Dreams are funny things. What could the mind create when you fall asleep? How much of that is impacted or bolstered by a fever? As famous Polish composer and pianist Frédéric François Chopin lay dying of tuberculosis, he dreamed an entire world. Eternal Sonata is a role-playing game for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 where you you follow Chopin and a cast of musically named characters through this dream world.
While there are brief scenes of Chopin, laying in bed in the real world, we mostly stay in his dream world. We’re first introduced to a girl named Polka, somewhat modeled after Chopin’s deceased sister of the same age. She has the ability to do magic, which is the side effect of a disease that ends in death. I thought this was a creative explanation. She is expelled from her home town of Ritardando because the inhabitants fear she is contagious. She runs into Chopin who is a party character throughout the game, remaining mostly quiet as he is aware he’s in a dream.
As the game progresses we’re introduced to other playable characters like Allegretto, Beat, Viola, Salsa, March, Claves and many more. Every major character and location has a musical name, like Agogo Forest. The game has a beautiful cel-shaded style that I think will hold up for years to come. The world employs a colorful palet and smartly uses lighting to make world come to life. The music also features a selection of Chopin’s compositions like Etude Op. 10 and Polonaise Op. 53.
The battle system was cleverly designed keeping players engaged throughout, avoiding mindless button mashing. Each character is given so many seconds to move and attack or use special abilities. Characters with ranged weapons like Beat or Viola could attack from anywhere, while close range fighters like Allegretto and March would need to be next to the enemy. An interesting dynamic that played into battle was the use of light and dark. Depending where a character stood on the battlefield (either in a light source or shadow), it would imbue them with different abilities or attacks. Some enemies would be stronger or change formers depending on the light source. This extra level of strategy made the game fun and kept the experience from growing stale.
Like many JRPGs , your party’s simple quest evolves from small tasks to saving the world. There are a few troupes used that are easy to predict (main evil bad dictator guy finds ultimate power and turns into monster), but didn’t detract from the story. The game was original released in 2007 for the X360 and a year later on the PS3 with additional content. I played X360 before the PS3 version was announced. Sadly I haven’t had time to go back, but heard the new dungeon and bosses were fun.
Games like Eternal Sonata and Zelda: Wind Waker that have a defined art style hold up much longer than ones that depend on 3D realism like Gears of War. Thankfully the limited concept will save us from an over abundance of needless sequels. Eternal Sonata though, will hold up as a true classic for years to come.
Have you played Eternal Sonata? What’s your favorite JRPG of this console generation? Comment below!
Allegretto, Viola, and March FTW