This was a abortive attempt to expand our scope. Soon after starting our work on it we found that we had overreached ourselves and shelved it. But in the interests of helping more people find our site, here’s the one and only review from Kendra. Kendra’s blog shut down some time ago but if you would like to email her with any comments and/or questions you can find her undyingqueen -at- gmail -dot- com
20th November 2007
Eternal Sonata, also known as Trusty Bell in Japan is a refreshing and very innovative new Japanese RPG for the X-Box 360 that really differs from the traditional RPG’s you normally see, one that reinvents and revitalizes the usual RPG standards in new and exciting ways, from the unique fast-paced gameplay, well developed characters and fascinating music themed story, to the lush and beautiful picturesque visuals and enchanting musical score comprised of music by famed composer Frederic Chopin. This game really impressed me and was a blast to play through, it was fun, addictive and very creative. The story in particular is one of the most inventive storylines I’ve come across in an RPG so far. It focuses on the life of the famous 19th century composer Frederic Chopin, who is dreaming of a fantastical fantasy world while in a coma on his deathbed. The story takes place mostly in Chopin’s dream world, and throughout the story leaves players to question if this world is just a dream that he is experiencing or a world that he has really entered somehow. The story avoids most of the stereotypes and tired clichés we’ve seen, and is a very well done and captivating tale that kept me very entertained and on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next. The game also takes its time to focus on its characters as well. As a result it has alot of cutscenes but its through the use of these cutscenes that made the story and characters shine as each character was fleshed out quite abit. You find out alot more about each character throughout the story and the hardships they’ve had to go through, and as a result get to identify with them alot more. Both the story and character development came together to create an immensely enjoyable, surprising and satisfying adventure where the characters weren’t cliché, boring or stereotyped but characters you got to know and cared for abit.
The gameplay and combat had to be the best part of the game for me and is where the game stood out the most, in my opinion reinventing the standards for traditional RPG combat. The combat system was simply awesome, it was addictive, extremely fun, exciting, and varied. The game uses a semi-active battle system, a mix of both real-time and turn based battle system where you move your characters around in battle during a certain amount of time and actions per turn similar to Star Ocean and the Tales Of series and the random battles are on the field and can be avoided if you perfer. Once you move the amount of time you have during your turn will start going down, this means that battles are short, and require you to think more and are more fast-paced and intense.
Three innovative and refreshing new combat features is the addition of the party levelling system, the guard system and the light and dark gameplay mechanic during battles. Although you have the normal EXP points and still level up like in other RPG’s your party level will also go up over time changing various combat features as well as adding and removing new combat features such as decreasing the amount of time you have to move around in battle, and changing different aspects so you’ll have to use different tactics to take down your enemies. This is really cool because it constantly keeps battles deep, challenging and fresh, keeping you on your toes, and forcing you to come up with new strategies along the way. Next we have the blocking feature, which is crucial to surviving some of the more powerful bosses and enemies you face. By pressing the guard button when it flashes at the appropriate time you will greatly reduce the impact and amount of damage you receive from enemies. This was also used in Paper Mario and one I’m glad to see being used again because its both fun and helpful since it keeps you busy and alert when your not fighting and keeps your characters from getting pummeled. The most impressive and creative feature of the combat though has to be the light and dark gameplay battle mechanic which greatly affects your party members and your enemies during the course of a battle. During battles you will come across light and dark areas bathed in sunlight or shrouded in shade that you and your enemies can stand in or move to during the course of the battle. Standing in each different spot changes your special magical attack moves into a light or dark based attacks. Not only does it change your powers and special attacks but it can change enemies attacks as well, and most surprisingly, can also cause enemies to change into different forms making them stronger or weaker depending on where they stand or move to in battle. This can instantly change a battle that has been in your favour to much more challenging fight, and is a very unique feature I haven’t seen used before in another game. This was a really enjoyable feature and it really makes you think about where you move to or stand in battle, and come up with your own tactic using the daylight and shaded areas to your advantage against your enemies and works well with the echo point and combo system where you can build up echo points by doing regular attack combos to rise the power of your special attack so you can finish off with your special attack to do a great deal of damage. All in all though the whole combat system is simply refreshing, it keeps battles short, fun, addictive, fast-paced, intense, challenging and deep and each of the many characters that join you have their own unique styles with a set of different offensive and defensive attacks and special abilities so that they really do feel different and are never too similar to another party member.
As great as the gameplay, story and characters are, the music and graphics also deserve mention. The graphics are lush, and simply gorgeous with cell-shaded characters and vivid scenery thats is overflowing with detail and color and is one of the best looking RPG’s on the 360 at the moment. The game also has an amazing musical score that contains a number of Frederic Chopin’s musical works performed by renowned Russian pianist Stanislav Bunin and was an absolute pleasure to listen to throughout the game giving it a special classical music atmosphere. Some of these pieces are also used in brief slide-show interludes where you’ll read abit about Frederic Chopin’s real life while listening to his music in the background and was an absolute pleasure to listen to throughout the game giving it a special classical music atmosphere. In addition to Chopin’s music there is also a good number of original music composed especially for the game itself which is just as enchanting to listen to. As for the dialogue, you can choose from both English and Japanese voices but the English voice over’s are all excellent and top notch.
Overall, I think this game is a real breathe of fresh air in the RPG genre, thats different from the usual RPG. The innovative and action-packed combat system was immensely satisfying and just plain fun and addictive to play through, the battle system was different and had a number of refreshing and cool new features that helped revitalize the gameplay and kept things interesting in battle. This combined with the beautiful graphics, an amazing soundtrack and a unique classical music inspired storyline with a magical narrative and well developed characters made for an amazingly captivating and very rewarding RPG that is unlike any other next-gen RPG at the moment, and in my opinion it’s definitely the best next-gen RPG on the market right now.