Eternal Sonata: Progress Log #1

I hate this game. Consider that disclosure about where this is ultimately headed. Back around 2008, I was coming off of a bad breakup and trying to distract myself, and this led to a period where I was just buying random games in the hopes of finding something genuinely distracting. It was in that time period that I bought and played through Lost Odyssey and a few other Xbox 360 games, including a little game called Eternal Sonata. Now, my time as a games critic has turned me into a bitter husk capable of finding flaws in just about anything, but this is a game so immediately loathsome that I hated it with a passion back then, and in a situation where I was desperately trying to enjoy it anyway. To be perfectly fair here, my problem isn’t with the combat, which I remember being pretty decent and even intermittently enjoyable. It’s the stupid story, horrible voice acting, and appropriation of best-composer-ever Chopin for a by-the-numbers jRPG where he’s every bit as awkward and stupid as everyone else that I found so utterly revolting. It’d be like putting Gandhi in Final Fantasy XIII. Nothing about this works, and it’s such an embarrassing bit of fan fiction that I simply can’t explain the glowing reviews.

It begins

This is the beginning of the game. Be sure to take note of the horrible voice acting and tendency for characters to randomly launch into a speech, often about things that are only barely tangential to the subject at hand, and even then only if you squint. Neither of these things will change, and in some cases will actually become worse. This is a game where the overlong cutscenes are best skipped. Sure, you won’t know what the story is then, but that could be considered a small mercy.

It continues with actual gameplay

It’s not likely that I’ll continue posting such long videos in future progress logs, but it’s important to get a sense of the game’s shortcomings right off the bat. First, though, you can start to see the combat take shape here. Basically, you get a certain amount of time to move and attack on your turn, and landing blows causes that time to go slightly up. Not enough to allow you to attack indefinitely, of course, but it lengthens the amount of time you have to attack. Time doesn’t go down when you stop moving, which is probably what makes the combat here so decent. I’m not sold on the blocking, though, which requires weirdly precise timing and reduces damage taken by a ton. That could very easily become a problem during later boss fights.

Then it’s time for another self-indulgent cutscene. Main character Polka whines and moans about not having friends after healing someone in town, and we learn that people who can use magic are pariahs. We also learn that the “floral powder” that Polka is selling is viewed as outdated compared to the wonder drug that is “mineral powder.” If you’ve ever played a jRPG before, you probably recognize where this is going. Of course mineral powder is bad and tied to the bad guy. Nothing about this game is or will ever be subtle, so you can see these things coming from miles away.

Screenshots and observations

I looked around town for a “Hanako,” but right now it seems like a safe bet that it’s the horse’s name. This guy is totally going to have sex with that horse at some point.

It’s difficult to tell if the game thinks it’s being funny, or if these types of “lol so random” conversations are merely a side effect of the writers having no talent. There will certainly be a whole lot of evidence for the latter being the case by the end.

I found a typo. Normally I’d let these things go, but as mentioned before, I hate this game, and stumbling onto a typo this early speaks volumes about the game’s state.

The classical music theme being communicated through the visuals is much more natural than when it’s communicated in writing, which is to say that everything in Eternal Sonata has a musical name. But credit where it’s due, that’s a cool floor.

Enter Fauxpin

For the sake of my sanity, I’ll be referring to Chopin in this game as Fauxpin. He doesn’t come in immediately, however—first we have a sewer section to complete with a duo of new characters, and they teach us about special attacks. The short version is that each character has two special attacks, one when they’re standing in light and one when they’re standing in shadows, and they can use them as much as they want (but probably shouldn’t since they waste a lot of time). Usually it’s best to attack a bunch, then use your special move right as your time is up to maximize the number of hits you land. The game’s first boss fight is at 14:28, and then there’s more heavy-handed dialogue that eventually explains why everyone hates Polka: she can use magic, and only people who are dying can use magic. Sure, okay.

Fauxpin shows up at 28:58, so let’s talk about the voice acting. It’s not universally terrible (though Polka sounds like an especially nasally mouse and Fauxpin is constantly trying to convey some strange sense of authority or seriousness that doesn’t really work), but the vast majority of the voice acting here is awful. What’s strange about this is that the voice actors here are competent, having worked on other games where they did a perfectly serviceable job. The voice direction here must have been truly nightmarish to yield such sketchy results from professionals.

In summary (for now)

Don’t expect daily progress logs for this one, as this is definitely a game best played in short bursts that allow you to forget about all of the miscellaneous stupidity of the last play session. I’ll be finishing this for sure, though, if for no other reason than to catalog its stupid story to satisfy my archivist urges. Then it should be safe to banish it from my presence until the end of time. Or maybe I’ll use it as a drink coaster.

[Click here to go to Eternal Sonata log #2]

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