Just one of many JRPGs to grace this blog’s existence, Eternal Sonata adheres to many of the genre’s conventions: a spunky (slightly annoying) protagonist, a mysterious stranger, and a fantasy world beautifully realized. Oh, and the entire cast has a wide array of musical names (Allegretto, Tuba, Beat… *sigh*) which will wear you out before the end of the second chapter. Regardless though, Eternal Sonata does many things right as well as imbuing the story with an aura of care which is seldom seen in video game making.
The story is simple fare at first. The two primary protagonists (Allegretto and Beat) set off to meet the king so as to try and convince him to lower taxes which are crushing the ordinary folk. On their way they meet other travelers whom feel the same as they. In no time they have a motley crew of misfits in true JRPG tradition. Naturally, the plot expands and through a series of twists, the characters are soon thrust into a much deeper conflict. Standard fare, that is until you remember that all of this is happening inside the head of famed composer Chopin. That is right: this fantasy story is the product of a dying musical genius while he is on his death bed, so the whole aspect of being able to control a younger version of him (Fredrick) while adventuring in this realm raises some interesting questions of legitimacy.
Though the game preaches at the player quite a bit in regards to social issues, which, depending on your political orientation you will either likely find eye-rolling, a bonus, or propaganda, it is this aspect of the game which signifies it as a project meaning a deal to the developers. This kind of social commentary, though never becoming truly explicit in direction, augments the original story by infusing the parallel thread of (real life) Chopin with a sense of urgency. That, combined with the occasional history lesson regarding Chopin’s life which pop up in the transitions between each chapter, make the game something seldom seen in the hyper-irrelevant realm of pop culture.
Gameplay is fun. Battles are handled through a combination of real time and turn taking. Members in your party will take turns in having a set time limit upon to act; each character has their own strengths and weaknesses regarding magic and physical talents, so strategic orientation is a must. The additional factor of light and darkness playing a role in what special attacks and the forms enemies take is an extra factor to take into consideration. Together, all of these considerations form a significant challenge, especially late in the game when higher battle levels are available thereby placing more expertise on possessing a correct stratagem.
In the end, Eternal Sonata is a different experience. With the art, music, story, and gameplay all solidly tight affairs, anyone with a penchant for JRPGs should be familiar with this game and give it a chance. Some faults, yes, such as the difficulty in boss fights and the inability to freely traverse the world render some negativity on the game as a whole, yet it should be emphasized that these moments only mare the time spent with the game moderately as opposed to totality. Though I haven’t played the game for some years I can say this: it is something I remembered.