Eternal Sonata

If you read my Hyperdimension Neptunia post, you would have noticed I made one short comparison to a rather old title called Eternal Sonata. That little gem was a great game (from when I was but a young kid getting into JRPGs) but remained obscure for being too typical of a JRPG. So let me just dedicate this post into putting it out there once more.

Eternal Sonata, simply put, is a JRPG whose theme is classical music. The ‘main’ character is Frederic Chopin (a famous Polish composer and pianist) in his first ever anime debut. I say ‘main’ because the story doesn’t revolve around him but everything (the world and characters) are, in fact, all figments of his imagination. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler as this is part of the game’s synopsis. It opens up with the fact that Chopin is on his deathbed (he died due to tuberculosis in real life) and the adventure to follow is basically a representation of his music and works throughout his life in a very anime, JRPG way.

The story is typical of a JRPG but it had fun characters with interesting set pieces and direction. It basically challenged JRPG production tropes (for the most part as far as I can remember) while adding lots of flavor and zing thanks to its cel-shaded art style with emphasis on its musical theme. If you don’t know what I mean by challenging JRPG production tropes, I will refer you to Tales of Berseria, another prime challenger. Of course, Berseria is a behemoth in what it did compared to Eternal Sonata but give this old title some slack. I played and enjoyed it in my youth.

The characters and places among other things are all named after something musical. For example, the main two characters (aside from Chopin) are named Polka and Allegretto. It’s a nice thematic cliché that doesn’t happen as often as you think. I, for one, enjoy how it was done in the game especially because you get a ton of characters to choose from with fun variations to their combat. I’m serious. You get so many characters that most people called it a bad point. Thinking back, I can see why they said that but again, it’s a typical JRPG.

The playable characters across both platforms
This is more prominent in the PS3 version of the game (the one I played) because you get two extra characters that the Xbox 360 version did not have. No, these characters are not tacked in. They are part of the story which is why I cheer the PS3 version on for not removing them. There is also one other character that the Xbox 360 version might have excluded but the details around her delve into spoiler territory so I’ll refrain myself from saying anything more. Also, the Xbox 360 version called it Trusty Bell which is, for some reason, the way most people call it. What a disgrace of a name compared to the original.

The two extra playable characters in the PS3 version
The combat in the game is not the best but certainly quite fun in its own right. When I mentioned Neptunia, I drew the comparison here and said while I dislike this sort of battle system, Eternal Sonata was the only time I accepted it. Similarly to everything else, the battle system is themed around music and thank God they didn’t decide to include a rhythm aspect to it (I’m not good with those).

I pity the fools who played the game on Xbox
From what I remember, the battle involves a light and dark aspect, whereby enemies and skills change depending on whether or not you’re exposed to the light or darkness. This is interesting as it encourages you to strategise positioning considering you have a limited movement and action pool (they’re attached to a timer if I’m not mistaken). Want an enemy to stay in the light but prefer your skills in the darkness? Figure out how you can do that. Stringing combos together contributes towards an ‘echo’ system that, once long enough, allows you to dish out powerful super moves. It’s not very complicated but it’s a simple sort of fun that works for a game like this. It helps a whole lot that the battle music was great too.

In case you were wondering, my main party consisted of Allegretto, Falsetto and Viola.

There are other interesting tidbits like how each story chapter revolves around a real life personal issue/situation that Chopin faced and that his musical compositions were played with real life photos of his inspirations. But I really am not a musically inclined person so I don’t think I’m the best suited to explain that. You have to play to find out!

Say what you will about it but I have fond memories of it when I played it as a teenager. It’s certainly not a game I’d want to forget about anytime soon. It’s one of the titles that exposed me to the more colourful nature of the JRPG genre.


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