|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tri-Crescendo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 17, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-3||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
What if you had a universe inside of your head where you could retreat whenever you were in trouble? What if this place was a colorful, idyllic embodiment of escapism and waited for you every time you closed your eyes? Most people would appreciate such a fantasy, especially the more imaginative of us, but this idea loses some of its appeal if you add that you were also dying and that your fantasy world was only a reprieve before your inevitable death. This dilemma is only part of the problem posed by the innovative and strange story created by Eternal Sonata.
Eternal Sonata is an RPG about, strangely enough, the deathbed imaginings of classic composer and musical genius Frederic Chopin. Chopin, mainly referred to as Frederic in the gameworld, has a dual role as the dreamer of the gameworld and as a participant, which means that you can actually control the composer in combat situations. I can say that I never expected to play as any Romantic period composer in any game that I played, but weird concept aside, Eternal Sonata winds up being a stellar RPG experience, if a little linear compared to the contemporary role-playing game.
In the world of Eternal Sonata, those individuals that have been cursed with an incurable and fatal disease find themselves suddenly able to manipulate magic, which, while empowering them, also marks them as pariahs since most people fear catching the disease themselves. While exploring the dreamworld, Chopin runs into a tragic girl with this affliction who wishes to change things for the better before her passing. The pair set out on an adventure together, quickly joining forces with others with similar goals. Although the dreamworld is Chopin's, he doesn't take center stage and is more of a pensive participant for most of the story.
There is a lot of emphasis on the conflict between good and evil and light and dark in the game with some of this duality even being reflected in gameplay, although I'll get to that more in depth later. While it isn't necessarily a bad thing, the juxtaposition of the macabre themes presented by the game's story as well as the morbid and unavoidable death hovering over many of the game's major characters with the bright and cartoony visuals seems a little jarring at times. Eternal Sonata looks like an upbeat children's cartoon, but the dark tone in the game sometimes seems out of place in the game's visual style, but perhaps this contrast is intentional as it makes the tragedy feel more pronounced.
While we're on the subject of visuals, Eternal Sonata's graphics are incredible and must be beheld to be believed. The game has a cartoony visual style that has astonishing levels of detail and crammed full of color. The characters all have an anime style appearance to them, and during cutscenes and in-game you'll constantly appreciate their simple, colorful appearance as well as the great use of shadowing and shading. The environments are very well done, with locations that look organic and alive. In many ways, the cel-shaded visuals in the game are easier on the eyes than a high budget animated movie.