Reviews// Eternal Sonata

...everybody has big eyes, big feet and enormous heads

Posted 27 Feb 2009 18:28 by
Games: Eternal Sonata
Frédéric Chopin. Polish fellow. Wrote Romantic music. Wrote the Minute Waltz and Piano Sonata No. 2 ('The Funeral March'). Died in 1849.

Hiroya Hatsushiba. Japanese fellow. Directed Eternal Sonata. Also had lots to do with the Game Cube's Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. Still not dead.

Eternal Sonata. Role-playing JRPG. Set in a dream dreamt by Chopin in this deathbed.

Yup. I'll buy that.

This is a video game that, at first – and for quite a long time – appears to be annoying, frustrating, pretty over playable and generally a work of whimsy that introduces a new combat system, which it then proceeds to change.

But it's a grower, and one way to ensure that it grows is immediately to switch from the American voice acting to the Japanese voice acting – and turn subtitles on. I have no deep-seated antipathy for the generic American accent, it's simply that I found myself more immersed in the Eternal Sonata world when I didn't have to expect one of the characters to say “Awesome” or “Yo Beat” or somesuch.

So, the plot: this takes Chopin, slaps him on his deathbed and proceeds to have him fight for his life in a dream – or does he? I'm not spoilerizing anything here, and believe me there is an awful lot of plot to spoil. You have got to keep your wits about you.

One point I will make, however, is that there is an awful lot of death involved. As I only vaguely know what 'emo' actually is (whining, self-referential pomp that borrowed the slow-fast-slow thing from Pixies?) I'm reticent to call Eternal Sonata an emo game, but keep your eyes on pretty little Polka as a character is all I can say.

That said, for a game with lots of death in his undertones, it is spectacularly colourful and rich to look at. Think Technicolor all the time with this game; save for the cutscene elements which detail the dying (or is he?) composer's condition and are more sombre.

Then think (well, look at the screens) of sub-Gibli graphics. everybody has big eyes, big feet and enormous heads, and boy are they pretty. Frankly, as gaming environments go, this one is very pleasant to hang around in... and fight creatures in.

The Xbox 360 version of Sonata was predicated mostly on combat. The PS3 version that I've been playing actually does enable an iota of exploration. But there is so little of it to start out with that, despite my usual demands for games that set out to educate as well as entertain, I began to lose interest in Fred Chopin's life let alone death.

By “little exploration” I mean that although the world looks gorgeous and expansive, the journey, the adventure is carried out using very strict routes. There is also no controllable camera. Now, at first, this caused me to rant and rave about limited gaming pleasure; how I felt constricted; how, coming down ladders I couldn't see what was at the bottom.
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Games: Eternal Sonata

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