strategy that is a refreshing departure from the tedious brawl of other action RPGs, though when boiled down lacks enough depth. When battles are initiated, the battle flow is broken up in two segments: tactical planning and action. The interesting thing is that as character levels increase, the time allotted for each phase of the battle is shortened, making you change your gameplay.

The light/dark element is interesting but rather convoluted. Different enemies will become either weaker or stronger depending on their position in light or shadow, but most enemies are difficult to lure into specific parts of the battlefield.

Aria

When we began playing Eternal Sonata, we thought it might be the kind of game that would move us to finally purchase an Xbox 360, but sadly, it did not. The real problem with the game is that it doesn't finish what it starts. There's just not enough depth here to leave the kind of impression on the genre that we thought it had the potential to.

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