Eternal Sonata PS3 Review

In 2007, Simon reviewed Eternal Sonata on the Xbox 360 and gave the game a mostly positive write-up, awarding it a not to be sniffed at 8/10. It’s 2009 now and with exclusives dwindling, Eternal Sonata has made its way to the PS3, complete with a few changes.

The story is unique in the way that it utilises a real life musical genius. Famed Polish pianist, Fredric Chopin, is terminally ill, dying from Tuberculosis and unresponsive to the world around him. Chopin is seemingly having a vivid dream, wherein he’s not on his deathbed and is instead able to interact with the characters and world around him. The story itself is pretty compulsive, although characters sometimes go on and on about certain things a little too much and because of this, I was occasionally wishing them to hurry along.

As Chopin is 39 it will come with little surprise to learn that he isn’t the lead character, instead, being a teenager, this role goes to 16-year-old Allegretto. The characters are likeable enough, although if you’re of a certain age and can’t digest juvenile moments, then stomaching some of these scenes may make you feel as if you have devoured an entire horse.

Those interested in Chopin’s real life past have probably looked him up on Wikipedia already, but the game also likes to act as a history teacher and school you on his life. Using photos and exclusively text, these scenes feel a bit disjointed from the rest of the game but serve their purpose as a knowledge base of Chopin’s life, and in a nice touch they’re accompanied by some of his musical pieces as well.

Despite its untypical premise, Eternal Sonata is an RPG, meaning exploration, combat and a load of narrative. The exploration basically has you going slightly off the linear path to force open treasure chests to find helpful items and equipment, whilst the combat allows you to pick and choose who you fight as the wandering enemies are visible in the environments, just waiting to be sliced and diced such is their pointless existence.

The combat is brilliant, interesting and inventive and the challenge has been upped on this PS3 version. Combat is real time in the sense that you can move around the environment, although it’s still about taking it in turns, throwing whatever you can at your enemies and hopefully vanquishing them forever. On each characters turn you are able to have your way until their turn time bars are depleted, whacking your enemies, using items and special skills within this timeframe. When it comes to the turn of the enemy it’s possible for your party to defend themselves by tapping the circle button at the opportune moment, yes I’m not kidding when I say it’s about timing as opposed to thrashing the button.

Light and dark is also a major thing to take into consideration with the combat system. Wherever your characters are positioned in battle (light or shaded areas) determines what attacks they are able to make use of. Also, this goes for the enemies as well but whereas the party members don’t transform into something entirely different when moving into light or shade, many of the enemies do, getting bigger or smaller and stronger and weaker. In full, it’s a nice tactical element that keeps the combat interesting.

What’s more is that the combat doesn’t stay the same through the game, a party level system alters the fighting with each new level. The amount of time you get to mastermind a plan of attack at the start of each turn decreases, whilst you earn the right to use counters and to link up special attacks. This evolving system keeps things fresh, even if certain other things conspire to make the game as fresh as a dead rat.

A problem carried over from the original 360 version, for example, is that the enemies aren’t very varied in each location. Whilst fighting the same enemies over and over does get a little dull occasionally, this is eased when you move on to new locations which also brings some new foes. But whatever the case, there’s still no excuse to keep giving us the same enemies over and over, like Neo of The Matrix you may very well be thinking déjà vu, although here it isn’t a glitch.

Now back to the good stuff. The vibrant graphics really jump out of a HDTV screen and are beautifully artistic, whilst the voice acting ranges from pretty good to pretty cheesy (you can switch to the original Japanese voices if you’d prefer) and finally, the music is a real delight.

So, what’s new in this PS3 version? There’s a couple of additional characters, new costumes, some brand new cut-scenes, a couple of new areas to explore, and, like I said earlier, an increased level of challenge, which makes this version a better one when compared to the easier 360 original. It could have certainly got away with being titled Eternal Sonata Plus, or something like that.

Eternal Sonata is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience, with an unusual and entertaining story and perhaps enough improvements and content to appeal to the biggest of fans who have already played the original release. It still has its problems though, namely the repetition of the enemies and the script is occasionally slightly overbearing, so it’s closer to a 9 than the original, although, like Simon, I’ve still opted for an 8.