Eternal Sonata is a RPG about the final hours of composer Chopin’s life as he travels through his own dream world. Your party consists of three generic archetypes. The brazen hero, Allegretto, sports all the necessary features a standard melee happy character should. The healer, Polka, carries a cute parasol that seems absolutely worthless but generally deals sufficient blows on the enemies we came across. Finally, the gun wielder, Beat, seems well fit to attack from great distances as his defense is weaker than the other two. Overall, the group is well balanced and beautifully rendered with color and personality.
The battle system is an interesting mix of turn-based and real-time strategy. When your characters enter a battle you’ll have all the time you want to plan your attack, but once you make a move you’ll have to do all the damage you can before the diminishing bar on the left side of the screen empties. We literally missed a few opportune hits the first time we tried out the system, but once you get used to your characters strengths and weaknesses you’ll find yourself using the time to place your characters in strategic positions to deal the most blows. A useful strategy we found was to get as many normal attacks in before the meter emptied and then finished with a power move.
Each character has two assigned power attacks. One they can use in light, and one they use in the dark. There are additional power attacks in your inventory, but you can only assign two at one time. The battle areas are filled with light and shade and some enemies are stronger depending which area they’re in. Additionally, enemies will be affected differently by the light attacks or dark attacks. We weren’t sure about the system at first, but after some playtime we wondered why this system wasn’t implemented before. We particularly liked the graphic combo meter that displayed the number of hits. It makes button mashing that more exciting. Players can defend themselves by timing a “B” button hit when an enemy strikes.
Throughout the demo there seemed to be a lot of enemies you could avoid or take, but very little NPC interaction. Even when you approach an NPC, don’t expect to get any plot points or clues to anything important. We’re hoping this won’t be as confusing in the final build. One thing that was frustrating was the small size and linear layout of the area maps. You’ll find yourself wanting to explore areas off the beaten path only to be hindered by an invisible wall. Occasionally, we stumbled across a hidden path that lead to an item, but it still would have been nice to walk wherever we wanted.
Likewise, because Eternal Sonata is so breathtaking to look at, we were frankly a little disappointed that we couldn’t control the camera and have a look around. The games’ look is somewhat anime styled but seems more alive with the swaying vegetation and vivid colors. There is a lot of great art in this game, especially in the architecture of the town we were able to visit. The lighting is phenomenal and actually plays a huge role in the battle strategy. Some areas that wowed us were the flower field in the town and the dark forest leading to a boss battle.
Overall, we were impressed with our short time with Eternal Sonata. The game seemed to be a lot of fun, and we’ll definitely be taking a look at the final version. If you’re a veteran RPG fan, there are definitely some unique features that make the game worth checking out.
— Jason Thomas